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Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis + Fibromyalgia

Posted Mar 13 2010 1:32pm

Note: There is SO much to my health history and story in general, it was especially difficult to focus this post on only RA and Fibromyalgia. I hope I’ve managed to successfully share this with you, though – and not just ramble. ;-)

I recently mentioned that I was going to share more information on living with Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis, so here it is…

I was diagnosed with both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia in my mid-twenties. (I was also diagnosed with debilitating migraines, depression, PCOS/Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and endured other grueling health issues (like Candida and colon problems) but in order to keep to a bit of sense to this post, I’m sticking to the RA and Fibromyalgia today.)

This came after barely escaping domestic violence and enduring countless tests, doctors visits, and excruciating pain.

I’ve never shared to the full extent of just how horrific that time in my life was. I do plan on sharing everything in a book someday.

When I was diagnosed, I couldn’t believe it. Arthritis AND Fibromyalgia? But I was so young?! How could it be??

Western medicine, Rheumatoid Arthrits, Fibromyalgia, natural medicine

( Source )

Of course, it all made sense: the chronic (and never-ending) muscle spasms, sharp pain, awkwardness with trying to use my hands to do simple tasks (like hold a drinking glass!) and much more.

My hand-eye coordination was the pits – basically non-existent. When I was able to walk, I had to drag my right leg – my hip just wouldn’t cooperate. Things got so bad, I began to lose the ability to move easily. I could no longer hold a drinking glass, write with a pen, or fold laundry – and I woke up one morning and simply couldn’t get out of bed; couldn’t move; couldn’t roll over. Nothing. I became bedridden.

If my mom hadn’t nursed me during that time (brought me meals, drinks, helped bathe me, helped me to the bathroom – everything) I’d have ended up living in a nursing home. I’m not even kidding, people. Not even.

I had so many health issues in my mid-twenties that some doctors I went to literally thought I might not make it to see the age of 30. One doctor told me to my face: If you don’t do something – and quickly – you’re going to die.

At that point, I was right at 300 pounds with horrific levels: blood pressure, blood sugar, hormones, cholesterol – the works.

Now, I know some of you may think I ate myself into a Bolivian because of depression/stress brought on by barely escaping domestic violence – but that isn’t true. While I wasn’t eating tons of fresh raw veggies during that time (it was very hard times and there were lots of meals that consisted of packaged noodles, if ya know what I mean ;-) ) most of the weight gain was due to my lack of mobility, side effects from prescription medications and shots, and also stress.

Die? Going to die? In my 20s? AFTER escaping domestic violence? How could it be?

I was scared, folks. Really, really scared. I cried. I was angry. I couldn’t believe that God would spare my life from the nightmare of my abuser – only to let me die from the after-effects of stress, obesity, and all that came with it.

I couldn’t accept it. I didn’t want to die. I had come too far. Way too far.

I wouldn’t give up!

Things are MUCH better now, but I still have bad days and painful times.

For example, there are days I have tried to spend a lot of time in the garden or have done too much sweeping/mopping/walking, etc., and have ended up rotating an ice pack on different parts of my back and am literally in tears because the pain is so bad.

Hope

I finally realized that if I didn’t get my mind above the condition my body was in, I wasn’t going to make it – I was caving. I was giving in to the symptoms, the pain, the depression. No, my future didn’t look positive. No, I didn’t feel good. I hurt. I ached. I didn’t sleep. I cried. Some days I wanted to die. It was that bad. Other days I was afraid I would die. And I didn’t want to.

Mind over matter tips that inspired me to keep going:

  • I wrote positive thoughts in notebooks, journals, or on loose scraps of paper.
  • I eliminated toxic people from my life.
  • I hung on to every word of positive quotes and encouraging Bible verses.
  • And most importantly, I prayed – and believed – with all my heart.

The verse that especially pulled me through and still has a most special place in my heart, is Proverbs 17:22 (KJV)

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

I had to find joy in my situation. Yes, I was in agonizing pain – but I was ALIVE! I had survived domestic violence and I didn’t live through it only to whither away from illness and negativity.

When I did focus my mind on the positive, my life began to change. Yes, it was an uphill battle all the way. It still is. I can’t eat like other people, or I literally feel the pain of increased inflammation. And when I do fall off the wagon and “cheat” on foods I know my body can’t process, I pay for it with pain and feeling blech.

What I physically changed in order for the symptoms to fade dramatically:

  • quit drinking soda
  • cut out all white sugar, flour, and processed foods
  • ate fruit sparingly, stuck mostly to berries
  • added a TON of fresh, raw veggies
  • started drinking raw juices and juice fasting
  • started taking herbal supplements
  • started drinking herbal tea
  • began cleansing my entire body – especially my colon
  • started drinking apple cider vinegar (with Mother/living enzymes) every single day
  • started drinking tart cherry concentrate every single day, up to 3 x a day
  • started taking probiotics daily
  • and more

berries

( Source )

What I physically do to maintain the decreased symptoms now:

  • eat a high-raw (mostly vegan) diet
  • drink raw juices and smoothies
  • eat minimal fruit
  • drink herbal teas
  • take herbal remedies
  • continue to cleanse my body/colon as I feel the need
  • take apple cider vinegar with Mother daily
  • take tart cherry concentrate daily
  • drink lots of water
  • avoid soy
  • avoid agave (post coming next to explain this)
  • use stevia as a sweetener
  • walk
  • try to get enough sleep
  • blog (because it brings great joy to my life, it seems to help my health overall) ;-)
  • consume healthy fats and oils
  • try to start every day by drinking warm lemon water on an empty stomach
  • still take probiotics often

Natural vs Western

I mostly manage my pain with my high-raw (mostly vegan) diet, herbal tonics, apple cider vinegar with Mother, tart cherry concentrate, and yoga but there have been times I simply cannot tolerate the pain and I will (reluctantly) take an Ibuprofen or similar over-the-counter pill. I try not to, though. I personally gave up on Western medicine because I tried so many different pills and shots, I got tired of the side effects. It just wasn’t worth it to me.

I don’t judge people who go the Western medicine route, though, because I know what it’s like to suffer with horrible health issues and we all have to listen to our bodies, make the best choice we can at any given time, and be kind not only to ourselves, but to others. I’m a firm believer in the fact that we don’t know what someone else is going through unless we’ve walked a mile in their shoes – and even then, we all react differently.

Root Cause/Cure

Some of you wanted me to share my opinions on the root cause of RA/Fibromyalgia and a cure. And that’s exactly what this is: my OPINION. That’s it.

So, here goes…

I personally believe that the root cause is inflammation. I believe processed foods, sugar, antibiotics, yeast, etc., contributes to out-of-control inflammation. I know immediately how much – or little – inflammation is raging in my body at any given time. I’ve learned to listen to my body and because of that, and my high-raw (mostly vegan) diet, I can manage my symptoms so well that it’s ALMOST like it is cured.

And when I’m juice fasting, I feel SO light – and I don’t mean weight; I mean inflammation. Make sense?

The Happy “Ending”

It seems silly to think of my current status as a “happy ending” because I feel my life is only beginning! I’ll be 35 this summer and just thinking of that is a breath of fresh air. I’ve lost over 100 pounds and gone are the days of not being able to hold a drinking glass – I can now type, write with a pen, and even thread a needle!!!

From this

(And this wasn’t even my heaviest!)

Michele's Before

To this

weight-loss-after-photo4

And never in a million years did I EVER think I’d be sharing such inspiration and encouragement from this side of the screen because I remember countless times searching online (with tear-filled eyes) for any ounce of hope that my health might improve – that’s how I was led to juice fasting, and what prompted me to start this blog. ;-)

Do you suffer with RA or Fibromyalgia? How do you manage your symptoms? Do you just go the Western medical route? If so, do you supplement prescription meds with alternative remedies, a balanced diet, herbal teas, cleansing? Do you only seek natural methods for healing? Do you find relief in exercise – like walking, running, yoga, swimming, etc. Can you relate to my experiences of battling illness at such a young age? And if you’re suffering tremendously right now and feel there is no hope of getting better, has my story encouraged you to keep trying different things, and to keep fighting no matter what? Did I leave anything out? Share your stories, tips, thoughts, opinions, pain, triumphs, and let’s glean from one another!

The sky is the limit!

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