Hi! I am so glad you are taking the time to check out my site and read my story. My goal is to educate and empower you to become the healthiest, best version of yourself. It’s my hope that what you learn here will help you in countless ways.
My name is Nelie Shah. My first name is pronounced Nealy. I’ve always been a curious person and adventurous traveler. After completing 13 months of cancer treatment in December of 2012, I bought a one-way ticket around the world and traveled by myself for a few months in late 2013. I was determined to live my life to the fullest. I had Stage One breast cancer, but after two scares in 2013 I decided I better take the time to start living the shit out of life before I didn’t have the opportunity to do so. I took the photo on the home page from a helicopter without doors on it in the Great Barrier Reef. I landed on glaciers and jumped off mountains in New Zealand. I traveled by air, bus, car, train and never imagined that regular daily activities that I took for granted would ever become a problem for me. Luckily, I am still cancer free – knock on wood!
In late March of 2017, however, my entire life flipped upside down when I got environmental poisoning and a condition called multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) or environmental illness (EI). I had rented a condo in Florida that had recently been painted and partially renovated and within days I became very sick – sore throat, headache, laryngitis. I thought I had a bad cold. Each day I became increasingly more sick. After about 10-12 days, I was waking up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t move my hands and feet. Stepping on my feet felt as if they were fractured. I was in agonizing pain and terrified. Initially, I would leave the condo and I would feel better. My symptoms would be alleviated and my voice would become somewhat more normal. But it took me quite some time to realize that the chemicals in the condo were making me sick. The damage done to my system as a result of the chemical exposure would take a lot of time and intense diligence to improve even slightly. I have been told by several doctors that I will never be my former “normal” self again.
Initially, I stopped being able to tolerate any new construction due to my reaction to the chemicals incorporated into so many of our everyday products and construction materials. Then, I became incredibly ill when I was exposed to any synthetic fragrance. Meaning I could smell and eat an orange but if orange scented air freshener was sprayed or a candle was lit that had an orange “scent” I would become violently sick.
My health continued to deteriorate and my inability to find a suitable place to live seemed implausible and impossible. By January of 2018, I was literally homeless and sleeping on a couch in my parents’ assisted living apartment. This was the only reason I was in Florida – to take care of and spend time with my mother who has Alzheimer's. My belongings were all in storage at that point and most of them ended up being thrown away due to chemical infestation from the condo that made me sick.
I thought I was doomed to move away from civilization. I was told that the mountains or the woods were where I could find breathable air. I could no longer put on skin cream or makeup. I couldn’t dye my hair much less even go into a hair salon to get a haircut (luckily my hair dresser is nice enough to still cut my hair outside in a parking lot!). I couldn’t go into most stores or even get groceries. I couldn’t go to the movies, indoor restaurants, the gym or anywhere that most people take for granted. I started to wear a Cambridge mask when I would go into stores and venues where fragrance or chemicals permeated the environment and often I still do. I had worked in Hollywood. I ran my own company in New York City for 16 years. I had a very busy work, social and travel life. But that was all over. My situation felt almost worse than cancer because no one understood what was wrong with me and many doctors just wanted me to take pills – steroids, supplements, allergy pills etc. Typical mentality in America “a pill for an ill.” There was no treatment and no one had a plan. I also had nowhere safe to live. I went from thriving to struggling to merely survive.
But then, I started to research night and day. I read. I watched documentaries. Listened to countless podcasts from all the leading global medical professionals and researchers. I learned about functional medicine and the root cause of disease. I learned about the microbiome. I scoured the internet for information about my condition. What I read and saw about the chemicals and toxins pervading every inch of our daily lives horrified me. I wanted to hide under my hopefully non-off-gassing sheets with fourteen gas masks on and an oxygen tank and never come out. It seemed like everywhere I went, there was new construction, new floors or toxic paint, air freshener or someone wearing perfume or scented laundry detergent that made me dizzy and feel awful. I had brain fog, intense body pain and was unable to breathe. There was no escape.
Unable to find a safe place to live in Florida, I moved back to the northeast and spent the late spring and most of the summer, fall and winter of 2018 and early 2019 living in a virtual bubble. I avoided chemicals as much as possible, drank clean water from a mega filter I put in the house where I was living and cooked and ate all organic vegetables. And lots of fermented vegetables. No booze. No sugar. No bread. No products with any kind of fragrance whatsoever. I couldn’t fix or do anything that required even a miniscule amount of chemicals in the house. I wiped the house down from top to bottom with white vinegar and threw out everything with any sort of fragrance. All while wearing my mask of course! Even clothing and linens that had never bothered me in my whole life smelled awful and made me dizzy and sick.
Visitors, of which there were very few, had to change into t-shirts and fragrance-free clothing I provided for them. Sometimes I even had to ask them to shower to rinse all the fragrance off their body while I choked handing them clothes and directed them to a bathroom. This still happens quite often in my home. It wasn’t perfect but it was the first time in over a year that I had a bed, a kitchen where I could cook, a place to breathe and I didn’t feel like I was going to die. I was and am incredibly grateful.
As I started to learn and a few close friends did research, we found there were support groups online. I discovered that there were tens of thousands of people around the world that had the same condition. None of us knew each other but the symptoms were the same, reactions the same, issues the same. I contacted a few people with my condition. I started to feel a bit better knowing I wasn’t alone per se but it was still very isolating.
What I learned along the way was, avoiding harmful chemicals doesn’t mean that you won’t smell good or have great products or super soft sheets or shiny hair. It DOES MEAN that you will feel better than you probably do now, you will look great and maybe live longer in a healthy state of being. When all of this started, I honestly thought I was living a pretty “green and organic” life. I hadn’t eaten meat in years except toe dipping into the piggy once in a while. I had done what I thought was a ton of research when I got cancer. I threw out almost every personal care product (skin, hair, body, makeup) I owned no matter how expensive based on researching the chemicals. And that was in 2011. But every year there are more synthetic chemicals added to products and quite often these chemicals are not regulated by any governmental entity. And certainly not to the extent that they are regulated in countries outside the United States. I strongly encourage you to watch the movie STINK! on Netflix as one starting point which succinctly documents the absence of government regulation and lack of transparency surrounding the word “fragrance”.
It’s been a long battle and uphill climb over the past two and a half years. But after living in my virtual bubble for the greater part of a year, I learned that there are many products on the market that help you live a sexy and fabulous, but chemical and synthetic fragrance-free life!
I’ve created this site as a resource for information and products that helped me stabilize my condition, at least in my home, and now some have even improved my quality of life and skin. I have become a chemical-free advocate, champion and promoter. I don’t care if it takes one person at a time but I am determined to make people aware of the things that are making us all sick. What happened to me shouldn’t happen to anyone. I truly hope you will find my site to be enlightening and informative in terms of creating a toxin-free, low or no volatile organic compound (VOC) lifestyle. Knowledge is power and you don’t know what you don’t know.
People are not magically getting all of the chronic diseases we are seeing. Increasing amounts of autism and children with ADHD, ADD and other medical conditions aren’t happening by accident. People are eating, drinking, breathing and living in environments which contain more toxic chemicals than ever before. An embryo forming and growing that is being fed petroleum and chemicals from food and plastic is not an ideal scenario. Eating meat that has been injected with hormones and raised on animal feed containing antibiotics, herbicides and fungicides isn’t going to do you any health favors no matter how good you might think it tastes. Again, I believe there are only two reasons you get sick: DNA and your environment. You can’t control everything but you CAN control a significant amount of your internal and external environment.
I am resolute in my desire to create a chemical-free lifestyle movement that doesn't require one to hide in the woods or live in a bubble. Come along on my journey and make it yours! #getgreenwithnelie #neliesgonegreen