Friday, May 14, 2010

Listening and Trusting My Heart - Rheumatoid Arthritis Update

Well, the Arava didn't work well with my individual body and after two weeks of uncomfortable side effects, I stopped taking it. I have been off it for about three weeks.

Yesterday I was scheduled to see the rheumatologist. As the appointment date got closer, family and friends have asked what I plan to do. Will I take the new suggested med? Will I continue to work alternatively only? My answer has been same with each person. "I am just going to go, see what she has to say and then make a decision."

I woke up yesterday morning feeling pretty good which always brings a positive outlook on life. I taught my class and then headed over for my appointment. I took a deep breath before going into the office and reminded myself that I would make whatever choice is right for me now. I still had no idea what that would be but just knowing that my amazing body and heart would lead me in the right direction gave me confidence.

My rheumatologist went over all my recent lab work and explained how my RA is progressively getting worse. She examined my body. We discussed the need to get off prednisone. We discussed how our bodies can build up a resistance to RA drugs and what might work now possibly won't work in two years. I wouldn't say that I feel 100% comfortable with my new rheumatologist, but I don't dislike her either. In an ideal world I would have a rheumatologist that used lots of alternative practices and meds only as needed, but I know that isn't possible - yet!

Of course the rheumatologist wants me on meds. I knew that would be the case. Since the Arava didn't work for me, she would like me to return to Methotrexate. We talked a while about how it worked for my body in the past (I did go into a remission while on Methotrexate and doing naturopathic work). The only real side effect I had was hair loss.

I left the office with my prescription and called my mom on the way home. She asked what I planned to do. I told her I was going to put the prescription on my desk and think it over for a few days. I felt very calm and at ease with this decision. As I drove I continued to talk with my mom and by the end of the conversation I was sitting in Walgreen's parking lot and said, "Well, I guess I have talked myself into taking it, haven't I?"

Here are some thoughts I shared with my mom:
~I don't believe medications are the answer. I really don't. I think they help ease the pain and make life more comfortable for a while but in the end our bodies are so intelligent that the pain returns because the cause is still present.
~The side effects of RA medications are scary beyond belief.
~I deserve to be without pain, even if it is temporary.
~I like being active. I love bike riding with my family, walking our dog, carrying groceries, holding babies, and more. Sitting on the sidelines has been a struggle for me.
~Even if the meds don't work forever, if they give me two more years of doing what I enjoy rather than crawling up the stairs each morning or waking my children to help dress me, isn't that worth some of the possible side effects?
~I sincerely believe that my inflammation stems from a lifelong problem with digestion and holding in toxins. Even though I have done lots of work in this area, there is much to still do before the inflammation is under control. The meds won't cover up my digestive problems (although they won't help with the toxin issues) so I can still continue to work on this issue with my naturopath.
~I am familiar with Methotrexate which gives me some security. It has been around for a long time so at least they know what the side effects are and can test for them. Some of the newer drugs scare me because they just don't know yet what the long term effects are. Plus, I know how it works with my body and I know what it feels like to go off Methotrexate if I decide to make that decision again down the road.
~My RA has taken me through many ups and downs in the last six and half years. My family has been more than supportive, but I am realizing it is taking a toll on them and it is time to move on and have some days that aren't painful for just me, but also for them. Chronic pain is never easy for a family and I am realizing that more and more.
~This isn't the choice I want to make but it is a choice that I feel my heart is telling me is right for now. I trust my heart. When I listen to it, it never fails.

Once the decision was made yesterday, I went to the computer and started to search for the side effects of Methotrexate to read one more time. Then I stopped and realized that my heart had already given me the answer and that I needed to listen to it rather than fight what it was telling me. I know the side effects, so why continue to torture myself? I also know what it feels like to be in pain more of the time than not. My heart wouldn't lead me in a direction that wasn't right for me right now.

Tonight I take my first weekly dose of Methotrexate. I will also eat a healthy, nourishing meal and continue taking my supplements. Please send your healing thoughts that this combination will give me some pain free days. And, as I do everyday, I will be sending those same healing thoughts back to you.


  1. Sweet Cathy, my healing thoughts are coming right at ya, strong and warm, and I'm adding in generous doses of calm, peace and courage with them.

    I am continually impressed by your trust in yourself and how "in touch" with your body you are. I believe you've made the best decision, mixing MTX with naturopathy, healthy eating and activity, and your very strong will to do right by yourself. Being so mindful about the latter can ONLY be good for you, with or without RA, And the MTX is a powerful tool, like a sword in hand while going out in search of dragons. I wish you great success in slaying yours.

    I completely understand your dislike of rheuma meds. I took them for many years without any perceptible results, and finally stopped taking all of them in a mixture of fear and frustration. I was very lucky and did go into remission after several more years, even though I wasn't being particularly kind to my body in terms of nutrition. I was content.

    But the rheuma wasn't gone. It was only sleeping. When it came back, I knew I had to take a fresh look at things, and that included, for me, giving the docs another chance. I was very, very reluctant to start meds again and I put off seeing a rheumatologist for a long time.

    Now I see the meds I take as swords and armor: I might not actually slay the rheuma dragon, but they will surely help to protect me. And by eating mindfully, keeping my weight down and moving, I am making my body as strong as I can.

    This adventure is a rough one. I wish you peace of mind and great success as you continue yours. (and thank you for your support and kindness regarding this dogbite of mine. This morning finds it healing well, with minimal pain. Rowwrrr!

  2. Many, many well-wishes, blessings and positive thoughts are sent your way, Cathy. I know what it is like to struggle with a decision about starting a med knowing full well what the side-effects are and that likely is only a mask. But, like you, I will take a bit of extra time with my family that doesn't involve excruciating pain. You listened to your heart and made a decision. That's the most important thing you can do for yourself and your family right now. Take care.


  3. Cathy,
    During these difficult days and decisions please know I am thinking of you and praying for your healing and that your mind be at peace. Lots of love.

  4. What is that saying?... "Life is a journey, not a destination". You're journey with RA is taking a slightly different road than you had hoped for, but that doesn't necessarily mean you are on the wrong road, just a differnt one. The path you have taken has landed here. Embrass it, find the positive in it (as you always do) and continue the journey. I love you so much Cath.

  5. Cathy,
    Reading your last post tonight really struck a chord with me. I am facing all those same questions and struggles. After two years of meds and steroid injections....I have been thinking I need to go natural for a while. I think the last time we talked we were in opposite positions.
    Its tough and I keep you in my thoughts and hold you in my healing energies.
    Find peace when you can.

  6. Thanks for all your kind words of support. Knowing I have others sending their healing thoughts makes this so much easier.

  7. Sometimes I think there is a percentage of help from meds simply because we believe that they will work. I'm glad that you've found that balance between natural and contemporary treatment...and I bet you will find that acceptance of both will not only make your body feel better but will put your mind at ease.

    Baby steps...

  8. You so deserve to live your life pain free. Sometimes it's so hard for me to read your posts because it breaks my heart to know your in so much pain, but this is about you, not me. I hope the med works and that it is temporary for you because I know it bothers you to take it. Enjoy the good days and know we all love you on the bad