I find this to be utterly inspiring and a much needed reminder:
"As a 70-year-old woman who was diagnosed with primary progressive M.S. in 1988, I find the rush to find “cures” misses the point. Dependence on medicine debilitates M.S. sufferers the most. I have never used medication for M.S. Instead, I work out twice a week with my trainer and swim laps four days a week. I do not eat meat or poultry, nor do I consume alcohol, caffeine or sugar. I avoid stress and find joy in my work as a photographer. Yes, my M.S. has progressed. But that does not keep me from living a full life. I will never look for a “cure.” Life is too short to spend time searching for answers that may never come." - Patricia Lay-Dorsey (nytimes.com, Nov. 9, 2012)
November 12, 2012
November 2, 2012
Not to be utterly outrageous, but as it turns out - when you don't do anything different, you don't feel any different. Shocking, I know.
I have had a resurgence of energy to come at this problem again with gusto! I want to feel better and I (still) believe it's possible.
Stay tuned for some posts on some new things I'm trying - including Reiki, massage, Chaga mushroom tea and Aloe Vera juice....
January 30, 2011
November 10, 2010
Change is not easy.
I am realizing that it has been nearly six months since I was formally diagnosed. I had made an agreement with my rheumatologist, that she would give me about 5 months to try all the "natural healing" I wanted, and then I would come back and visit her. If "my way" wasn't working, then I would reconsider taking the drugs or the cortisone injections. I felt a wave of guilt and disappointment in myself when I called and cancelled the appointment last month. The thing is, my way of doing things hasn't cured me. I'm not better. I'm exactly the same as I was six months ago.
The truth is, I couldn't stand to tell my doctor that after all this time, I haven't found my cure. I couldn't bear to see the lack of surprise on her face.
Then in my Health Psychology class, my professor, in poetic timing, started talking about the Stages of Change model.
Like I have said before, this is a journey. It's not an overnight event. (Evidently, it's not a six month event either.) I go through days where I feel highly inspired and motivated and capable. I go through phases of utter hopelessness and depression. There are times when I feel like I'm too busy with the demands of school and work to even think about my health. Other times I feel like I am just looking for reasons to stay busy so that I don't have to face the task ahead of me.
In all honesty, my number one coping mechanism so far has been to ignore the problem. Mentally escape it and pretend it's not there. Sometimes it's the only thing that helps, even if it is temporary. It has been really hard not knowing what the right thing to do is. I wish someone had the answer: Just do ______ and all will be well again.
I make up hundreds of excuses, like I can't afford to get acupuncture every week for example. Well that is true right now. But there are the small little changes that don't cost a thing, that only depend on me. And those are the ones that scare me the most. I talk about meditation, I believe it, I preach it and yet I haven't been doing it!
Making big lifestyle changes involve a large psychological process of contemplation preparation before even acting on it. Failure ("relapse") is a part of the process. It doesn't mean I have failed. I can keep trying, and I will. I still believe in my heart that I will not always live with this pain. I see myself healing. I guess when I am truly ready, I will.
September 21, 2010
Celiac's disease [the inability to absorb gluten - a component of wheat, rye & barley] is one of the most UNDER-diagnosed diseases today. Meaning: many people have it but do not know. These people have the symptoms, but are not being properly diagnosed. They are, however, commonly diagnosed with other conditions, including irritable bowel disease, fibromyalgia and ARTHRITIS. So why does it take up to TEN years to obtain a proper diagnosis you ask??? Well. The only treatment for Celiac's Disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. Nothing can be prescribed, the diet cannot be patented and so, doctors and drug companies can not make money off it. That is the sad truth.
The reason I started looking into the gluten link to arthritis was because I met someone in one of my classes who told me that she had been diagnosed with arthritis, and when she stopped eating gluten, her symptoms completely disappeared. Pretty amazing. Now, when you look at the symptoms of Celiac's Disease, which can vary from person to person, they include symptoms such as joint pain, skin problems, digestive issues and fatigue, all of which ring a bell for me personally. It is a real possibility that I may have been misdiagnosed. My research also informs me that even if I have been properly diagnosed, there is often a link between arthritis and gluten intolerance. Eliminating gluten from the diet can relieve some of the symptoms, for some people.
So I have begun my gluten free journey. I want to give it a solid two weeks to see if and how I feel differently without gluten in my diet. It is not easy!! If you are interested in trying a gluten free diet, make sure to do the research and learn how to read labels!! It is one thing to cut out bread, but gluten likes to hide in a vast array of food ingredients, like salad dressing and soy sauce. It only take 1/8th of a TEASPOON (!) to trigger symptoms, so if you want to do it you gotta do it right. Absolutely no gluten.
I used to feel sorry for people with Celiac's Disease. I thought wow, that must be tough. There's so much you can't eat. How limiting. But now, with my life experience, I would be so thrilled if I found out that this was my biggest problem. Then I would finally have something tangible, I would know what I could do to feel better! Giving up bread would be nothing in exchange for living pain free. Plus, these days there are so many gluten free options available.
I'll admit, I am getting my hopes up on this one. I am hoping that it will work for me as it has worked for so many others. Regardless, I still urge you, if you have similar symptoms, to ask your doctor to be tested for CD. You'll have to insist on it. At least to rule it out before proceeding on to bigger, badder diagnoses and treatments. Going untreated for a long period of time poses numerous long term health risks, including osteoporosis, infertility and cancer.
I will keep you posted :)
August 24, 2010
The thing with arthritis is that people will avoid moving because it hurts! It is instinctual to protect yourself by avoiding pain when possible. However, by restricting movement, stiffness increases and loss of mobility results.
Yoga and tai chi have physical and psychological benefits for many people, including and perhaps especially those with chronic illnesses.
Physically speaking, they are great because they provide a GENTLE way for people to increase flexibility, muscle strength and balance. Ideally the movements should not add more stress on the body. It is important for people with joint damage to not overextend. The physical focus is typically on posture, fluidity and breathing practices. Certain poses are believed to activate particular body systems or provide releases.
Traditionally, these practices have a very important psychological aspect as well. The mind and spirit should be actively involved in the process. The practices along with focused attention, meditation or channelled energy can boost the immune system, increase energy levels, reduce pain perception and create a sense of awareness, clarity, gratitude, serenity and peace. I believe this to be essential for a full healing benefit.
Personally I enjoy doing guided yoga sessions at home using dvds. I have begun to integrate yoga into my daily practice. I'm amazed at how much I loosen up as I practice. The things I think I can't do become easier as it goes on. I still struggle with fully letting go, fully releasing. It is an internal struggle with me and it is something I want to strive for. In good time.
I was so lucky as to make a great contact with a local yoga instructor [from the Bodhi Tree in Calgary] who has offered to help me modify the poses that are difficult for me.
I am not experienced with tai chi, but I would like to get involved with the Tai Chi Society of Canada soon. The energy of tai chi appeals to me. I often walk by the center and see large groups of people practicing the poses together and I get an incredible sense of oneness and peace.
August 23, 2010
August 3, 2010
Energy conservation (aka REST) is something that I have only recently begun to take seriously. It is something that my rheumatologist and my occupational therapist tried to emphasize with me. I (unintentionally) disregarded it at the time. I think it's because there are certain things in my life (ie. school and work) that I have to keep up with. It's not exactly an option to just start "taking it easy".
Then, a couple weeks ago, I spoke with someone whose wife has rheumatoid arthritis. He said that she sleeps about 10 hours every night, and that it really helps with her condition. This got me thinking again. I went back and looked at a note that my occupational therapist had left for me. She said there were two things I should really pay special attention to. The first was preventing joint deformity, and the second was "USING YOUR ENERGY WISELY".
Fatigue and low energy are common symptoms for people with arthritis. The doctors asked me if I have low energy levels. I absolutely do, but I never thought that it might be related to the arthritis. I am a working student, I'm busy and of course I'm tired. How do you know when your energy levels deviate from the norm when they are normal to you? I'm still having a hard time accepting this possibility. If it is a reality, it is important that I acknowledge it and respond to it.
I have learned a lot about the importance of sleep. I know that the body does a lot of healing and detoxification during sleep. There is a direct link between sleep (quality and duration) and many health ailments.
So why is this so hard? Why is it so difficult to give myself permission to relax, rest or even slow down? I honestly feel guilty giving myself time to do nothing. I think we are socialized to always stay busy and productive. Sleeping in is often seen as lazy, wasteful.
I'm making a commitment to myself (and it's a process) to allow myself to rest. I have always tried to be in tune with my body and its needs. If I feel that I need to relax, then I need to feel guilt-free about doing so. I need to be okay saying no. I need to be okay with telling people what I need. I need to be selfish and give myself the gift of rest. It may be vital to my healing process.
July 23, 2010
July 20, 2010
I just picked up a German natural health product called Wobenzym. This stuff sells like crazy in Germany, more than even Advil & Tylenol. It is supposed to help with all sorts of ailments involving inflammation or immune function, and the great news is that it exhibits no reported side effects whatsoever. It's completely safe to try! It contains plant-based and animal-based enzymes.
It works by a mechanism called systemic enzyme support. Enzymes are proteins that aid in biochemical reactions. There thousands of enzymes naturally occurring in the body, each with a specific function. Enzymes can significantly reduce the amount of energy needed by the body for these vital reactions to take place. They can also help with managing the balance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the blood. An imbalance can contribute to chronic inflammation, tissue damage, allergies, atopy and more. Enzymes activate a plasma glycoprotein which binds to and removes excessive cytokines. This supports a balanced and functioning immune system, and so the healing process can begin.
Systemic enzyme support has helped people with nervous system disorders, respiratory problems, urinary conditions, and of course joint issues. It has also been shown to help in conjunction with other treatments, like promoting faster healing in sports injuries and with skin conditions.
For more information on this highly researched product:
July 18, 2010
Another theory for the cause of inflammation is an unbalanced pH level. [Refresher: pH ranges from 0-14, anything under 7 is acidic, anything over 7 is basic/alkaline, 7 = neutral]. Human blood maintains a slightly alkaline pH level of 7.35-7.45.
(Researching the alkaline diet has proven to be one of the most frustrating things because there seems to be very little consensus when it comes to the specifics. Please understand that I am going to do my best to convey my understanding on the topic. I think the main idea is very important and could be extremely valuable.)
Different foods have different pH levels. Whenever we eat foods that are highly acidic, our bodies have to work extra hard to regain the proper pH level. It actually takes ten times the alkalinity to neutralize a 1-point jump on the pH scale (ie. from 6 to 7). Looking at it this way, it's not hard to imagine the toll it could take on a body that is full of acidity. (And yes - you can have a pH that is too basic. The important thing is to keep a balance between the acidic and basic foods.)
Now this is where it gets tricky. There are many many charts floating around the internet that cannot seem to agree on what foods fit into what category, acidic or alkaline (besides that a cucumber is neutral). It makes it hard when you are trying to create a 80/20 or 60/40 alkaline/acid diet. However, the basics are this:
Acidic foods tend to be dairy products, grains, meat, salt, sugar, processed foods, alcohol, etc...
Alkaline foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, tubers, legumes, leafy greens, wheatgrass, sprouts, avocados, fresh juice, green smoothies, low sodium soups, and so on.
There are also special water filters and water drops available to make your water slightly more alkaline. They tend to be expensive, but many people claim that they help immensely. Just remember to do your homework.
When you get down to it, it's common sense. Chocolate bar or apple? Soda or water? We know which is better for us, and now we know why. I think it's important to make more healthy choices more often, rather than try to re-structure your entire lifestyle all at once. Give your body a little help so it doesn't have to work so darn hard!
July 17, 2010
Methotrexate is a "Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drug" that was prescribed to me by my rheumatologist immediately after I was diagnosed. It is the top-of-the-line medical course of action for people like me. My doctor said that it can prevent further damage. It will not reverse any of the existing damage, and as I research it more I find that it will at best DELAY further damage. There are people who go into a drug-induced remission and/or who can get to extremely low doses of the drug. Doctors are prescribing these much earlier than in the past because the reversible side-effects are deemed more manageable than the irreversible damage caused by the disease. It takes up to six weeks to start feeling the benefits.
Methotrexate is normally used to treat cancer, but it is also used for the treatment of autoimmune diseases like inflammatory arthritis. [Autoimmune diseases involve conditions where the immune system attacks its own body]. As I understand it, it works by inhibiting the natural process of cell replication. As such, it will cause hair loss and mouth/nose sores. You need to take large doses of folic acid to counteract this side effect.
Speaking of side effects - one of the most common effects is feeling 'unwell' (flu-like symptoms, nausea & diarrhea) for 24-48 hours after taking it. The tablets are taken once per week. You also need monthly blood tests, because the drug can mess with your liver and white blood cell counts. You cannot drink any alcohol because of the way it affects the liver. Oh and did I mention it causes birth defects? You must be off the drug for at least three months before trying to get pregnant. The good news is that many people go on to have children after being on the drug. You cannot take antibiotics while on the drug because it lowers the effectiveness of the birth control pill. Interestingly enough, I learned that arthritis tends to go into remission during pregnancy.
There are additional health complaints made by people on this medication, including fatigue, flu-like symptoms, weight loss, hair loss, dry eyes, mouth or vagina, chest pain, jaw pain, or numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. The Arthritis Society of Canada website claims that these are, and I quote, "related to the underlying disease, and not the medication." Personally I don't buy that for a minute.
(Another interesting side note - arthritis.ca is funded by Pfizer Canada Inc., a Canadian branch of an American pharmaceutical developer and producer. How much do you want to bet that they recommend their own pharmaceuticals?)
What I want to be clear about is that I am not choosing to do nothing. It is true that taking this drug would be preferable to doing nothing, because the side effects are much preferable to becoming crippled. I have the same goal in mind: to improve my quality of life. I am just choosing the drugs as a last resort instead of the first.
July 13, 2010
Today I had my first session of colon hydrotherapy.
How it works: Using filtered, temperature-regulated water directly into the colon, excess waste is softened and loosened, resulting in evacuation through natural peristalsis. They recommend at least three visits to rid the colon of accumulated waste.
Why it works: The contents of the colon are quickly and easily absorbed by the body. This means that the toxins from built up waste are spreading through the body, causing all sorts of ailments, mild or severe. Colon cleansing aids in this detoxification process, and they also claim to make other health procedures more effective.
Colonics can be helpful with the following:
> fatigue > headaches
> skin problems > aches in your joints
> constipation > diarrhea
> weight gain > cold hands & feet
> loss of memory > colon cancer
> mineral depletion > arterial congestion
> low sex drive > brittle nails and hair
> back pain > & more!
Even people in generally good health report higher energy levels, clearer skin, brighter eyes, relief from gas and an overall better working bowel.
I can't say I really enjoyed myself. The whole process was uncomfortable (though not physically painful) and embarrassing. Having said that, I am going to try it a couple more times and see how I feel. I already feel a bit more energized and my stomach feels flatter. Toxicity is one theory for why inflammatory problems arise, and I believe that could be the case with my situation.
July 10, 2010
The power of the mind is just that - powerful. Scientific studies show that mental rehearsal can be just as effective as physical practice. It has EXACTLY the same effect. We're talking about visualization. [There is TONS of evidence on this, feel free to research it more!] If you imagine yourself doing what you want, being who you want to be, it will manifest into reality. And on the contrary, if you fill your mind with negative thoughts, you might find that the life you are living is not to your satisfaction. It might manifest physically in your body as tension or pain.
I'm reading a really interesting book right now called Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza. He speaks of how he and others have used this incredible ability to overcome illness and injury. And we all have this innate ability to focus our energy. I find his book very encouraging, because he talks about how people are perceived as insane when they seek a miraculous cure to their disease, and yet, he has studied many people who have achieved exactly this.
For me, meditation is not easy by any stretch. With our busy lives, it is hard to find that quiet time to sit and be alone, with ourselves and our thoughts, in the present. We are conditioned to always keep busy, or at least keep our minds distracted. I am guilty of it, I often keep the tv on just for some background noise.
It has become clear to me that meditation and visualization are going to be part of my new health routine. For me personally, I know deep down that any other changes I make, be it diet or exercise, will be futile if I am not in the mindset for healing. It is about tuning in to my body and its stresses and needs. It's about positive self talk. It's about preparedness and "psyching myself up". It's stess reduction, and feeling a sense of control and choice.. Most importantly of all, it is about seeing the possibility of health. Seeing my self in my most ideal state, as my most ideal self, and seeing it into reality.
July 8, 2010
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice. It involves inserting needles in various points on the body. It is supposed to relieve pain, boost energy and/or enhance the immune system, among other things.
Acupuncturists do not claim to be able to cure arthritis. They have shown to be an effective pain management strategy, and the scientific medical community agrees for the most part.
I had a profound experience when I first went to see my new acupuncturist Mr. Chung. He first asked me where I had pain. Then he took my left wrist in his hands and closed his eyes, concentrating, listening. He said "It's on the left side." He took my right hand and did the same thing. He asked me "Why do you have so much stress?" It was really strange. Two things went through my mind: In alphabetical order? and How the hell does he know that?
He then got me to lie down on the table, and with permission he pushed on the left side of my stomach right beside my bellybutton [a process called palpation - feeling the body for tender "ashi" points]. It hurt horribly. In his wise and limited words, he simply stated "I found it." He got me to feel it and there was sort of a hard mass with a throbbing sensation. He then got me to press down on the right side. There was no pain and it was soft, completely different. Mr. Chung told me that this was the source of my joint pain and health issues. My stress is causing my body to react a certain way, which in turn causes digestion and stomach issues. And then, in Mr. Chung's opinion, it contributes to the inflammation throughout my body's joints.
After being poked and prodded with needles for 10-15 minutes, I was on my way. It's (obviously) not something that is going to disappear overnight. The experience gave me a lot to think about, particularly with Mr. Chung's ideas about CAUSALITY.
He also told me that it would take more than acupuncture to cure me. He had some advice about what would. He advises me to take some Korean herbs. It is a drink that you take three times a day for two weeks or more. They are very expensive, so it is something that I am going to think about. But he tells me that my quality of life would greatly improve if I take them. If I don't do anything, my quality of life will go down, that I know for sure. It goes with having a progressive illness.
He also suggests that I avoid cold drinks and sweet fruits, and that I eat small dinners. Things to think about. The wheels are certainly turning..
Oh yeah, and he suggested I get a colonic [clean out my colon & its contents]. I'll keep you posted on that horror. Eep.
July 6, 2010
I saw a documentary recently that I found to be very educational and inspirational. It is called Food Matters and it is presented by some of the world's leaders in nutrition and natural healing. The main message is this: YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.
There are several important points in the film that made wonderful sense to me.
1. There is an epidemic of chronic malnutrition happening. Too much of the food that is readily available to us is aged, over-processed, chemically treated and over-cooked. In other words, depleted of precious nutrients. The very structures in our society make it easier for us to access food lacking in nutrition vital to our well being. It is so important to eat as much fresh food as possible and supplement if needed so our body has all the tools it needs to serve us.
2. Sickness is profitable. There is no money in health. Too many businesses thrive on an unhealthy population. In the film it says "1/4 of what you eat keeps you alive and 3/4 of what you eat keeps your doctor alive."
3. It is possible to reverse illness. It can be done and it has been done. There is scientific evidence for it!
4. Detoxification. Our bodies work hard to clear our system of the poisons that we ingest, but we need to do our part as well. One of the easiest ways to do this: drink lots of water! Everyone knows it and yet most people do not drink enough clean water. Challenge yourself to drink 1 litre of water first thing in the morning. This is one simple way to flush out those toxins that your liver has worked so hard to filter.
5. You cannot heal selectively. Our bodies have incredible healing powers. We can see this when we overcome infections or recover from cuts & bruises. But our bodies have capacities beyond that. Many pharmaceuticals claim to target and treat one thing at a time (ie. blood pressure medication, antidepressants, etc). As they say in Food Matters, there is a "pill for every ill." But imagine this - when your body starts to heal, it will heal all. You will reach a state of health that your body so craves. It is a matter of providing our bodies with the nutrition, hydration and TLC that it needs to operate optimally.
I encourage you to go to their website and view the trailer:
July 4, 2010
It seems like I've always had a resistance towards doctors. I'm sure a big part of that is because they seemed mostly unable to help me when I came to them with my problems. I heard a lot of "I've never seen anything like this before" and "I don't know why it is the way it is". But it's more than that. I've always had this intuition that doctors are treating the symptoms rather than the cause. But aren't those symptoms there to tell us that something else is wrong or out of balance? I find it curious that doctors will readily prescribe pills without inquiring about your diet, exercise, or even obtaining a proper diagnosis.
It is only recently that I have discovered that there is a large community out there that thinks like me. It is so assuring to see that people are seeking and finding relief in safe, natural, alternative healing methods.
I have learned so much about health care systems and pharmaceuticals in the past few months, mostly through University courses that I have taken. It is shocking the number of pills being produced and the vast increases in prescriptions. We must remember that they are out to make money, just like any other business. And they are doing a great job right now. The economy would virtually collapse if we lost the pharmaceutical industry. But remember this too - if we were all healthy, the pharmaceutical companies could not thrive or survive. Pharmaceutical drugs are addictive and dangerous. There are other safe and effective ways of healing disease and, most importantly, preventing illness in the first place. To quote one of my favorite documentaries, Food Matters, "Health makes a lot of sense, but it doesn't make a lot of dollars."
My hope is to inspire people, even in the smallest way, to be skeptical of medicinal practices and to take charge of their own healing. After all, it is your life and your health. You have the power to choose.
My rheumatologist firmly told me: "We do NOT practice alternative medicine here." Well guess what - medicine is an alternative. It is one alternative to many methods of treating an illness. And I intend to explore my options.
June 30, 2010
The day was May 26, 2010. They told me I have a chronic inflammatory illness called psoriatic arthritis. The truth is, I already knew. It was no surprise by any extent of the imagination. And yet, just hearing it said out loud, confirmed, that I had a progressive illness I would have to manage for the rest of my life, was like a blow to my gut.
The reality is, I have suspected that I had arthritis for a couple years. The (permanent) damage to my joints suggests that I have had arthritis for over 10 years. I had a "bad wrist" when I was ten years old, with very limited range of motion. During that time I saw doctors and specialists of every flavor. I had one doctor tell me that my skin was tighter than normal and that was why my wrist didn't have the full range of motion. Of course that didn't explain why the right side was fine, or why I could hear the bones grinding together on the left side when I moved it. None of the doctors mentioned the possibility of arthritis and none of them provided me with any useful help.
Because I didn't get any answers, I began to internalize that living with pain was normal. It wasn't until it started spreading to my other joints that I started to pursue it again. I knew, inside, that it was not right, not okay, not normal.
So now, twelve years later (after six months on a waiting list to see a rheumatologist) (AND after months of pretests including x-rays, blood tests and bone scans) I had my diagnosis. The rheumatology team proceeded to bombard me with "You need to see this occupational therapist" and "You need to go get this blood test" and "We are prescribing you this drug". I reached a point during the appointment where I was completely overwhelmed and I started crying.
Why me? Why do I have to deal with this? I'm too young.
And that was it. I now had a lot of information, a lot of questions, and most importantly, a lot of options. I wasn't sure of much, but I knew that I wanted to be in the driver's seat for my journey to health.
June 25, 2010
Hello & welcome to my blog
First I wanted to say that I've always thought blogging was kinda stupid! I don't have much patience for celebrity gossip and I don't generally feel the need to know what someone ate for breakfast. However, I must admit that I am extremely jealous of people who can make a living by blogging. That would be an incredible honor, to be able to freely journal my thoughts and opinions and have them considered important to other people.
On that note..
I understand that this blog might not be important to many people. And that's okay. With this blog I intend to write for myself. My purpose is to document my journey towards health. I have recently been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. It has become clear to me that my life will need to change drastically if I expect to live my ideal life. I have always been skeptical of Western medicine, and I have now begun a self-directed exploration of alternative health therapies and lifestyle changes. I have every intention of reversing my illness and proving the doctors wrong.
I want to focus on health and gratitude and positivity and continuous learning. It is also important to me to embrace honesty - including the real, human emotions that come with struggles and the stress of my life. It's all part of the journey.
So if any of this intrigues you, I invite you to read on.