Former TV producer, Sarah Dacre, 53, had a successful career in London, but, in 1994, she suddenly began suffering from a pattern of mysterious symptoms.
When finally diagnosed with electro-hypersensitivity, her illness forced her to leave both her job and her home. Divorced, with a grown-up son at university, she now lives in Kent. Here she recalls what happened…
It began with the migraines, which I put down to stress. Recently divorced, I was running a television production company, employing more than 70 staff, as well as bringing up my five-year-old son.
My lifestyle was fast paced, exciting and affluent, so I wasn’t surprised to find that I might be at risk from a stress-related illness.
As the headaches intensified over the next few months, becoming progressively more frequent, I began to worry, especially as I was also experiencing numbness down the right side of my body and bad digestion.
My GP thought I was probably overworking and told me to get some rest.
After consulting an allergy specialist, who said I could be suffering from a food intolerance, I cut out wheat and dairy from my diet in an effort to alleviate my symptoms. But nothing I did seemed to make any difference whatsoever. As I’d never had a serious day’s illness in my life before, I just kept hoping my problems would gradually resolve themselves.
For the next seven years I continued to suffer from severe headaches and digestive problems, both slowly growing worse.
Meanwhile, as modern technology improved, I stocked up my office and home with more and more electronic equipment.
I had a mobile, two cordless phones and a laptop, but never did I think that these might be contributing to my illness.
Before I became ill I had a wide social circle and was physically fit - my hobbies included skiing, tango dancing, hillside walking and going to the gym.
Having been such an intensely energetic person, I was shocked to find myself now shuffling around the house after the slightest physical exertion.
In 2002, I met my partner, Rod, an engraver, and although he and my son were incredibly kind and supportive, I hated being a virtual invalid, and was determined to find out the cause of my illness and fix it.
Over the next two years I visited a succession of doctors and alternative therapists, and I tried all sorts of cures, but found nothing that did me any good.
As the symptoms grew worse, so new ones appeared. By 2003, I’d developed high blood pressure and started suffering from panic attacks and breathlessness.
Although I was naturally anxious about all of this, I knew that my problems were more than psychological, and that my condition was being made worse by worry rather than being the result of it.
Obviously it was by now becoming more difficult for me to continue running a company while feeling so unwell. But I did my best, continuing to function as well as I could, given the constraints of my ill-health.
Some days I felt so bad I could barely leave the house and, by 2004, I had started to experience blurred vision, heart arythmia, thyroid problems, vertigo, tinnitus, and chronic fatigue.
The following year, hoping to make a fresh start, I moved to a newly built luxury house. Little did I know that I was only making my problem worse.
Two weeks after moving in, I found a lump in my breast, which was diagnosed as a benign tumour. Added to this, my hair started to fall out, my teeth had become loose and my fingernails became so cracked and brittle they broke off under the slightest pressure.
Clearly, I could no longer continue working, so I decided to close the company, hoping it would only be a temporary measure.
Desperate for help, my son and partner began searching the internet for a solution to my problem. They found websites that warned of the harmful effects of electromagnetic impulses on the human body, and the symptoms listed were all identical to mine - it is called electro-hypersensitivity, or EHS.
Now I knew what to do. I cleared my bedroom of the phone, TV, computer and electrical wires of any kind, and lined it with foil wallpaper.
I also screened the windows with silver radiation-proof fabric, and started wearing a head net to protect against mast emissions.
I also began taking numerous nutritional supplements, and avoiding buildings with lots of electronic equipment. Almost immediately, I began to feel better, to have more energy, and to sleep and eat better.
Finally, in 2006, I was diagnosed with EHS by a specialist I found on the internet. The relief of knowing what had caused my mysterious symptoms for 14 years was overwhelming.
At last I could prove I was not mad, but ill. But it still remained very hard for me to function in day-to-day life. I could not use, or even be near, mobile phones, microwave ovens, radios, WiFi-enabled computers, or be in public buildings such as airports, railway stations, museums or restaurants; travel on the Tube, or drive on a motorway without triggering symptoms of EHS. I couldn’t even visit friends.
Five months ago, I sold my house in London and moved to rural Kent. Within a month, my health improved dramatically. I stopped suffering from minor infections, slept better and felt physically stronger - I was even able to do heavy lifting work on my allotment.
I grow my own vegetables and eat an organic diet. I walk, garden and work, in a limited fashion, on a laptop, helping people come to terms with their own case of electro-hypersensitivity.
I am now physically stronger and healthier than I have felt in years. I have no income, but am working towards the day when I can perhaps once more resume my career in TV by making a programme about EHS.
My mission in life has now become to prevent anyone from suffering the way I did. And with our world filled with more and more electronics, there are going to be a lot more people like me out there soon.
By Clare Campbell