One of the things I love about Aerial Dance is the safety – the safety to tell the truth about what is happening in your life and, rather than judgement, to be surrounded with love, support and encouragement. I’m very raw, honest and real today and I’m able to share this part of my story with you because I know I’m part of a caring, uplifting and judgement free sisterhood.
Last Sunday, Paula and I had a heart to heart talk. She told me that she’d been doing some research and she thought my toxic liver disease might be back. She and several instructors had noticed that, despite my showers and deodorant, my body odor was still quite noticeable. While this change in body chemistry is quite normal for moms who breastfeed, I finished pumping for my daughter in February and the smell has remained. She also acknowledged that, because of some health issues, I’ve had to go completely chemical free since pregnancy and that can cause a shift in body chemistry. She knows I’ve been trying multiple brands of natural deodorants but most don’t work well and stay for pole. After sharing her research and some other ideas for me, Paula recommended I go back to my doctor to recheck my liver numbers and to be sure that hasn’t returned.
I had an appointment with my doctor but it did not go at all how I expected…
“Hey Tessa! How are you doing today? The nurse tells me you came in today because of some liver trouble. Is that correct?”
“Um, yeah, well, I think my toxic liver disease might be back. I’m having trouble staying in control of my body odor again and it’s causing some people to be uncomfortable around me. A friend of mine did some research and thinks my liver is causing some problems that my body can’t equalize.”
“Ok. Well, are you still chemical free? We had started you on that initially. You made the full switch with the pregnancy complications. How is that going?”
“Pretty good. It’s hard to find a natural deodorant that works for my dance classes. I use my essential oils for perfume and toiletries and cleaning. Oh! My sister bought me some body wash from [that store in the mall]. It’s not chemical free but it smells so good! I thought the one bottle once in a while would be ok.”
“That could be part of the problem. Your body isn’t designed to filter out the toxins in that body wash. You should stop using that asap.”
“Ok. I can do that. Is that it? That one bottle of body wash can’t be the only cause? My friend said it’s been getting worse over the last two months. I know part of that could be because I’m sweating more with heat and no AC in my house or car but I shower everyday – sometimes twice!”
“Hmmmm… The last two months… What other symptoms have you been having? Are you feeling the same way you were 5 years ago when you were originally diagnosed?”
“I haven’t really noticed much. Some trouble sleeping. Being hungry but nothing sounding appetising. I just figured that was because it’s so hot.”
“I don’t see any yellowing in your eyes or anywhere on your skin. Any abdominal pain, itching, vomiting, fatigue, weight loss or change in your urine?”
“Some fatigue. I’m almost always tired but can’t fall asleep. I brain just keeps running and running and keeps me awake. I haven’t had much energy lately. I was doing good with losing my baby weight but I’ve hit a plateau. I’d actually be grateful for a rapid drop of about 25 pounds.”
“So, you’re tired but can’t sleep, you’re working out and not overeating but retaining weight, and you’re struggling with strong body odor again. And it’s gotten stronger over the last two months? Talk to me a bit about the last few months. What’s been going on since February? What all have you been doing? Anything causing your body stress or anxiety?”
“February… Ok… My daughter turned one in February so we had a birthday party with lots of company for the weekend. My grandma was hospitalized and died in March so we had her funeral. I’ve been dealing with some family drama over inheritance stuff since that. Plus, my first close relative died so that was hard.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that! Were you still able to have a good Easter? Or did you usually celebrate that with your grandma?”
“No, we usually go to Rapids by Luke’s folks for Easter but the three of us were Super sick that whole weekend so we had to stay home. But, it turned out ok. That April blizzard trapped us in Rapids for four days so we all did our Easter tradition stuff that weekend instead.”
“Way to make the best of it!”
“Yeah, it was nice. It was unfortunate to come home to a flooded basement after such a great weekend. Kinda put a damper on things.”
“No pun intended.”
“Haha. Yeah.”
“Was all your stuff ok?”
“Thankfully almost everything on that end of the basement was garage sale stuff and was in bins. So yeah, we only lost a bin of books and a few of my high school and college keepsake things.”
“That sucks. So you had a garage sale? How was that? Did you make a lot?”
“We made a decent amount. More than last year but still not enough to pay off the NICU bills. We’ve got another $2,000ish to go.”
“Ugh medical bills. I hear that! We’re still paying off some of my moms bills. How are things with your folks going? Last you were here you said something about them being separated and your sister living with you?”
“If you don’t mind, I Really don’t want to talk about that. It’s just a terrible situation and I can’t talk about it without getting really upset. I’m trying to forgive both of my parents for their crud but everytime I think I’m ok, they pull some other childish crap and I’m angry all over again.”
“I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how hard it must be – living 5 blocks from your folks and not being able to have a relationship with them because they can’t figure things out.”
“Yeah, and it’s just been building and building with my sister’s wedding coming up.”

“Oh! [Your sister] is getting married?!?”

“No, [sister], the middle one. [Sister] is actually leaving for three years for college in England next month. So that’s exciting!”
“Goodness! Both going in separate directions! But so great for them! Please give them both my congrats!”
“I will!”
“Are you planning a family trip to England to visit her for Christmas or next summer?”
“Well, we were. But a few weeks ago we got a letter from our insurance company that they aren’t going to pay for and of my daughter’s bills from her accident on Christmas Eve. Six months they’ve had those bills from the ambulance, hospital ER, transport ambulance, and Children’s hospital and now they’re saying they won’t pay any of them. Unfortunately, we won’t be doing any traveling for awhile. Luke and I haven’t had a proper date night in eight months to try and finish off those NICU bills. Now with these ones, we may never eat out again!”
“I’m so sorry! I don’t understand insurance companies. I wish there were a simpler way to give patients the care they need without all the paper trails and legal hoops and such. I often think the medical field should be much simpler.”
“Yeah. I really miss patient care since having to leave the ambulance but I don’t miss the politics or paperwork. Leaving EMS to be a mom full time was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.”
“But you’re still able to work a little, yes? You told me awhile back how much you were loving teaching classes about essential oils and doing a kind of preemptive healthcare. Helping people go chemical free like you so they don’t have the chemical toxicity you had. Aren’t you still doing that?”
“Yes, I am. I do still Love teaching classes. But it’s summer and I haven’t been able to find anyone available to host a class. I’ve had a few in my home but no one has come. Everyone is just super busy.”
“Well, Tessa, it sounds like you’ve been quite tied up with a lot of things too these last few months. I don’t think you’ve realized just how much stress you’ve been dealing with lately. Do you know what the Holmes and Rahe stress scale is?”
“Not off the top of my head.”
“Well, as we’ve been talking, I’ve been filling in a handful of the yes or no statements which are all scored for levels of stress on your life, body and emotions. In just the few minutes we’ve been talking and without going over even half of the factors on this scale you are already over 400! When psychiatrists use this scale to predict illnesses for their patients, they find that any score over 300 means their patients have a high or very high risk of becoming ill in the near future. All of these stressors, good and bad seem to be taking a toll whether you’re realizing it or not.”
“So, do you think the stress caused my liver to start shutting down again?”
“Actually, based on your symptoms, I think your depression might be coming back.”
“Really? I haven’t been thinking about suicide or harming myself lately.”
“Last time you had depression you went way too long without getting diagnosed. You never should have gotten to that point.”
“But how does depression make me stink? I’m still showering and putting on deodorant and oils. I’m still taking care of myself. I haven’t been so down that I’ve given up on personal hygiene. Why do I smell so bad?”
When people get stressed out, their bodies produce more apocrine secretions from the apocrine glands in their armpits which causes your body odor to get worse. These are the same type of glands which make up mammary glands which is why breastfeeding moms smell different. However when the armpit glands are activated by stress hormones, or adrenaline, as opposed to mammary glands activated by your mommy hormones, oxytocin and then prolactin, they cause excessive sweat and increased odor.”
“So… When life stinks… I stink?”
“Basically, yeah. This is true for everyone, not just you. You’re a tad more sensitive because of your past liver problems and not being able temper BO with normal store products. But honestly, no one should be putting those stresses on their livers and kidneys.”
“So what can I do about it? There’s not a ton I can do to reduce these specific stresses in my life. I mean, I can’t bring my grandma back from the dead and I’m Super excited for my sisters and want to be involved in these exciting changes. How do I combat depression this time? I can’t afford 4 days away for self care and relaxation and inspirational speakers like last time.”
“Step one: pitch that toxic body wash. Second, once a week I want you to just sit in the bath with a book for an hour. Pick a good, fun book, one that makes you happy. Let your body and mind relax. The third thing I want you to do is try to schedule 2-4 classes a month. Talk to some friends. You love teaching, it makes you happy when you share your story with others and help others take care of themselves. Plus, it will help with your financial stress. Lastly, go for walks with Luke at least three nights a week. Walking helps you release endorphins which will combat your depression. And having some time to talk through your day with Luke will help you emotionally work through things and let the small things go. I want you to come back in about 4-6 weeks and let me know how things are going. If nothing has changed we will run some liver tests but, based on everything we’ve talked about today and your symptoms and vitals, I’m guessing these four things will do wonders for you. As you improve or eliminate negative stressors in your life, you’ll be able to enjoy the positive stressors more and your odor should go away.”
“Sounds good! Thank you so much!”
“You’re welcome! I’ll see you in about a month and have a wonderful time at your sister’s wedding!”
I know sharing my conversation with my doctor isn’t anything like any of my other articles I’ve written. But, I share it with you to give you confidence and hope. The instructors at Aerial Dance are super knowledgeable and bend over backwards to make sure we are the healthiest we can possibly be – in every aspect of our lives. You should have complete confidence that your instructors have your back, whether they are spotting you for an invert in Extreme or they are listening to your heart in Bendy Babe. These amazing women are listening and paying attention and working behind the scenes to help you be the best version of you. I share my story with you to give you hope. No matter what people look like on the outside, no one has it all together. Something in their life isn’t going perfect. Aerial Dance is a safe haven for us to be ourselves and share our burdens and get the support, advice and encouragement we need. No matter what you are going through right now, there is someone in your life, probably even at Aerial, who you can talk to and find a hand to hold or shoulder to cry on. You, dear friend, are never alone! You, my sister, are wanted and cherished and valuable. You, sweet girl, are special, amazing, kind, beautiful, strong, talented and loved. I hope this part of my story and Aerial Dance have been a blessing to you today. Sending you love!