By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPCC

Readers have asked about the progress of Mario Casella, 41, who I've featured three other times over the last four years. He has multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), also called environmental illness, which is defined on some health-related websites as a “chronic, recurring disease caused by a person's inability to tolerate an environmental chemical or class of foreign chemicals.”

In 2008, Casella was a beefy, 220-pound, California bar bouncer until repeatedly being exposed to bleach in his work bathroom. It all started with a “horrible” aching in his liver, and soon he became physically ill all over. He became ultra-sensitive to any perfume, pesticide, cigarette smoke or car exhaust.

His marriage dissolved in 2012, when he was unable to work. His weight fell to 96 pounds. Today, he sleeps in a sleeping bag under an outside canopy near Patagonia, Arizona, where, because of the clean desert air, other people with environmental illness live.

How much does he want a cure? In a telephone interview, he said, “I can't imagine it. Being cured would be like winning the lottery, a dream come true. I want to be healed and normal. I don't like my lifestyle. But any situation you find yourself in, you have to find enjoyment in it. I'm online often with friends and family.”

He communicates almost daily with his daughter in California, Ashley, who has been recovering herself, from a brain aneurysm. Due to reactions he gets from pesticides used in town, he has his food and water delivered. A close friend of his that had MCS, Megan, committed suicide after being unable to cope.

After exposure to pesticides, for example, it takes days or more for him to recover. He said, “At the senior center where I have lunch, they sprayed pesticides about three months ago. I tried not letting it bother me, but on the way out, I really felt it and just crashed.”

He's gained 40 pounds since last being featured here, and is up to 171 and “doing okay.” Casella added, “The medical profession (often) dismisses MCS as psychosomatic—that's how they deal with illnesses that can't be easily diagnosed.”

What keeps him going? “My daughter gives me inspiration. She made it through the same kind of experience in terms of having a brush with death. She had a brain aneurysm and is doing well. I can't believe she's alive.”

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