In Case You Think I’ve fallen Off the Face of the Earth……..

artwork by Shel Silverstein

I’m back!

Hi everyone!  For those of you who have followed this blog, you may have noticed that I abandoned writing for an unusual length of time.   What you don’t know is a company that didn’t appreciate one of my articles was trying to sue me.   I had received stacks and stacks of paperwork and I read every sentence.  I was never actually sued, just threatened.  They even threatened to put me in jail.  Who knew, a young rheumatoid arthritis sufferer could get so much attention?  Handcuffs could really hurt.  ;P  I don’t believe even for a second that they had a case but just for the record, anyone can be sued for anything at any time.  Guilt seems like an unnecessary ingredient in the court room these days.  It didn’t matter that I was sharing an experience, and that freedom of speech is a right. What mattered was that I grew tired of dealing with it, and in turn, they had shut me up.  They had accomplished taking away my voice.  Because of this, I left the blog world for a long while.  I even stopped writing entirely.  I didn’t even notice when I hadn’t renewed my internet hosting account.  I was sort of turned off.  Even journal-ling felt like a chore.  I turned my focus on other things, other things that were also going on in my life and taking up all of my time.  But because I stepped out of the habit of writing for so long, when I sat in front of the computer, I was stumped.  How was I able to come up with words?  You know, those letters that are grouped together and with some effort, turned into an entire sentence and then a paragraph that then becomes an entire article?  Even the very first word seemed difficult.  Hello.  Hi.  Uh…..    This time, more determined than ever and knowing that the writer in me still lives, I decided to return to some of my old habits, otherwise that very first article would never appear.  I did in fact post an article but a friend of mine let me know that it sounded like I just wanted to hear myself think….  It was the equivalent of ordering 2buck chuck for guests that are expecting fine wine.  In the right circumstance this is great, but as my first post, it needed to sound like me, not a watered down, just going to write a bunch of mucky junk and call it a post.  No, that wasn’t going to get swallowed easily.  It needed to sound like me, the old me, the me that had an opinion and was fallible and was always searching for something more.  Just an fyi, if you do like wine, I’m all about the organic red Green Fin from Trader Joe’s.  Incredibly affordable!  Oops, that’s a secret because they’re always running out.  Leave me some!  My point is, my voice was still being suppressed because I had buried it so very deep.  I am proud to say I think I’m finding my voice all over again.  I think my writing is certainly rusty and grammatical errors are bound to appear, but I want to say thank you all for your support and thank you dear friend for giving me that critique. It was the permission I needed to bear my soul.   Ahh, I like the sound of that!

Can You Trust Your Doctor?

In my case, I don’t think so, but I’m hoping in your case that you CAN trust your doctor.

For those of you that have been following my blog posts, I have been out of insurance (but now have it) for the past three years.  Losing my insurance, because my husband lost his teaching job and we could not afford Cobra, was a blessing to a certain extent because it forced me to try alternative methods, and I found some excellent ones, including my two favorite, Low Dose Naltrexone and Serracor-NK.  Raising my Vitamin D levels and B12 have also been some excellent choices of mine along with other great choices like fish oil, etc., all improving my quality of life.  RA is very hard to control.  Just talk to anyone who’s on the conventional meds and you will find that many still haven’t found the right cocktail, and most are still experiencing joint damage despite taking DMARD’s.   I’m certainly not against drugs, but I will say that taking alternatives has opened my eyes to the possibility of healing my body rather than just suppressing the disease.  So now that I have insurance, it means for me, going back to the doctor, not to see what my choices are, but to get blood work done, x-rays and let the doctor know what choices I’m in favor of.

I hadn’t seen my favorite nurse in several years.  She gave me a giant hug.  “Wow, you look great!” she said.  She asked me what I was taking for my RA.  I told her supplements, but that I wasn’t on any drugs except for the occasional prednisone.  She said, “Wow, it’s really working, you look fantastic!”

Unfortunately, my Rheumatologist experience was definitely a poor one.  Before this Rheumatologist, I had researched and found a much older gentleman who became my Rheumatologist for approx one year.  He was open-minded, not against antibiotic therapy, not against supplements or icing my arm which proved to be the most beneficial in reducing the inflammation in my left forearm in particular, and he had enough experience and knowledge that I felt I had found a good doctor.  When I saw him for the first time, he ordered one x-ray of one hand.

After one year however, he retired.  He told me he found an excellent replacement, a young woman graduating from UCLA.  I was disappointed that I would no longer have my old doctor, but I was open to having a new doctor, especially a woman.  When I met her, she seemed nice enough.  She was young and beautiful and very friendly.  She sent me to x-rays and for blood work.  When the radiologist told me I had 30 x-rays to get done, I thought, “Really?”  At that time, I was not as forthright with my care.  I didn’t put my foot down and say, “that’s way too many.”  Instead, I let the x-rays happen, including one to my throat (which I have hypothyroidism and that’s never a good idea) and including one to my pelvis, (I am of child-bearing age and that’s never a good idea either).  And then I lost my insurance and I got a bill of $700 for all my x-rays.  I fought the bill for over 6 months, and eventually the insurance took care of it.  I was unhappy with the doctor because you should never expose yourself to that much radiation.  X-rays are cumulative, and even though there’s no clear evidence of how much is too much, I’m on a healing path, not a path of increasing the toxins in my body.   And having had a doctor, a great doctor, who only ordered one x-ray, and one later on to compare, I knew that 30 x-rays were approximately 29 too many.

What I find interesting, is that when you look for information on the internet, it’s always, “Well you’re exposed to radiation all the time from natural sources.”  But what makes this ok?  Why would you then want to increase your exposure?  Two wrongs don’t make a right, right?  It’s easy for doctor’s to poo poo the fear of two many x-rays, while billing your insurance, putting money in their pocket, but let me just say this, a close relative of mine who is a radiologist, was quite upset to hear that I was exposed to 30 x-rays before and thought my doctor was a quack and just trying to pay off her college loans.  He chooses not to get x-rays whenever they aren’t absolutely necessary.

I hadn’t seen my new Rheumatologist in almost 3 years and I was convinced that she had probably learned a thing or two since I had last seen her.  Or maybe she would at least know not to give ME so many x-rays.  I was open to the possibility that I just needed to give her a second chance.  Maybe before, she just didn’t know.  She was surprised how flexible I was and how little inflammation and deformity I appeared to have.  So there you have it, my supplement regimentation is working to a certain extent.

At the end of the apt., she asked if I was open to getting my hand x-rayed.  “Sure”, I said, “but please I don’t want any x-rays of my thyroid or ovaries because that can be very harmful.”  She didn’t say anything, so I wondered if she knew what I was referring to and sent me down for blood work and x-rays.

When I saw the technician, he said, “Ok, 18 x-rays today.”  I said, “What?  How can that be?”  And he explained that there were several of each hand, several of each feet, etc.  At first I thought, “well ok, it’s just the hands and feet.”  But thinking back to how many my previous Rheumatologist exposed me to, (totaling two) and considering just 3 years ago, this doctor had exposed me to 30, I told the technician I’d pass.

I walked back to my Rheumatologist office and handed the paper ordering the x-rays to the nurse and said, “Tell her this is simply too many” and left.

I just figured it was time for me to find a new Rheumatologist.  And so my quest begins….

What’s Making You Sick?

Obviously if you’ve come to my site, you probably have an autoimmune disease or know someone that does.   Your body is working against you.  So not only is your body making you sick, but perhaps your medications give you side effects or constant popping of supplements has you feeling ill.  Or could there be something else going on that you don’t realize, in addition to these things?

I want to tell you a story about a recent experience of mine.  I joined a clinical trial because I don’t have health insurance, and I was interested in getting some blood tests for free.

I was of course disappointed when I found out I wouldn’t be paid and the drive was quite far.  I would lose a little bit of work here and there, and even more importantly,sleep.  Still, I rationalized at the first visit that if I had the real deal and not the placebo, it would be worth the drive. The tests and the pill would add up to a lot of money, so why not give it a shot?

When I got the pill, I rushed to my car and even though I know you’re not suppose to break open the capsule, I did. I eagerly wanted to know…did I have the placebo or the real thing? It was a bright orangy yellow and it tasted, from what I could remember, like turmeric. I was ecstatic! I believed I had received the real thing!

I began taking the pill as described… 2 pills twice a day for one week, then 4 pills twice a day from thereafter.

My blood tests at initial visit showed that my CRP was within normal range. I still had substantial inflammation in my hands, but the doctor was surprised with my “normal” results.  My next visit however, about a month later, I was having more inflammation and my tests showed it, along with my joints. I chalked it off as being a “healing crises” and continued taking my pills, thinking they were going to soon give me great benefits.

About a month later, I went in again. This time I was doing much worse. Test results showed higher inflammation, hands were far worse and elbows and other joints, including my neck were starting to become painful and really stiff again, something I hadn’t had in years. If you don’t know what this feels like, it feels exactly as you would imagine waking up from a bad car accident would feel like.  Instead of waking up in the hospital bed, with hovering nurses and family, you’re waking up in your own bed, turning off your alarm clock and forcing yourself through the disability and pain to get through your day.  Your neck feels like whiplash, your hands and wrists won’t bend and it hurts to be touched.  Driving is dangerous and near impossible but you do it anyway.

The doctor told me I could come off the pill if I wanted…he hated seeing me suffer. He said the other guy asked if there was prednisone in the pill because he was feeling so good. But since I’ve taken lots and lots of supplements and experienced the “healing crises” first hand from many of them, I decided, “the worse the flare, the better the pill”. I explained to the doctor what had happened to me on other pills that ended up working out and that I had hoped turmeric wouldn’t do that to me, but since it is, maybe I’m not on the placebo and I’ll be reaping benefits here soon. He seemed surprised and sent me on my way. Secretly I was thinking, “wow, how can he not know about the healing crises?” And I felt FOR SURE that I MUST be on the real thing!

But then things got worse…. I missed an entire week of work. yep, seriously, I did. And I continued taking those stupid pills. I kept thinking, “i’m really going to feel great any time now.” But I didn’t. I got night sweats, aches and pains, extreme fatigue… I was at an all time low, one I hadn’t been at since the beginning of my RA, or at least not for some time. I improved my diet, took more pills of the supplements that I knew worked and felt confused why I wasn’t getting better.

Finally it occurred to me, “maybe I’m not on the real pill.” I came home one evening, made a plate of one teaspoon of real turmeric on one side, and the pill’s contents on the other. My husband and I did a look and taste test. The colors were different for sure. And the taste…. turmeric has a very distinctive taste. The powder from the pill however in comparison, I realized, tasted like flour, maybe???? but definitely not the turmeric on the other side. Nope, compared to that, it didn’t have a taste. My mind must have deceived me when I tried it before! I had been so hopeful!  I just stupidly thought that they wouldn’t go to so much trouble and make a powder that looks and tastes like turmeric. Well they did, I was wrong, although the taste in comparison, ISN’T the same, now that I realize.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find out all the ingredients that were in the placebo pill.  But for sure, I had been taking yellow #5 and yellow#6, as well as potato starch.  I am assuming the main ingredient was probably flour.

The day after I stopped taking the pills I started to feel better.  Recovery has been slow but consistent.  It’s completely apparent to me, that my intake of 8 pills a day of possibly flour and food coloring was the big culprit of my wild, almost four month flare.  Since then, I have been trying to eat very cleanly, no processed foods, trying to get my system back to normal again.  Luckily I am feeling fairly good again, but I really did learn a valuable lesson. That lesson is, my body doesn’t have “allergic reactions.”  Instead, over time, it reacts by an increase of inflammation, damaging tissues, organs, and joints.  As a result of this experience, I am far more aware than I ever was, that processed foods and food colorings are a big no-no.  Sure, they are extremely hard to avoid on a daily basis, and I have slipped up a little.  But in general, I am eating a very clean and organic diet and I’m hoping in time my body will continue to improve.

So ask yourself, what are you eating that might be fueling your fire?  Perhaps it’s time to try avoiding it for at least two weeks, which should be enough time to feel the difference.  And let all of us know what increases your inflammation, because we’d all like to know!  :)

Saying Goodbye to Acupuncture for Now

I don’t want t o give it up acupuncture. I do notice a slight difference and enjoy the attention. But since every Saturday I was having to get up a little earlier than I would naturally and since every week it was costing me $20 and I am currently more broke than ever, I simply can’t afford to keep going. I was noticing the biggest difference in my left wrist. And although I think it’s probably worth the money and time, I’m just so concerned with money right now that I can’t rationalize doing something that’s only making a slight difference. Maybe I’ll go back in the future but so far, unless money is no object, the benefits are not extraordinary enough. Supplements are so costly and I spend a TON on them. So that’s where I’m at. I do feel sad about it because I know it was helping a little. It was definitely improving my life, but I would only recommend acupuncture to people with RA who are near remission. Otherwise, it will probably just make your symptoms worse. I always flared during the visit. But the after effect of less inflammation was worth the flare. In the past however, when I wasn’t on alternative meds and tried acupuncture, I had a terrible flare that lasted weeks. It was awful! So again, I would only recommend acupuncture to those who are doing well with their disease and trying to ease smaller symptoms but not to people who are in the middle of a healing crisis, or worse, still looking for the right cocktail altogether.

Accupuncture Visits for Rheumatoid Arthritis

I admit it, I’ve done a terrible job keeping up with posts on how acupuncture is going for me.  So rather than waiting to write a post where I tell you exactly how many visits I’ve had and what’s happened at each one, etc., I’m just going to take the easy road and make it simple.  I’ve gone to every Saturday appointment except for two and last Saturday I got a parking ticket….so much for letting that relaxed feeling linger……

I can tell you that whenever I do go in for acupuncture, I get a flare during the visit.  You might think that sounds terrible, but to me I think of it as progress.  Anything natural will make you flare up, it’s just part of the process.  And that’s the hardest part really, is how to tell the difference between something that is making you worse or something that is making you better when they both have the same reactions.  This excludes immune suppressive drugs because they work entirely differently.

Within an hour usually, my flare subsides and lately I feel fairly great for a few days before the inflammation comes back to its normal state.  I would definitely say the acupuncture is making a positive difference, however it’s very slight.  I’ve decided to keep going however, based on theory.  So here are my theories on why I should keep going to acupuncture:

1.  Acupuncture increases endorphins.  Endorphins help heal the body.  Therefore, I must be doing some, even if it’s small, amount of healing during the visit.

2.  Acupuncture increases circulation.  Over time, perhaps increasing the circulation will make a bigger decrease in the amount of inflammation in my body.

3.  Even if the decrease in inflammation is very slight, it is still something.  And perhaps that small amount will slow down the erosion and disability.

4.  The Placebo effect.  As long as I don’t get any more parking tickets, perhaps the placebo effect of thinking the acupuncture is helping somewhat, will help decrease the inflammation.

Michael has been using a Chinese technique that would make some people cringe where you prick near the fingernail with a needle in certain spots (on a few of the fingers on each hand) and cause your hands to bleed for a moment.  Maybe that doesn’t sound fun to you, and it isn’t really.  It’s nothing compared to RA pain.  I do, in all honesty feel like it is decreasing the inflammation more so than it was before he had tried this technique.  I was glad that he was open to asking me if I’d like to try it because most people would probably be against the idea.  To me it makes logical sense as well, that it would increase circulation.

So there you have it in a nutshell.  I’m going in tomorrow and this time I’ll circle around for 10 minutes if I have to so I can find a parking spot that doesn’t allow for any more cruel tickets.  I hope you all have a great weekend and thanks as always for visiting!

Acupuncture: My Second Visit To Culver City

I just wanted to give an update to those of you following my acupuncture visits.

It was another early morning for me, on a Saturday, to which I’m not used to. Of course, to the average person, 11 a.m. is not early. But I’m working part time right now and my hours do not require me until later in the day. This is a farther drive than my work, so it’s even earlier than I’m used to getting up. Since I would normally sleep in on the weekends, getting up at 9:30 to make it to the 11 a.m. appointment is not easy for me. I’m hoping I get used to this. And for those of you that don’t understand why I would need so much sleep, let me explain it like this: My body works hard at destroying what it can during the day. It tries to damage my joints, ligaments and organs. So sleeping is a chance to undue some of that damage, or if nothing else, give my body some time to rest from RA’s damaging effects. So yes, because I’m a natural night owl, waking up with to the loud “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP,” is fairly hellish.

But I’m on a quest. And that quest is to find out if I can stop the inflammation in my hands and feet. And if the answer is acupuncture then GREAT, and if it isn’t, then I’ll keep looking. I think Michael is a talented physician and if nothing else, he’s very sympathetic and caring. When I first sit down for evaluation, he takes a look at my hands and feet, and without hesitation, touches the inflamed joints trying to feel for any improvement. He asked me if there was any change in my joints after my first visit. I told him that for about one hour, my joints in my hands, not feet, were stiffer and more painful but after that hour, they seemed to have less inflammation than normal. He told me this can happen and not to worry and this is part of the natural healing process. Knowing this already, I wasn’t worried. I know from all the supplements I take that getting more inflammation at the beginning of a treatment can and often does, make you temporarily worse. So the fact that this had made me worse for only an hour, I thought, “Piece of cake”. Again however, he chose to only do acupuncture on my hands and feet, in fear that I might experience what I had the very first time I visited a different physician, which ended up in a three week flare. He wants to take things slow with acupuncture so that not only do I get improvement, but don’t have to deal with unexpected inflammation.

Again, two needles on each hand were placed in the raised parts of my palms. And again, needles were placed in my feet but in slightly different spots. I experienced pretty near the same thing as the last time…. Pain and inflammation seemed to increase during the treatment in my hands. My feet again, for one reason or another, did not experience any pain or inflammation. This time I was surprised that the inflammation in my hands lasted only about a half an hour (after treatment) and for the rest of the day I experienced less inflammation and more relief than my average day. My feet seemed to be unchanged. I do have a couple of spots on the outer parts of my feet…the bunions that are inflamed ever since RA began. So I have no idea why these spots aren’t “awakening”.

I believe in giving everything a good shot and at $25 a session, I can’t refuse this kind of opportunity. I plan on sticking with this for at least one month, if not two, depending on my finances. I hope sometime soon that I can share with all of you, a story of amazing relief from the acupuncture. But if that doesn’t end up happening, then if nothing else, I’m relaxing, truly relaxing for that hour each time I visit. I have a good feeling however, that I will experience tremendous relief from this, so I’m keeping my hopes up! If anyone has a story to share, please do!!

2nd Shot at Acupuncture

This morning I drove half an hour to try Acupuncture again.  I had tried it once before for $50 at a Korean venue located near Hollywood, California.  That experience had been very relaxing.  The needles for the most part, didn’t hurt and I was hopeful that this could reduce inflammation in my Rheumatoid Arthritis.  At the time, I was taking Methotrexate and Prednisone.  Soon after my appointment, I started to flare up.  At that time, I knew nothing about how alternative medications can and often cause an exacerbation of symptoms.  My flare lasted three weeks and I did not go back.

In hind-sight I realize that my flare was just the healing process when using natural therapies.  It was just an average day and I felt like looking into acupuncture again because it’s something I wanted to try once more in the future.   Before I got to far into my research, I came across an acupuncturist who was offering services “at an affordable sliding scale”.  For me, I hadn’t even considered going back anytime soon.  My full time job has gone down to part time and I’m currently looking for more work.  But with services being offered for as low as $25, I took it as a sign that maybe I should go in for treatment.  After all, I don’t HAVE to have conditioner for my hair for a couple of weeks.  I could just survive on saved bottles from old visits to hotel rooms of both shampoo and conditioner.  I could cut back on spending for groceries, etc.  Reducing inflammation in my hands is top priority for me, so why wouldn’t I figure out what I could do to make it happen?  I decided it was worth the tighter squeeze in my budget to give acupuncture another shot.

I told Michael, the acupuncturist, about my previous experience.  He decided we should take it slow.  For this trip, he inserted needles only in my hands and feet.  He said that acupuncture is sort of like, “stirring up the mud in the water” and it gave me a clear vision of a shallow muddy pool being stirred up until it was a thick, murky brown.  I also told him that I had been taking conventional RA drugs when I tried acupuncture before and that now I was on supplements to control inflammation.  He felt that perhaps this time I would not flare up like I did because I have already spent so much time detoxing my body.

The visit: My experience before was in a large building, set with a receptionist, several doctors on hand, ringing phones, a waiting room, and when I went in, I had a diagnostic machine that claimed to tell me which organs in my body were not working correctly.  To this day I wonder if there was any truth to that.  Since that had been my first and only visit to acupuncture, I was surprised but not disappointed to arrive at a quaint town-house and I settled in to a cozy room.  It was personal, lovely and I felt confident that Michael knew exactly what I was trying to accomplish.  The needles were chose carefully.  Just a couple were inserted into the palms of my hands and a few to each of the tops of my feet.  Michael told me the needles in my palms were points specifically found to reduce inflammation in arthritic hands.

Next time we would do more, but for now, no need to stir up the mud in the water too much.  As I lied there, I could feel some activity happening.  My feet weren’t changing in sensations, but my hands were stirring up the mud.  They started to become a little stiff and I could feel pain starting in on my wrists.  I was amazed that just two little needles on each palm could have such a big effect.  (My hands generally don’t feel pain but used to before my change in therapy).  I was worried that I’d have very swollen hands and wrists for the rest of the day.  I took some deep breaths and told myself, “give into the process”.  I finally relaxed, settling into a comfortable state, listening to the beautiful music and enjoying the ambiance.  When the experience was over, I set up another appointment for next Saturday and drove back home.

I was a little more swollen on my way home, just in my hands.  But as the day progressed, the swelling ceased, and my hands feel a little less inflamed than usual.  It could be a placebo effect since I know that acupuncture usually doesn’t work this quickly.  Still, I’m happy about my experience and excited about the prospect of fixing the tail ends of my inflammation once and for all.  Maybe THIS will really work.  In the meantime, I plan on telling all of you everything about it!

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