Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis-What it Can do to People
I have observed that generally you never take any disease or condition very seriously unless it affects you or someone close to you. The surprising fact is that when you experience the condition, it would look like it has never happened to anyone else before. You would be hearing everything about it for the first time, in spite of your knowledge about the condition.
The simple difference here is that 'you' are experiencing the condition. So it was with me too. I had read about Rheumatoid Arthritis many times before I was actually afflicted with the terrible condition. The irony of this disability is that you neither look ill (except when the muscle spasms distort your face) nor need to be bed-ridden. Of course, when the condition progresses, deformity occurs but that is not very common.
Whether Rheumatoid Arthritis affects you in a small or big way, it does one thing for certain. it makes one lose self-confidence as you cannot say when or where the pain will start or spread. Sometimes it will start as a piercing pain in the knee and after a while, you'll be surprised to find the pain shifted to another joint like the wrist or the shoulder. Very funny, you may think, but for the sufferer, it is an agonizing experience.
Not only the sufferer but the parents, spouse or children of the sufferer are also affected badly by RA. The saddest part is that no physician can tell you how long the condition will stay and you can only find temporary relief from painkillers and topical applications. But all this said, with a determination to overcome the crippling condition, you can certainly find a way out of it.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis is a state between a disease and a chronic condition. I was shocked when I started developing stiffness and pain in the joints, because, I had been an extremely active person in my life. I was 33 years old then and very healthy. When, one day, I developed a pain in my right knee, I did not take it very seriously, calling it a temporary pain. I thought it would pass off. It did, only to recur after a full six months.
Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis
The recurrence was later attributed by my doctor to the shift in location; I had moved to a colder place from a tropical region. This time, I did not want to take a chance. I saw a Rheumatologist who assessed my condition and diagnosed it as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I underwent blood tests and x-rays. The blood test determined the Rheumatoid Factor or RF (high levels of RF are indicative of the condition). I learned a lot of facts both from my doctor and other external sources like books. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an inflammatory condition which affects the joints and the connective tissues. It is characterized by morning stiffness, swelling of the joints, intense pain in any or all the joints, etc.
The irony of this condition in my case was that even friends found it difficult to believe that I was suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), the reason being that I used to look quite healthy and normal. All of a sudden, my facial expression would change when the pain occurred and I would start limping, my knee giving way without a warning.
Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis
For a few days, I felt depressed mainly because I could not accept experiencing something as limiting as RA. But I knew that the condition could be managed and brought under control. Soon, my treatment began. Other than the topical treatments like hot wax, and traction and physiotherapy, the main treatment consisted of 'gold salt injections' twice a week.
New and Expensive Medication
Now, to talk about the interesting part, 'gold salt' (chemical name- sodium auro thiosulphate) is used to reduce the inflammation and contain the progression of RA. "Aurotherapy" as this treatment is called was quite effective and I felt relief from pain. I was administered 20 gold salt injections and when my Rheumatologist saw the improvement, he advised another course of the same medicine.
My Regular Clinic Visits
These were a pain not in the literal sense but it was heartrending to see small children with this disability. When I saw a 14-year-old high school kid suffering from a very serious form of RA, his fingers twisted and turned, my heart went out to him. And then there was this 20-year-old, pretty girl whose knee was full of fluid that had to be pumped out regularly. I changed my mind about being a chronic RA patient ( I used to cycle down to the clinic as per the doctor's advice!!). I wasn't when compared to several other cases.
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After effects of 'gold salt"
I had been skeptical about this 'new' medicine from the beginning, but when I saw positive results, I did not see any reason to refuse it. All the same, a doubt about the effects of the medicine on my body, in the long run, made me question the doctor.
I was in for a shock when I was told that research was still on to find out the long-term effects of the gold salt in humans, but it was giving positive results in all the patients to whom it was administered. The medicine was quite new in India in the 1990s, so there was no certainty about its good or bad effects in the long term.
I refused further treatment, said goodbye to my doctor, and started looking for alternatives to improve my condition. The big task was to cleanse my system off the gold salt which I had taken for 10 weeks.
About the same time, a friend told me about 'water therapy' that was being successfully put to use by RA patients. Water being an essential part of our life, I decided to give it a try, knowing pretty well that it was not going to harm my system in any way.
I read about the therapy and the procedure that has to be followed in order to reduce arthritic inflammation. I was not able to believe it when I saw astonishing results after a month and a half. I was able to do all the work normally as I used to before I was affected by RA.
Back to Being Normal
My joy knew no bounds when I was able to become a normal person without a pain here and a pull there. I went through a pregnancy after this, much to the surprise of everyone I knew (as people suffering from this condition or have had this condition are advised against pregnancy) and had a healthy baby born. It is said that pregnancy and lactation thereafter make the condition latent only to flare up once you stop lactating.
A Second Attack
Four years after my daughter's birth, the ugly head of RA appeared once again in my life, this time mainly due to the stressful circumstances I was in. Unfortunately, I was not able to practice water therapy this time for many reasons that I can't explain. Unable to balance my day job and family, I quit my job and became a stay at home mom.
Now, I was not prepared to be given gold salt injections or any other medicine, instead, I decided to go in for the Indian traditional medicine, the Ayurveda. I was given treatment which proved to be effective. The good thing about Ayurveda is that it does not have any side effects.
The Art of Living Course
It was about this time that I heard about Art of Living, a Non-Governmental Organization(NGO) that was helping people with stress related problems overcome stress by teaching them simple breathing techniques and meditation. I attended a course that lasted about 25 hours over a week's period.
This time again, I was in for a pleasant surprise. After the course, I felt that I was able to face the world with confidence. I think it is because of my change in perception of the world around me that I felt everything that was happening to me was good. I had become more positive in my outlook ; I found a great opportunity to work as a freelance copywriter and soon created a niche for myself. When my health improved , naturally the other aspects of my life also became better.
I am a very happy person now, having learned a lot from the Art of Living about the art of living. I have learned one thing for sure from all my experiences in life. The world never changes, but only your perception of the world around you changes, so everything looks better and rosier than ever before.
Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis
I have also learned to 'live' with Rheumatoid Arthritis because I pretty well know that it is a condition that can never be cured but only 'managed'. With a proper diet, good sleep and yoga, I have sort of learned to manage the condition well. I am not complaining these days, instead am able to cope with the pain which sometimes occurs as a result of too much work.
'Smile, and the world smiles with you' is another thing I have learned. Be happy, do not stress yourself with unnecessary worries, instead, try to overcome stress with meditation and wonderful courses like the Art of Living. Eat well and sleep well, for they are the most valued treasures for a healthy body and healthy living.
Enjoy life to its fullest!!!