Hello all! I can’t believe it has been three months since my last blog post! SO much has happened since the last time I posted! The biggest piece of news I have is that a week ago I was told by my ecstatic rheumatologist that my RA was officially in remission!!!! That’s right – in REMISSION!! I had to really hold back from crying happy tears when he delivered this wonderful news. I haven’t had joint pain for about 8 weeks now, and am managing to lead a pretty ‘normal’ life, albeit with a bit more tiredness than the average person at times. I am working full-time again at a wonderful job with an amazing team. I am practicing hot yoga at least 3 times a week, with some other cardio when I have the energy. I am socializing with friends, and running down hills with my dog, and making love to my wonderful partner. And I am filled with so much gratitude for all of it, more than I ever had before going through all of this.
How have I managed to go from crippled to feeling fantastic?? I would say that the following have contributed to this full 180 turnaround:
1) Western medicine, namely Methotrexate injections. I originally took the tablets, but got way too nauseous, so my boyfriend now gives me weekly injections of 20mg. I also take Plaquenil twice a day, as well as Cymbalta (60mg) at night for bed. Cymbalta is an antidepressant which can also be effective in the treatment of Fibro… in my case, it helped exponentially. I went from having crippling bouts of pain in my shoulders that meant I couldn’t use my arms, to not having any pain at all.
2) Hot Yoga. When I stumbled upon an incredible yoga studio, Kula Yoga, about 6 months ago, I could barely walk. My muscles had wasted, and my flexibility was non-existent. I persevered. Over time I have gotten stronger, more flexible, more balanced. Further to the incredible physical benefits I found from doing yoga, I found an inner peace that I have never known before. I learnt to breathe – really breathe – through stress, anxiety and pain. When I had a RA flare, or a bout of Fibro pain, I learnt not to panic, but to breathe through it, in the way that I breathed through difficult yoga poses. You can read more about my wonderful discovery of hot yoga here.
3) Eating clean and green. There are many studies that show the benefits of a low-fat, vegetarian diet in treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as many other health conditions. Although I’m not a pure vegetarian – I still eat the occasional piece of organic meat – I steer clear of dairy, and eat a heap of fruit and vegetables. Eating like this has given me more energy, far better digestive health, clearer skin, and a more relaxed and positive state of mind. This new way of eating also resulted in:
4) Daily green smoothies. These babies have literally turned my health around, and I do not go a day without having at least one. I throw in some organic greens (spinach, kale, rainbow chard, silverbeet, bok choy etc), banana, cucumber, raw beetroot, grapes, frozen blueberries and whatever other fruit/veg is lying around. I add a couple of spoons of Vital Greens, which is an amazing super food powder, as well as a scoop of Maca, maybe some organic honey, and either coconut water or filtered water as a base. I blend it all up together and drink it! I generally drink it first thing in the morning, a whole big jug of it, and as I drink it, I literally feel the nutritional goodness flooding into the cells of my body. My eyes open up and I feel the green goodness reaching every part of my body. I truly feel that these green smoothies have been absolutely pivotal in my body’s turnaround.
5) Self-love and belief in my body’s ability to heal. I have had a long and rocky journey with self-esteem (or lack thereof) and corresponding body issues. I battled with an eating disorder in my late teens, and tried to numb the pain of self-loathing with recreational drugs, alcohol and smoking. Although I had stopped those behaviours a couple of years ago, I would still look in the mirror and hate what I saw. I would criticize my stomach, my legs, my butt, my cellulite. I would spend money on lotions and potions to smooth my legs, or get rid of fine lines in my face (they never worked). Then I got diagnosed with RA, and became crippled nearly overnight. I stopped worrying about what I looked like, and just wanted to be able to walk! I realized that the only chance I would have in healing myself was by looking at my body positively, rather than critically. This was not an easy thing to do, and I still have my moments. But now that I have gone into remission, after the most difficult year of my life, I am so ridiculously grateful that my body is WORKING, and I have learnt to appreciate how marvelous it is that I can go for a long walk without pain, or run around with my dog. No longer do I lament about having gained a kilogram, or that my skin is getting older (well, most of the time – sometimes old habits die hard!). I am just thankful for my body, and how it has managed to heal and work again! What a gift!
When I first started this blog, I had already realized that there were positive gains to be made from my diagnosis – despite how horrible it could be. I was told by many people that RA was something you had to ‘put up with’ and that it would plague me for life, and I am very aware that with many people that is the case. There are no guarantees that I will stay in remission – but there are no guarantees in life! As 2013 finishes up, I look back and don’t just see a year of pain, trials, tribulations and uncertainty – but a year of learning to love myself, and believe in my ability to cope with more than I thought I would have ever thought possible. I have learnt to nurture my body through good healthy food, yoga, rest and positivity. And each and every day, be it walking along a beach, or being busy with my great team mates at work, I am often nearly overcome with gratitude and an overflowing love for that very moment, at how blessed I am.