The Ripple Effect

Getting older is tough enough.  Watching your body change as you get older is a gradual process.  A gray hair here, a gray hair there.  A wrinkle here, a wrinkle there.  As the days move forward, at least you know everyone else is in the same boat.

But getting older with an autoimmune disease, in my opinion, is far more difficult.  You plunge head first into a scary world, and you imagine this must be what it feels like to be 90.  Losing abilities, taking pills daily, watching your body change at a very fast rate can be not only frustrating and painful, but detrimental to your mental health.  Each day is different.  You might notice new rashes on your skin, new bumps or bruises, or another task left uncompleted because of lost ability or weakness.  I remember clumps of hair falling out in the shower.  I felt sort of like a cancer patient.  The kinds of things you go through are just not meant for daily conversations.  So you feel alone and trapped in your own skin.

Luckily however, I have been able to get my Rheumatoid Arthritis under control with alternative medications that don’t have side effects.  My hair no longer falls out in clumps.  I rarely get new bumps or rashes.  And I am able and agile enough to once again live a full and productive life.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post.  This post is about the unknown and that gripping fear that although everything seems ok at the moment, the likelihood that more problems are in your future, especially as you grow older, is likely to occur.  And don’t say that I’m living life with a glass half-empty.  I am optimistic that whatever arises, I’ll be able to handle and possibly even get control of by taking more supplements.  But my point is, is that it is likely that if you get one autoimmune disease, there may be more to follow.

My first autoimmune disease was a skin disease.  It’s located on my shins and called Necrobiosis Lipoidica.  At first I was told it was Granuloma Annulare and the doctor showed me a picture of a woman with it all over her body.  This conclusion of course, was horrifying to me because for the next five years, I worried I’d be covered with shiny, scaly scars.  Fortunately, the doctor was wrong and instead, I was diagnosed later with Necrobiosis Lipoidica, which is a skin disease that only affects the shins.  Both skin diseases usually accompany diabetes, so the doctor was confused why not only did I not have diabetes, but it did not run in my family.  Later, in my research of Rheumatoid Arthritis, I learned that Necrobiosis Lipoidica sometimes is associated with RA.  Around those same years that I developed this, I also got pleurisy, which is a painful inflammation of the lining between your lungs and your ribs.  Antibiotics seemed to clear it up and it was probably a result of living in such polluted air.  Pleurisy, however,  is a frequent symptom of Lupus and it sometimes accompanies RA.  Fast forward four years and I’m diagnosed with Hypothyroidism.  My gynecologist caught it, otherwise this would have probably gone on for years without me realizing.  Then seven years later I was diagnosed with RA.

The reality is, most people with an autoimmune disease like RA or Lupus, usually have many more autoimmune diseases.  It can be a ripple effect.  Whether it’s the diseases themselves, the lifestyles that accompany the diseases, or the medications, more and more seem to pile up.  I’m glad to be on alternative medications because I know I’m taking things that might just possibly reverse the disease process.  But there’s always that side of me, that terrified side, like a voice in the back of my head that says, “What’s next?”  This time at least, I know that I’m doing all that I can do.  I’m armed with knowledge.  I’m taking supplements that improve my health.  I’m eating better, sleeping more and consuming fewer toxins.  There’s nothing more that we can do besides enjoy every day for what it is, knowing life is uncertain, so whatever each day may bring, let it be the best that it can be.

5 Responses

  1. Sarah,

    Sorry…I just saw this question after such a long time.

    I have Grave’s Disease which caused me to develop hyperthyroidism.

  2. chyvonneb,

    Do you mind if I ask, what autoimmune disease do you have at this time?
    many thanks,

  3. I feel scared about the future and have the same thought, “What next?” I just wish there was so much more known about A.D. I pray that more research will be done so that people suffering from all types of A.D. will benefit in the future. In the meantime, I am also researching am trying to do all I can to reduce the chances of something else coming out of the wood work.

    Take care

  4. Hi Wren,

    Thanks so much for writing in about your experiences! I was one of the lucky ones in that the combination of methotrexate and sulfasalazine did work for me. However, due to elevated liver enzymes and stomach issues I had to go off both for a brief time. When I returned they had stopped working. Perhaps if I had increased the dosage, they would have worked again. I’m glad to have found supplements to replace that regiment. This disease is truly a real pain, so I think whatever works for you is great, since we’re all so different with different needs and expectations. I’m glad that I started this blog and can share my experiences so that people like me won’t feel so alone in trying the alternative route. Keep up the great work and positive outlook!

  5. I’m glad that supplements and a healthy lifestyle are working for you in the fight against RA. I got disgusted with the drugs, too, at one point, and stopped taking all of them. Several years later, my RA symptoms all ceased. It was, for all intents and purposes, gone.

    Then it came back. I went for some time without seeing a doctor or taking drugs, as I was still convinced that they did nothing, really. But then I started learning about the newer drugs, and that they DID help some people. So back to the doc I went.

    I take DMARDs now, and one low-dose NSAID. As I expected, they aren’t working. But I’m also eating much more healthily than I used to. I’ve lost a significant amount of weight and I move and exercise more than I ever have. I’m hoping that a combination of these things will have a beneficial effect on the RA.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and information about the supplements that are helping you.

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