A student who is allergic to almost everything because of a rare medical condition can have a seizure from just by the smell of food or soap.
Cheyanne Perry has to stay at home most days and often has to wear a face mask when she goes outside because her immune system is so sensitive.
The 21-year-old has mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). It affects the immune system and means it can overreact to the smallest triggers.
Miss Perry, from South Carolina, also has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and gastroparesis, which weaken her muscles and digestive system.
She claims not to have eaten a single piece of food for three years, instead relying on a feeding tube.
Miss Perry said the most difficult part is not being able to be around people, but she is managing to take university classes online and is engaged to be married.
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Cheyanne Perry, from North Carolina, has been hooked up to a feeding tube for five years because gastroparesis – paralysis of the stomach means she cannot regularly eat solid food. She claims not to have eaten for three years
The symptoms of Miss Perry’s chronic illnesses got worse in her teenage years, forcing her to be home-schooled at 13 and connected to a feeding tube three years later.
‘I’m allergic to basically everything,’ said Miss Perry, who is studying for a degree in psychology. ‘That’s the joke I usually make.
‘I can have reactions to perfumes, smoke from the fireplace, the temperature and even the scent of the shampoo someone recently used.’
To prevent the effects being life-threatening, her family and fiancee, Silvino Suarez, have adapted their lives around her.
They cook food in a second kitchen they built in the garage, use unscented shampoos, soaps and detergents, and avoid wearing perfumes.
As part of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which weakens connective tissue between muscles, bones and organs, Miss Perry also battles muscle weakness and the dislocation of several of her joints a day.
And when she ventures outside she runs the risk of her immune system overreacting as if she was having an allergic response.
This has limited her life and means she cannot do everything she wants to.
‘The most difficult part has been the inability to be around most people,’ Miss Perry said.
Symptoms of Miss Perry’s illnesses – Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) and gastroparesis – can flare up at any time and require medical treatment (pictured: Miss Perry after an emergency operation earlier this month)
Miss Perry has an extra-sensitive immune system and can have allergic reactions triggered by the most everyday things, such as the smell of cooking or perfume – she often wears a protective face mask when she goes out, to stop reactions
‘I am grateful that my parents and fiancée were willing to change their entire lifestyle for me.
‘I got a full scholarship to college, but couldn’t go because my symptoms got so bad.
‘I am taking all my college classes online and hope to become a psychologist in the future.
‘None of us were expecting the severity of it to be like this, but everyone has been very helpful.’
Miss Perry currently dislocates two to three joints a day, but she used to dislocate dozens in a 24-hour period before learning how to be extra-cautious.
Miss Perry, whose symptoms got worse when she was a teenager, is now taking online university classes and hopes to become a psychologist who can help other people who are suffering with chronic illnesses
Miss Perry pictured with her fiancee, Silvio (right) and her parents, says not being able to be around other people is the hardest part of her job, but said ‘I am grateful that my parents and fiancée were willing to change their entire lifestyle for me’
WHAT IS MAST CELL ACTIVATION DISORDER?
Mast cell activation disorder is the umbrella term for a spectrum of diseases caused by the inappropriate activation or build-up of mast cells in the body’s tissues.
Mast cells are produced in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system and help fight infection.
When mast cells detect an allergen, they release histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream. Histamine makes the blood vessels expand and the surrounding skin itchy and swollen.
Mast cells sometimes mistake harmless substances, such as pollen, for infectious germs, and trigger the process of swelling.
This can cause the skin to become red, swollen and itchy, and it can also create a build-up of mucus in the airways, which become narrower.
People with the condition have an increased risk of having a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
Symptoms include itchy skin or a raised, red skin rash, feeling light-headed or faint and swelling of the throat, mouth and tongue which can lead to breathing difficulties.
Source: NHS Choices
She remembers times when her fingers would pop out of their socket just from picking up her backpack, but has managed to control the issue.
Miss Perry said: ‘That symptom is not as bad anymore, partly because I know how to be cautious and partly because I stay home a lot.
‘I used to dislocate so many of my joints just from doing everyday things.’
While the conditions have limited her to what she can do, they have also inspired her to become a psychologist for others in similar situations.
When seeking therapy during her rough times with the illness, Miss Perry noticed there were very few counsellors who had gone through the same experience.
Now she plans to one day offer therapy for patients struggling with chronic illnesses.
Miss Perry said: ‘When I was looking for someone to talk to about what I was going through, I noticed that none of the psychologists had actually dealt with a chronic illness.
‘That’s when I realised that someone like me, who has been through it, is much needed.
‘When you are struggling with something this severe, you should have a professional to speak to who understands exactly how you are feeling.’
Since Miss Perry’s symptoms can worsen at any moment, she cannot predict the state of her health in the future.
However, she likes to maintain a positive attitude and has a lot of hope that things will improve.
She added: ‘It’s really difficult with these illnesses. I can feel better for months at a time and then unexpectedly wind up in the hospital again.
‘No matter what happens, I always have hope that things will get better for me.’