Monday, September 21, 2015

How exercise helped me overcome my crippling rheumatoid arthritis.

The first time I met my physiotherapist, it was the seventh day of my hospital stay for rheumatoid arthritis.

I was to have my first session at 5 in the late afternoon. It was nearly 6, and no one had come. She was either late or had forgotten about me. I was feeling very despondent and let down. My legs and left hand which were in excruciating pain just the day before were now bearably achy but useless. I needed help to revive them!

6.45p.m.! In walks my cheery physiotherapist. She manipulates my limbs and gets me to try standing up. I needed help even standing. I could not stand on my own. She walks me a couple of steps, but it was too painful and my legs were too weak and wouldn't respond satisfactorily. She gives me instruction on a couple of exercises to work my legs while in bed. Then she left me, with a promise to come again the next day about the same time. I was thinking, "That was it?".

I refused to take this lying down! I was determined to get back on my feet as soon as possible.
That night and the rest of the next day, every hour on the hour, I would get up to do some form of exercise. Each time I was determined to do a little more. By 5.30p.m. the next day when my physiotherapist came, she was surprised to find me walking, albeit with my cane, not just around the bed, but to the nurse's station and back. I continued my exercises religiously everyday after my discharge from the hospital.

My left hand was very badly crippled badly by the arthritic attack. I couldn't extend the fingers and couldn't grip anything. I was afraid I would be able to play the piano again. So, I started sitting at the piano. At first, it was tough. All I could do was jab at the keys, one at a time. Anyway, it took several weeks to get my fingers to play five notes on the scale. It took another several months before I could play the piano properly again.

This was my routine for the next couple of years. I added more physical challenges as I improved. I eventually managed to swim a hundred laps, relearned to play Chopin's Revolutionary Etude, and walked without the aid of a walking stick.

I'm not saying exercising is for everyone. But, if it worked for me, maybe it would encourage someone else to try it out. Who knows? It might work for them.

My personal battle with rheumatoid arthritis.

I went to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit on 29 December 2010 with suspected statin poisoning. I ended up being diagnosed with an acute rheumatoid arthritis attack. That was the beginning of my grueling battle with RA flare-ups and physical incapacitation.

I spent the first 3 days of the New Year battling what would be the most painful experience of my life. The next 3 days were spent fighting to regain my ability to sit up, stand and walk.

I managed to walk out of the hospital with the aid of a cane, the help of my physiotherapist, and a bagful of drugs.

It took me 3 years to get back to physical fitness, and rid myself of the constant aches and pains. And best of all, the poisons that were supposed to make me feel better and slow down the deterioration of my joints. Today, I walk without a cane. The last flare-up I had was towards the end of 2013.

This blog is to document how I managed to use exercise, change in diet and lifestyle, and the use of natural remedies in place of drugs, to get to where I am now.

I hope that by sharing my experience, as suggested by my good doctor, I may be able to help other fellow rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. I managed to push my RA into remission for nearly 2 years now, so why not others like me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Rheumatoid Arthritis: To medicate or not to medicate!

I was told that the best way to treat rheumatoid arthritis is to throw everything at it from the beginning. Shock it into remission and shorten the time inflammation will destroy joints.

I was given methotrexate, folate and prednisolone at the beginning.

Methotrexate I was told was a toxic substance and also used as a chemotherapy drug for leukemia patients. I later discovered that it was the cause of my gout problem.

Prednisolone took the edge off the pain whenever there was a flare-up, and daily doses were necessary to stop any ongoing joint damaging inflammation. But it eventually caused my immune system to weaken so much that I had a cough and cold for 6 months, till I cut back on the prednisolone.

Stopping those two drugs would cause more pain and flare-ups. I was in a dilemma… damned if I do, damned if I don’t continue taking them!

I was introduced to Humira, a biologic! It was supposed to be a wonder solution to my problems. The literature provided by the pharmaceutical company that produced it, listed the risk of developing cancers as a possible side effect. It also cost me close to $2,000 for 2 shots, to be injected 2 weeks apart. It didn’t work!

I got fed up with wasting money on things that didn’t work for me. Fed up with drugs that were exposing me to risks of developing new medical problems, as they were, supposedly, helping me with my rheumatoid arthritis.  

That’s when I started researching alternative medicines and other natural remedies. They worked! Were much cheaper on my pocket, and much cheaper on the risk front.

I hope my experience will be of help other rheumatoid arthritis sufferers like me.