The Model Who Smells Like Dead Fish

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Editor's note: This story originally aired on "Primetime" on Aug. 9, 2006.

Camille has beauty and brains.

She's a former model and a Phi Beta Kappa with a master's in education. There's a part of her, though, that's not so perfect.

She smells like spoiled fish.

Camille says when she taught, students wouldn't come near her.

"They would say things like, 'Ew, this classroom stinks like dead fish.' They would call me 'Miss Fishy.'"

She asked that her last name not be used because telling her story was difficult for her. Camille described the odor as "a very heavy, intense, dark, deep smell."

"I didn't know why I was emitting such a strong odor. I mean, it can fill an entire room. Recently, it filled an auditorium," Camille said.

Her job as a teacher became excruciating.

"I was so focused on 'Do I smell? Do I smell? Are they saying things? Are they whispering? Are they laughing about me?'"

Smell Can't Be Covered

No matter what she does, Camille says she can't cover the smell. Neither showers nor perfume helps.

Camille has a medical mystery that she's struggled to understand for nearly 30 years.

It took her self-esteem and was taking her profession. She says she was often in a state of panic.

"I would open windows. I would leave the door open. I'd put fans in my classrooms. I mean the whole nine yards," Camille said.

She also felt a tremendous amount of pain. "I would cry all the way home from school. All the time."

Her childhood was no easier because Camille's ordeal began in first grade.

"One of my teachers asked me if I was showering every day. From that point on, she kind of sat me in the corner of the classroom. Kids would call me a freak. They would tell me I smelled like horse manure [and] dead fish."

We're instinctively programmed to stay away from the smell of dead fish because it helps keep us from eating spoiled or dangerous food.

That unpleasant odor is what Camille smelled like. Even worse, she couldn't detect the smell on herself so she never knew when it was out of control.

It made for a humiliating childhood.

"I had an incident in middle school where a bunch of kids cornered me in the cafeteria and threw tuna fish sandwiches at me," Camille said.

Rejected by the Adult World

When Camille got older, the insults continued. One of her first jobs was as a teller in a credit union.

"My supervisor would come by and spray my area with perfume, Lysol, and they put me in the drive-through section, which is separate from the rest of the teller area," Camille said.

Her social life was just as painful.

She dated on and off. If a man got too close to her, she says she felt like she had to let him go because he deserved better than her.

"I always thought, 'I'm a freak.' You start to see yourself as not quite human." Her life became more and more isolated -- she went out only when absolutely necessary.

Solving the Smell

She went to doctor after doctor, including specialists like internists and gynecologists. No one could help.

Just months after Camille started her dream teaching job, she quit under the strain. She thought about suicide.

"You feel incredibly helpless and hopeless. Tired of being ridiculed and feeling like a freak. So I'm going to take my life."

Fortunately, while in a deep depression, Camille found her answer on the Internet.

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