By Josh Saunders
A graduate is defying the deadly condition that left her barely able to eat or walk and bedridden thanks to her determination to dance again.
Laura Wharton, 29, from Bogart in Georgia, USA, has Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) a condition making her ‘severely allergic’ to almost everything from dust to food and even medication.
Her unusual symptoms that started three-years-ago baffled doctors and left her in agonising pain, unable to leave the house or walk more than a few steps.
She was unable to eat due to her condition and lost 2st 7 (35lb), leaving her dangerously thin and doubts over whether she would survive.
But last year, after seeking out an allergy specialist, tests revealed she had Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, which causes the body to mistake harmless substances for infectious germs.
Laura is now in recovery thanks to treatment and now uses an air-purifier to clear reaction-inducing particles, allowing her to be able to dance for the first time in years.
She says the support of her family and friends, as well as the hope of being able to perform again stopped her from giving up and gave her the strength to battle on.
Laura, a geography graduate, said: “It was by far the worst two years of my life and very traumatizing.
“I could walk only very short distances, like down a hallway, and was in and out of hospitals, spending up to ten days straight at a time.
“I was absolutely miserable and could barely sleep or eat at all due to pain and the high levels of histamine that were in my body from the overactive mast cells.
“I was very ill and my family and I made 15 trips to the Mayo Clinic, but doctors still couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
“It was discovered that I had Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and after starting treatment I found I was able to sleep and eat again
“I slowly regained some of my strength and life back over the course of another year, and am still gradually recovering day by day.
“I have been fortunate and actually live a fairly normal life, I try to eat as healthy as I can, while avoiding foods that trigger my symptoms.
“It was a miraculous turnaround, when I was at my worst, I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever get better.
“There was one point where I was close to giving up, but after visiting the dance studio I knew I had to get better to be able to perform again.
“After a pretty miraculous recovery, I returned to competitive dance this year and it was such a wonderful, energising experience – onstage I come to life whenever I perform”
After suffering her first symptoms, Laura’s condition quickly deteriorated to a dangerous point where she was unable to perform basic tasks.
Doctors struggled to discover the cause of her mystery illness, despite 15 trips to a specialist Mayo Clinic, until an allergist ran a test for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome last year.
Laura said: “While there is no known cure yet for mast cell disease, there are many different treatments patients can try, it is a matter of trial and error until patients find what works.
“There is a focus on treating the symptoms while also knowing what your individual triggers are and avoiding them as much as possible
“I try to prevent myself from getting stressed and avoid environmental allergens, foods, medications and common bindings or fillers in them that cause my reactions.”
The condition causes mast cells to mistake innocuous substances for threats to the body and release chemicals that cause swelling and other symptoms.
Laura says that her dance training, which started at the age of five, has helped her to overcome some of the problems.
She said: “I have to either stay moving or keep my feet up – otherwise my legs and ankles will swell from poor circulation.
“But being a dancer, I know how to stretch and stay flexible to accommodate this somewhat.
“Aside from these chronic symptoms, I’ve come a long way from how sick I was before, and I am very thankful to be able to live a pretty normal life now.”
During her battle over the years, Laura said there were many times where she didn’t think she would recover and nearly gave up but her determination to dance helped her to battle through.
Last month, she was overjoyed to be able to perform at a competitive level.
Laura said: “All the “normal life” things people tend to take for granted, I am extremely appreciative of now and I’m very happy to get back to dancing too.
“I love to dance so much that I’m determined not to let health problems stop me.
“Though I’m usually tired, I love to dance tap, ballet, jazz, musical theatre, even though my heart rate can get in the 200s sometimes so I have to take it easy.
“I often stubbornly push myself very hard despite not feeling well, because it makes me so happy to do what I love.”
Laura is now fundraising to help other sufferers of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome – to donate please visit HERE.
SOME OF THE SUBSTANCES LAURA IS ALLERGIC TO DUE TO MAST CELL ACTIVATION SYNDROME
Dust mites and cockroaches
Dust, pollens and mould
Yoghurt and kefir
Preservative and additives including sodium benzoate
Foods with synthetic vitamins
Strawberries, pears, grapes, raisins, cherries, plums