It was exactly a year that I submitted my resignation to my manager and saying goodbye to my career and a job that was once rewarding and challenging; and walking away from an environment where I received good support, teamwork and one where backstabbing and bickering was not the norm. When I looked back to the good old days, I could still vividly remember how I had to rush in to the office on time to ensure that all forex rates are updated, up and running; and getting ready to go on airs for the morning radio session with the lively DJs. This was how I started my every mornings, a year ago.
It took me a bunch of courage and determination to finally arrive at my decision of quitting the job. A long discussion about this decision with my husband never even happened. He had long expressively supported the idea of having me quit my job so that I can spend some quality time on myself, with my two kids and of course, on improving my health from the ravage of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Today, a year after that resignation, I was glad that I made that decision. I never regretted it (even though many of my colleagues still thought that it was such a pity that I resigned from such a financially rewarding career). This decision that I made was my first commitment towards taking the first step into the unknowns – a leap of faith. I held onto such faith that I shall be guided along this path that I was about to walk that along the way, as long as I ask, it will be given to me, as long as I seek, and I shall find, and if I knock, it shall be opened to me.
True enough, a year had passed with more achievements than I could possibly imagined. These achievements are not measurable by monetary terms but by levels of satisfaction, happiness, well-beings, and ultimately, by my transformation in terms of my perceptions towards life purposes, values, appreciation of events and things that happened as they are, and enjoying life as is.
What had I been doing for the past 1 year and how was my progress before and after, you may wonder. Here is my little story of this journey…
RA entered my life at around 3 years ago. At my first diagnosis, the degeneration had already left its marks on my right wrist. Persistent bad swelling, inflammation and chronic burning sensation that never left my wrist. It was not long before I lost my full range of motion on that wrist. With the loss of range of movement, I noticed that my grip strength became weaker and gradually, I found that I could not lift up ‘heavy’ things. My husband worriedly looked me into my eyes and gently broke out to me that the things are not heavy at all. He showed me the ease with which he could lift it up. I was scared out of my wits. I knew that my body was going very wrong.
We flew off within the next week to renowned rheumatologist in Singapore for a second opinion, in hope that the expert overseas may shed some lights on wonder drugs that I could take to cure this RA syndrome that was beginning to cripple me. I wished the other doctors were wrong. I hoped that he would give me a different diagnosis. Something acute in nature and I could get back to serious business after a course of antibiotics that always seemed to work with any flus in the past. But, deep within, I knew that the chance of this being anything else was pretty slim. The diagnosis was confirmed as suspected, it was still RA, moderate to severe. I’d fulfilled the following criteria for classification of RA:
* morning stiffness in and around joints lasting at least one hour before improvement was noted
* at least 3 joint areas have simultaneously soft tissue swelling/fluids observed
* systematic arthritis, i.e. simultaneous involvement of the same joint areas on both sides of the body
* serum rheumatoid factor tested positive
* rheumatoid nodules over bony prominences observed
The rheumatologist was quick to prescribe a number of RA medicines (see below). I was given some booklets to read up and understand the side effects that go with these medicines. I was startled. My stomach tied in knots whenever I thought about the lists of side effects and I could not help but pondering if I would be struck with another or more serious illnesses before the RA settled. I returned home, extremely sad and disappointed. I never touch those pills. I reasoned that I’d find another ways out, the natural ways.
The burning pains and sensations ensued, day and night. I endured them, all day long. Whenever the pain creep up, I pushed my thoughts through them, by keeping myself busy and my thoughts away from my body. Yes, I was running away from the pains but I was not avoiding my health issues. I began my search around this small country as to where I can seek holistic or alternative help, but there was absolutely none to my rescue.
My husband, with a little knowledge of health-care and wellness through his immersion with Tony Robbin’s Unleash the Power Within, provided me with a few pointers on the concepts of going green and the power of alkalinity, as well as diet. So, we began our own exploratory works. It was probably the way I was brought up with respect to total trust for the conventional medical health care system that I did not exactly know where on the Internet should I be seeking for information on holistic or alternative medicines for RA. To ensure that I was not all alone in my fight against RA, my husband decided to join me in my dietary change. We started out by removing dairy and gluten in our diet, and added more vegetables, fruits and fish oil to our nutrition. For the pain, I massaged nutmeg oil on the painful joint areas and took Epsom salt baths few times a week. I also heated up cabbage which supposedly release sulfur and applied on my wrists, and on top of that, I added potato skin juice to my regimen. These did not help much. My pain was still at an intensity level of 7 on a 1 to 10 scale.
The pain migrated. While my right wrist was still feeling a pain of 7, my left wrist also began to feel discomfort and a sensation. That was only 2 or 3 months into the moment of having the first consistent pain on the right wrist. The progression was not slowed at all. Again, not long before the feeling of the first sensation on my left wrist, the burning pain set in. I was too stubborn to allow myself to swallow any pills at that time, and regrettably, the pain became so chronic and so persistent that I soon lost the full range of motion on my left wrist as well. RA nodules are so apparent on both of my wrists even till today.
Physically, I was already badly strained by the constant pain that never felt tired of torturing me. Emotionally, the pain and inflammation fed itself into a feedback loop that set me into a cycle of negative emotions of feeling tired, feeling stuck, worthless, depressed, pathetic, burdensome, alone and a host of other emotions, probably also suicidal in the worst of my time. I felt lethargic and so fatigued after an 8am-to-6pm work that I would plunge right into bed and sleep for an hour before I could manage to drag myself up for a shower and a dinner afterwards. There was no time basically for anyone else. I had no time for anyone else because I would lock myself up in my self-contained wall of self criticism and judgment, resentment and grief of this unfairness; and walked away from anyone who tried to pretend that they understood or suggest remedies that apparently showed that they did not get it at all. I lost count of the number of times I cried myself to sleep at night.
Once I passed through the five phases of the grief cycle: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance, I pulled myself together and decided to try push my limits up another notches via altering and testing different diets. There bound to be something that will work. It is all about trials and errors and about finding the success recipe. In addition to removal of dairy and wheat, I eliminated meat, rice, fruits, sugar, processed foods, nuts, and so forth in a gradual process and finally, found reliefs with having just green vegetables in soup or steam vegetables. The only garnishing I used with my dishes is the pink Himalayan salt. My pain level dropped from a 7 to a 2 or 3. For my three meals every day afterwards, I only take these vegetables (steam/soup) and this lasted me two or three months max.
I was finally pregnant again. My RA went into full remission throughout my pregnancy. The only medicine I was prescribed for my RA during the pregnancy was low dose prednisone, which was only to be used if needed. I only had a short flare once or twice throughout the 9 months and that was all. I enjoyed this honeymoon period with my favourite foods again. No dietary restrictions whatsoever.
My honeymoon ended fairly quick after my delivery of my youngest child in November 2011. The RA flare-ups kicked in with a full vengence within a month following the delivery. I’d tried to manage my confinement with careful foods selection such as avoidance of red meats, alcohol, wheat, etc but it was totally futile. The pain became unbearable with each passing day. I was lucky to have a three months maternity leave because at least, at that time of the return of the flare ups, I was not subject to external stress from work. Having to care for a baby with RA and two hands that could not do much had mentally put me under undue stress. On the intensity level, I would rate it an 8. Emotionally, I was stressed because by the end of my 1-month confinement when the RA flare-up kicked in, I could not even hold up my baby. I stopped breastfeeding because I recognised that I needed the help of the steroid. Whilst the doctor claimed that very little of the steroid will be passed through the breast milk to the baby, I’d decided not to risk my baby to any exposure to any residuals of the drug that may leak into the breast milk despite that safety claim. Maybe I was over-suspicious, but I decided to listen to my inner voice against it.
I returned to work in February 2012. My health deteriorated badly therefrom. Work was busier than ever and every day, I came home later than the day before. Sky was bright when I stepped out of the house and dark when I returned home. Life was fatigue. The fatigue did not end after work. My eldest daughter had serious allergies issues that we need to deal with and my youngest son needed nurture and feeding every 4 hours (he had big appetite). When was the last time that I could sleep through the night, deep and undisturbed? Diet was not quite taken care of either. I guessed these accumulated stress was breaking my health and propelled RA to its full potentials. Before the remission, the pains were only restricted to both my wrists. Following the flare ups, the pains migrated. Both of the wrists were burning all the time and the knee (could not quite remember which knee) also felt the effect of RA. The morning stiffness became a lot worse than before. It took some 30 minutes for the stiffness to dissipate and often, with the help of my TDP lamp. And soon, my right foot swelled up very badly that walking became a chore. I hardly wanted to move my body because it hurt when I walked even for a few foot steps. The edema left a dent on my skin for about 8 seconds when I pressed it with my finger, before it slowly filled back in again. My seating arrangement in the office was changed when I returned to work from my maternity. I was seated right underneath the air-conditioning unit. It was so freezing cold that by the end of the day, my hands were totally icy cold and so stiff that they hurt so badly. I supposed I had enough after months of suffering from all of these. And also the realization that if I did not take an action now to improve my health outlook, when should I be taking an action? I evaluated that if I continue with my daily 8am-to-7pm job, I would never be able to have the time to do whatever I need to do to improve my health; that there is NEVER going to be a better time of taking action than NOW; that if I delay taking actions, my condition will be far worse off and it may be even harder to bring myself back to homeostasis/balance again; and that I can really take some time to have a break (probably for a year) and evaluate the other options that I may have when I have recovered. With these convictions, I resigned.
The resignation marked a major milestone in my life. What did people really make out of a resignation like this? Many people did not quite know what I’d been through leading to this resignation. Others were made to believe in all sorts of possible reasons (e.g. being fired, etc) behind that decision. I kept muted about it, still not really confident of letting the whole world know that I’m a sickly person to begin with. Furthermore, who is really going to understand the kinds of suffering of a young 30s having arthritis, and not the usual type of arthritis? Sooner or later, people are going to know and talk about this. I shall not concern myself with this and let the nature take its course.
The week following my resignation, I jumped straight into my 11-days juice fasting and proactively researching for alternative treatment modalities. I honestly had high hopes for the fast to ‘cure’ myself of RA because I’d read that it reversed the arthritic affinity of many patients who went on similar fasting program. I was a bit disappointed that while I received complete pain relief and subsiding swelling during the duration of that fast, the pain and swell returned quickly after the completion of the program. Disappointment aside, I was however pleased with the results and transformation at the end of the fast. I lost some 8 kgs, recovered my pre-pregnancy weight that I could never achieved before, felt more confident that diet plays a key role in management of RA towards remission and not least, the positive attitude, mental strength, endurance, patience and discipline that I learned through this process prepared me for any endeavours I’m planning to tackle therefrom. The major achievement was the change in the ‘can do’ attitudes and mentality, towards the positive, recalling that I was in the cycle of depression and series of negativity during my struggles with RA and the pain and inflammation.
Still feeling painful, I spent a long time online doing research. Dietary role in RA remission is every where and regardless of the credibility of the sources, there must be some truths in the words that tell about dietary-led remission. I began experimenting again with different diets, eliminating different foods from my diet now and then with varying successes. I crossed border to get an ALCAT test done and was surprised to find that the foods items which I consume on a daily basis or most of the times appeared on the list as either highly or mildly allergic. In other words, I knew that I’d to stick to elimination diet and subsequently, a rotation diet. It came a point in time when I was fed up with having so little choices that I could eat from time to time that I began exploring energy medicines and learned techniques that allow me to de-sensitize my allergies or intolerance to foods.
It also became apparent to me that I was not really the lucky one who could achieved great reliefs from diet alone. I was honestly jealous of these people. I disconnected myself with other people’s experiences and tuned in to my body more deeply. Considering that the many faces of RA which can be caused by many different factors from food allergies, leaky gut, infectious theory e.g. candida, mycoplasmas to accumulated stress from internal or external sources such as stress from life, work, emotional trauma, heavy metal toxicity, I knew that I needed to tackle more than the dietary aspect of the RA. To get to the root, I first comprehended and accepted that emotional trauma from my earlier miscarriage and possibly, the 3 shots of cervical cancer vaccinations triggered the onset of the RA. That said, I needed to work on mind-body connection of that experience of miscarriage which somehow upset my whole immune system to attack myself. I also needed to reduce the toxic load in my body from that vaccinations, from all my earlier childhood or adult vaccinations, from the cosmetics or personal care items I use every day, and from the environments.
I began digging deeper into my RA issues and causes, and experiment with a lot more alternative treatment modalities that I can access to with my limited resources. I took the efforts to establish conversations with people with other AI diseases and found out what worked for them and applied them for myself if all those made sense to me. I’d tried coffee enemas, far infrared sauna, amalgam removal, oil pulling heavy metal chelation, epsom salt bath, clay bath, essential oils/aromatherapy, homeopathy, energy medicines (acupuncture, moxibustion, chiropractic, EFT, NAET, Yuen Energetics, etc), exercises (jogging, walking, rebounding, etc), skin brushing, colon cleanse, parasite cleanse, zapping, liver cleanse, nutritional supplementation (krill oil/Omega-3, food based multivitamins and multiminerals, vitamin C, vitamin D, curcumin/turmeric, serrapeptase, grapefruit seed extract, oil of oregano, l-glutamine, bentonite clay, collagen, glucosamine, MSM, chlorella, probiotics, antioxidants, calcium & magnesium, etc), pH8-9 alkalinity water, apple cider vinegar (ACV), and so forth. I reviewed my protocol every three months and altered as required. I continued to research, share and study on all health conditions and not only those specific to RA and began to understand how the puzzle fits together, over time.
In a duration of about 6 months into my proactive and radical changes in attitudes, mental changes and lifestyle as well as dietary changes, coupled with a significant reduction of stress levels, I began to notice a shift in my health for the better week by week. The initial sign of inflammation and pain that was evident on my knee disappeared first, followed by burning pain and sensation on my wrists which improved drastically, albeit slowly, from the intensity of 8 down to a 2. The swelling on my right foot also totally disappeared in no time. There was still residual pain on my wrists of 1 to 2, sometimes a zero, which also possibly due to the degeneration that was irreversible. The morning stiffness I felt on my two feet, my two hands and wrists as well as my frozen shoulders lifted, initially improving from 15 minutes and down to no stiffness as of writing. The only obvious signs of RA that are left of me are the protruding nodules on both my wrists which have slightly increased their range of motion but not a 100%. I still have difficulties opening the cap of a tightly screwed bottle, or carrying my toddler for longer than 5 minutes. But, in terms of overall wellness, I’m happy to be at where I am today, totally pain free on most days without any drugs involvement.
The only downside that was left to address, or rather, the missing piece to my RA puzzle remains with seeking the reason why my blood work has not been showing improvements despite the overall improvement in pain and swelling. I concluded that the residuals or remnants or imprints of the RA within my body and which are also evident in the blood work are telling me that I have more work to do with the mind body spirit connection aspect of the RA. I have to be truthful that I am an amateur in this field and I’m beginning to learn and study more about this now, buying recommended books from Amazon and still awaiting for the shipment. And I do hope that by addressing this addresses the question of why my body is still attached to these residuals and releases any remnants and imprints of it, forever, for good and for definite clinical and natural remission. As for now, I shall not be bothered by the results of the blood work since I’m feeling pain free for that matter.
This journey with RA that I’d walked down for the past 1 year was one of the most meaningful paths that I’ve walked throughout my life. It was also the hardest journey that I’d gotten through but as my faith beholds, I always remember that I just need to keep on stepping, even if it means taking one step at a time. The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. The road for us is within reach, and eventually, we will still get to the destination. The lessons come from walking the journey ourselves, and not the destination. And with these lessons as the guiding lights, we shall not be afraid of becoming lost because the path back always reveals something new. There is no perfect to walk that path. At every given moment, we are absolutely perfect for what is required for our journey.
As my journey continues, I like to share the following quote:
“For everything in this journey of life we are on, there is a right wing and a left wing: for the wing of love there is anger; for the wing of destiny there is fear; for the wing of pain there is healing; for the wing of hurt there is forgiveness; for the wing of pride there is humility; for the wing of giving there is taking; for the wing of tears there is joy; for the wing of rejection there is acceptance; for the wing of judgment there is grace; for the wing of honor there is shame; for the wing of letting go there is the wing of keeping. We can only fly with two wings and two wings can only stay in the air if there is a balance. Two beautiful wings is perfection. There is a generation of people who idealize perfection as the existence of only one of these wings every time. But I see that a bird with one wing is imperfect. An angel with one wing is imperfect. A butterfly with one wing is dead. So this generation of people strive to always cut off the other wing in the hopes of embodying their ideal of perfection, and in doing so, have created a crippled race.”
― C. JoyBell C.
I am a guinea pig to my own experiments, and this is how I learn about my body and what it is capable of coping or dealing. As of writing, I’m working on (myself) with several experiments again and this has been the 3rd week into the series of experimentations and discovery work of knowing my body. I’m not going to reveal just yet but if you are curious about what I’m doing to myself, stay tuned. I’ll unveil them in due course.
Everyone has a story of his/her own and I like to hear about your RA journey and all the experiences you have been through and the lessons that you’ve gained through that journey.