Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Returning to My Rheumatoid Arthritis Roots

I feel like I am returning to my rheumatoid arthritis roots. When I was first diagnosed there were so many fears and unknowns. I read everything I could get my hands on until I decided that the fear that came from reading was not productive to healing. Instead I concentrated on healing. I researched the Chicago area until I found a naturopath that worked in an integrative office and visited her. With her guidance I was able to eliminate prednisone and reduce my methotrexate dosage. (I finally went off plaquenil and methotrexate on my own). Lately I find myself revisiting informational sites I have avoided for years and experiencing many of the same fears.

Due to a long commute I veered away from my original naturopath and have seen many other alternative practitioners over the years. Each one had something to provide along my journey and has opened my eyes to so many interesting ideas. (If ever we win the lottery, I can definitely see an alternative medicine addiction.)

Since October things have not been good for me. Towards the end of January things went further downhill. I have been in a lot more pain than ever before and in the last month visited a new naturopath closer to home as well as my primary care physician. Although I like the extras that the new naturopathic office has to offer, I am not connecting there. My primary care physician however, I absolutely love.

During my visit a few weeks back with my PCP he asked me to have a knee x-ray. I received a call last week that there was bone erosion and he wanted to see me. Immediately I panicked and called the naturopath I starting seeing in 2004. Her mental energy and honesty have always calmed my spirits and I knew I needed to see her. Early Sunday morning we met. Fortunately I have been updating her on visits with other practitioners and my overall progress so my history since our last visit didn't take long. She has some new ideas and new concerns which she freely shared with me. I think what I like most about her is that she gives me hope while also keeping me in reality. She was very glad I went back on prednisone and warned about the dangers of allowing my body to get to the point it did. We are starting on an anti-inflammatory herb while I am still on prednisone so the transition will be easier when this round is over. We are also looking deeper into my diet. In fact, she questions me about every area of my life: Work - Can I request a room that doesn't use chalk since it cramps my hands? Am I using low odor markers? Home -Is my husband supportive of my health choices? He is. PMS -Am I still experiencing PMS and does RA get worse with my cycle? No and I think so. Stress - Do my symptoms increase with stress? Yes, with both good and bad stress. Weather - Is it still affecting me? Yes. Which season is the worst for me? My husand says spring and I have to agree. She wants to know every detail of what increases my symptoms. She often will ask questions about my early childhood and my mom's pregnancy with me. She is always looking for the cause.

I feel like I have come full circle with this disease. I have returned to working with my original naturopath where I feel safe, I am once again wildly appreciative of the support my PCP gives me, and I am seeing a new rheumatologist in a few weeks. In the beginning of this disease, I was fearful of the disease. Seeing my knee x-ray results, I am fearful of this disease again. It is a powerful disease that keeps fighting back. But, there are differences this time around. When I see the new rheumatolgoist in a few weeks I will be seeing her with a knowledge base that is much more advanced than when I first saw my previous rheumatologist years ago. This time I will not let fear drive my decisions. As we looked at my previous x-rays yesterday I had lots of changes happening even with all the meds I was on and possibly some adverse changes due to the medications I was on. This time around I know I have choices. I know I have more of a say in my health than I gave myself credit for the first time around. And most importantly, not only do I know RA better, but I know ME better. I know the decisions that I make will be decisions that feel right to me. I know that with rheumatoid arthritis we all share common traits, but I also believe that RA is a symptom of something very unique for each of us and therefore I have to make the unique decisions that feel right to me. I feel good about the direction I am going. A little scared, but good.