Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Naturopathic Appointment and Decisions

Here I am once again, almost seven years later, reading about medications and trying to make decisions that are best for my family and me.

In 2004 when I was diagnosed, I went from waking up with stiff fingers to barely being able to walk in about six to eight months. Before going on any medications I read about diet, supplements and other alternative care but it was so overwhelming to me that I didn't know which direction to go. I do still remember the day that I agreed to take the medications. My daughter Sophia was only six years old and she wanted me to skip with her, something we did a lot. I couldn't. It hurt too much. I remember deciding at that moment that if meds meant I could still be the mom I wanted to be, than the side effects were worth it. That's when I began my journey on meds. Unfortunately, I kept going downhill on the drugs. That is until I started seeing a naturopath. Once she helped me clean out the inflammatory foods and build up missing links in my body, the meds started working and I went into remission with a few flares here and there until the end of 2007 when the painful feet returned. (Also when some inflammatory foods were returned) In early 2008 I went off all medications.

Last week Sophia, Alexander and I spent the afternoon drawing on the driveway. Several times that day Sophia mentioned to me that it was really fun to draw together. It was fun. We spend a lot of time together, but in the last few years, especially last six months, we haven't PLAYED together. I want to still play with my kids.

At my appointment with my naturopath on Saturday she asked me what I want to do that I can't do without the prednisone.

1. Play with my kids.
2. Walk our dog.
3. Bike Ride.
4. Put dishes away.
5. Much, much more.

We talked about my fears:
1. I will go from med to med and they won't work.
2. Side effects.

We talked about my options.
1. I can continue to treat this 100% alternatively. We are adding some herbs that help with joint destruction and inflammation and I can try that for several months and see how I do.
2. I can give the DMARD the rheumatologist wants me to take a try. My naturopath said our goal will be to keep the DMARD at a low dose and not add other meds if possible. She gave me encouragement that my body is very clean compared to 2004 when I started on methotrexate. She feels that with all the good changes I have made that the meds will be able to work with more ease in my body and therefore we won't have to add as much. With her help I was originally able to greatly reduce my meds.

Finally we talked about how this is not a FAILURE if I decide to take the DMARD. This is the most difficult for me and the reason I love my naturopath so much. She just sensed that I was feeling this way. Being med free has been my personal goal since being diagnosed. It has been my passion. I know I am not giving up on all the good things I have accomplished, but still.....it is hard. My mom gave me a scenario the other day that really made sense to me. She said, "Maybe you want to have a natural birth (I did) and it just doesn't work out (it didn't) and you end up having a c-section instead of that natural birth (I did). Did you still get what you wanted?" (I did and the births of both kids were still so beautiful). She reminded me that sometimes our plans change and as long as we still have accomplished our goal, we have succeeded. My naturopath and husband have also reminded me to not think of anything I am doing as a life sentence. Instead think of what it is doing for me right now to live the life I want to lead. Even though the rheumatologists say these drugs are a life long deal, I will make my own deals and decisions in the future based on what is happening with me.

I value the opinion of my naturopath highly. She will support me in whatever decision I make, but for now recommends I start on the DMARD with the intention that we are going to keep working alternatively to keep the dose low. Even with the prednisone I have a lot of inflammation that needs to be dealt with and my RA factor came back highly elevated. What I most like about my naturopath over any other alternative practitioner I have seen is that she genuinely cares about my family and me and looks at every side of the situation. She isn't afraid to suggest things outside her field, even medications, if she feels they are right for the time. She doesn’t make me believe miracles are going to happen, but still I always leave feeling such hope.

Thank you so much to everyone that responded with your words of support. They give me so much strength as I make my decision. I almost said "final decision", but you know what? It isn't. Decisions are never final. I am making a decision that fits with where I am in my life right now.


  1. I'm glad you got to play with the kids! I think you are making the right decision .... and that it is a decision that can change.

    Love you!

  2. Only you and your family know what is good for you *right now*, and as you said no decision is final.

    I wish you the best with whatever path you take. I had a methotrexate experience that really turned me off all meds for a while, but since returning I've learned that they are many other alternatives that are better for my body and for my RA.

    P.S. Loved the chalk photos!

  3. Cathy,
    I'm glad that you've found a solution that works for you now. I understand the difficulty of the decision you made, but it's true, all decisions can be temporary! For now you need to be able to enjoy your kids. Good luck with your new medication, please keep us updated!
    warm wishes, robin

  4. I'm glad your naturopath is so understanding and helpful to you. It sounds like a great relationship.

    Like RA Guy said, there are lots of meds out there and bad experiences won't always be repeated. I've had seven truly wonderful years on Enbrel and am hoping that, once I'm through this flare I'm in right now, I can continue to take it.

    It's absolutely true that none of these decisions are permanent. We need to do what's right for us in the moment, and I know that whatever you choose will come from your knowledge of yourself and your commitment to be as healthy as you can.

  5. I am so impressed, Cathy, with your calm determination to treat your RA correctly -- not the "correctly" that others assume, but the one that fits your feelings, your lifestyle and your personal comfort best. I'm also impressed by your open-mindedness even when faced with disappointment.

    I have no doubt at all that you'll make the decision that's just right for you. Perhaps a combination of traditional meds and naturopathic medicine will be just what your body needs in order to fight off the inflammation and pain of rheuma. My fingers are crossed for you -- you've a lot of playing, dog-walking and day-to-day comfort in your future, I think.

  6. Your naturopath sounds wonderful, and it sounds like she's taking care of ALL of you - mind, body, and spirit. This sounds like a good decision, at least for this point in time, and is absolutely not a failure! I liked the C-section analogy, especially since the same thing happened to me; I felt disappointed for not experiencing "birth," which was kind of ridiculous! I realize now that having my little boy is what's important. In your case, being able to do the things that matter to you are the point. And you've done so wonderfully at learning all you can about your body and what works for it - this is just another thing to add to that knowledge.

    I wish you many pain-free days, and low doses of meds!

  7. "She (your mom) reminded me that sometimes our plans change and as long as we still have accomplished our goal, we have succeeded." This is so true Cathy. Don't doubt yourself. You know what is best for you. Plans change, that is just part of life.

  8. Cathy...it is because of you that I have been able to make major strides in my Fibro/back healing. I have been off pain meds (almost totally) since March with a once in awhile have to take something. I am eating healthier and waiting expectantly for my treadmill to come in. I, like you my friend do not want to stop playing with the children! Thanks for the inspiration on a day I feel I could go back to bed...but work calls!

  9. It really sounds like you've found the right healer for you - whether that be a naturopath, rheumatologist or something else. I think it's really the key to good RA treatment.
    I took Arava for 8 months and it helped me immensely. Unfortunately, I had the side effect of low white blood cells - to the point it became dangerous. But really, that was the only side effect - and I didn't feel a thing! If I hadn't started to think about starting a family, I probably would've explored alternative options to help boost my white cell count so I could stay on the Arava.
    Fortunately for you, you're already working with someone who can help you keep the rest of your body in balance. Good luck as you embark on this new path!