The Price We Pay

I picked up my medical records from my former rheumatologist. Funny, they gave me an hour window to come in and pick them up. Turns out it was during lunch when there were zero patients in the waiting room. What did they think I was going to do–cause a ruckus? When I arrived at the office, my records were not ready and the woman up front disappeared while my four boys and I sat and waited and they did what they needed to do to get them ready. While we were waiting, my doctor walked by behind the front desk area. What are the chances of that? I would have loved to have been able to talk with him.

I love having copies of my records in my possession. LOVE it! So much is missing in my doctor’s notes. No mention of family history and allergies and nothing specific about the supplements I take consistently. Also said I was taking 5 mg of prednisone a day and that is so not the case. I tried the steroid route. Helps temporarily and then the pain comes screaming back. No thank you. Would rather deal with the pain minus steroids if I can get away with it. I remember him recommending that I take 5 mg maintenance dose. But in his notes it clearly says I have been doing that for some time.

Nothing in me has wanted to sit down and put my thoughts in writing for the last few weeks. I feel like I took a mental trip of sorts. Actually, I feel like I went a little crazy. Just about snapped. Felt like I had been pushed to the edge. Won’t get into it. Mentally, feeling much better now. Physically, I’m a mess. And as most of you know from experience, stress aggravates pain without a doubt. A price we RAers pay. But this is just one of the ingredients in the cocktail causing my current pain. Part of the reason I am feeling better mentally is because my three oldest boys are with their father (who is different than my husband now) for the month of July. A huge amount of stress has been lifted due to the sibling rivalry being gone. But in it’s place is the heavy heartache that comes in a mother’s heart when she hasn’t seen her children in a while. I have tried very hard not to think about them too often (this is practically impossible), but it has helped me get through the month far better than last year. Last year was absolutely awful. I won’t get into it or the situation they are in when they are with their father. Another time, perhaps. But not worth my energy right now.

My rash has completely disappeared without the assistance of anything pharmaceutical. Maybe the disease playing peek-a-boo. I finished the lymph cleanse and have continued to dry brush my skin to stimulate the lymph system. There was a study mentioned in a book I recently read about RA patients improving when their lymph system was drained. As soon as tube was removed, their symptoms increased again. Very interesting. I had my husband take a couple pictures of my rash while it was visible. I showed my eleven year old the pictures on my camera and asked him if I should put them on my blog. He said, “No way. It looks gross.” It almost kept me from posting a picture at all. I am going to print the pictures to take to my new rheumatologist in August. No rheumatologist ever saw my rash. My dermotolgist did, however. She also took pic.s. So, here it is. Lovely, huh? It was all over my breasts too. I looked like a Star Wars chic in person–or a freak. The rash was only on the front of my trunk, not the back. It disappeared gradually, just as it appeared.

Close up shot of a section of my trunk.

I have hope for the first time in a while in relation to my disease. I’ve had a certain peace about the fact that my body was being attacked little by little for a while. Was so not happy about losing function and being limited. But was handling it well. But now I feel hope in addition to that peace. Such a good feeling. Feels dangerous too though. There is the part of me that doesn’t want to get hopes up only to have them dashed. But if AP therapy does not offer much relief or management of my disease, then I will just have to go from there.

The hope I feel now is due to what I read while I was “away”. I read the book The New Arthritis Breakthrough by Henry Scammell. Within this book is the book written by Dr. Thomas McPherson Brown (pioneer of AP therapy), The Road Back, Rheumatoid Arthritis: Its Cause and Its Treatment. It’s fascinating, folks. I think that it is an incredible read if you are either battling RA or know someone that is. The Road Back talks about the science behind the approach and the thousands that benefitted from it. It speaks of the depression that many people feel (but don’t talk about) and how difficult it is to keep that to yourself at times because you get tired of telling people you are in pain. (And quite frankly, I’m sure they get tired of hearing about it.) I know for me–if I don’t talk about the pain every now and then, I’ll blow. We have to talk to someone sometimes. It’s a human thing.

I think this book is worth reading simply for the knowledge that can be gathered from it. I gobbled the book up. While I read it, I dog eared it like crazy and now I am going back through it and highlighting sections. I have to ask why AP therapy was never mentioned as a treatment option for me? My rheumatologist offered various drugs, but never antibiotics. The Arthritis Foundation has acknowledged that antibiotics can be an effective DMARD. American College of Rheumatology recognizes minocycline as DMARD as well.  And the patient accounts from Dr. Brown’s book (he treated 10,000 patients successfully with AP therapy) and the current patient surveys taken by The Road Back Foundation further show the benefits AP can have for many. So, again, why are antibiotics never mentioned as an option? (I suspect the drug companies have a hand in this.)

I called Joe on air to ask him about AP and he said that I should go for it considering I am looking at either the methotrexate or Humira route–which is where I was headed once I weaned my little guy. Joe went on to confirm what I have found in my research–that there are legitimate cases documented of people benefitting from AP therapy. The experience that I’ve had with my disease and the history of illnesses that I have had in my lifetime are reflected in the patient accounts in the book from people that have improved with AP.

So, this is why I have felt hope. Hope that with trial and error and antibiotics, I may be able to reduce the disease activity in my body and manage my pain better. The interesting thing about AP therapy and my situation is that the class of antibiotics found to be the safest and most effective is the tetracycline class. I had a crazy reaction to tetracycline in seventh grade. There is a sticker on the front of my medical records from when I was a child that says “Allergic to Tetracycline”.  I developed a 104 fever and a rash that covered my trunk. Interesting wouldn’t you say? This rash itched to kingdom come though–unlike my recent one. The symptoms would go away when the drug was removed and return when the drug was reintroduced. I have to wonder now after reading The Road Back, was it an allergic reaction to the drug or was my body killing off something extremely toxic to cause that kind of a reaction? Something so toxic that it could one day cause joint deformity and pain throughout my body? Perhaps. Will be interesting to see what happens if I begin taking an antibiotic within the tetracycline family. At least I have a few options to play with.

I recently received a call from my dermatologist. She is a popular doctor and is always booked solid. After she saw my crazy rash and the patch test and biopsy came back revealing nothing conclusive (big surprise) she asked if she could bring my file before a group of dermatologists in the city that meet monthly. I said, “Sure!” She called me at home the other day to tell me that they discussed my case and concluded that it could be anything from a bacterial fungus to cancer. Well, that helps. All that education and thousands of dollars between them and that’s what they come up with? I told her that I had recently read about AP therapy. She said she would be willing to prescribe minocycline for me. Told her I was seeing a new rheumatologist and would keep her posted. Good to know that I have another doctor in the picture that is willing to work with me and AP route.

I am not doing so great with the weaning of my little guy in preparation for this. Knowledge really stinks sometimes. I transferred my other three boys to organic cows milk without a concern in the world, and they are very healthy kids with zero allergies. But now I know too much about dairy and it’s effect on our bodies. So I am reluctant to introduce cow’s milk now. I tried goat’s milk with my little guy because it is much easier for the body to digest. He made an audible gagging sound after he drank it. It was hard not to laugh. And this little guy likes to eat everything. I’m a mess though and someone is going to be drinking cow’s milk starting tomorrow to put the weaning pedal to the metal. Fortunately, I have access to raw, organic milk from grass fed local cows through my farmer’s market. But that isn’t until Sunday.

Happy Baby!

Blessings to you!

Good Riddance

The words below were in my inbox today.  Max Lucado wrote them.  He is one of many people that has provided inspiration in my life.

To Be Saved By Grace

“God gives us a free gift—life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23  “One of the hardest things to do is to be saved by grace. There’s something in us that reacts to God’s free gift. We have some weird compulsion to create laws, systems, and regulations that will make us “worthy” of our gift. Why do we do that? The only reason I can figure is pride. To accept grace means to accept its necessity, and most folks don’t like to do that. To accept grace also means that one realizes his despair, and most people aren’t too keen on doing that either.”

I have been thinking a lot about the same thing in the past few days.  The idea that my pride gets in the way of the cross–which for me represents what God has done for us and what He is going to do.  I lose focus over things like pictures of babies with autoimmune rashes while looking for some semblance of my own rash, because I start to worry about my own children. Does anyone else worry that their children will have to deal with an autoimmune disease? And I read studies on pubmed that use words like mortality rate and RA, and I lose focus. But that’s where I get to see the pride because I realize–who am I to worry about what is in store for my children or when my time here is up? Am I so special that I should get to decide how long I stick around on this earth? You know? God loves me, but His ways and His plans are so much better.  One day at a time is how I have been living lately, and it has been much more enjoyable that way. I enjoy the little moments and the little things a little more lately. Things like singing silly songs and making animal noises with my one year old, a french pressed cup of freshly ground organic coffee (oh yeah), time alone with my husband. Silly to think that I have fretted over the fact that I might not live to be 100 like I always hoped I would. That my days feel a little more numbered right now. Of course, I am hoping for a cure and I’m checking up on the latest things scientists and doctors are doing. But at this stage of the game, living to be a 100 is not looking too good.  I would probably be such a mess anyway that I wouldn’t want to be alive!

As I drove somewhere this morning and was alone for the first time in the car in a while, I had a peace about exactly where I am at with my disease. My hands and my feet hurt terribly some days. But on other days, I get around ok.  I always tell my kids when they express frustration over the fact that I am battling something that it’s ok that I am. It is. It’s ok. And when I stray from feeling that it’s ok, I know at least that I still have a way back-His Word.  I am totally standing on His promise.  And I have to remind myself of what is really going on and what is yet to come sometimes.  It’s pretty exciting if you stop and think about it.  And boy what a relief to think about it.

My rash is spreading and changing colors.  Really need to take some pictures of it. Still doesn’t itch, but it is crazy looking. Discovering that skin rashes are common with JRA and Still’s disease.  Was not too familiar with Still’s disease until recently after digging around for pictures of other peoples’ rashes (which led to pictures of little ones).  Along with lots of digging and researching, I have been doing a lot of blog hopping. Thank you bloggers for having blog rolls.  I read  about Southern Gal with RA and her experience trying an antibiotic protocol.  I thought, hmmm, I’ve heard of this–why have I never really looked into it? I followed up with research about AP, and then with the Roadback Foundation. If I recall correctly, Southern Gal has to travel three hours to see a doctor that will prescribe an antibiotic protocol for her patients. That just stinks. I contacted the Roadback Foundation to obtain doctor references for my state and told them that I was willing to travel (they said to mention whether you were or not).  I got a reply the same day–this was yesterday.  There is one doctor in my city on the list.  The other doctors are hours away.  The e-mail said that I should contact the doctor to find out if they are still prescribing AP.  I quickly did a search on the doctor and discovered that he is 8 miles from my house. Wow.  Hello.  Feeling a God thing happening here. He is right under my nose.  Just down the street. I read reviews about him on various doctor rating sites and they are great.  (Love the internet for info.!) He is in his sixties and has his name on several research studies, and the reviewers said he was unhurried and his protocols worked for them.  Nice.

Today, I called my current rheumatology office to follow up with a call I made to the office manager two days ago.  I decided to call and speak with the office manager instead of writing a letter about switching doctors.  Thought it might prove quicker. I poured my heart out to this woman named Helen (while fighting tears–hate it when that happens) and explained how my doctor had basically been a big jerk and made my life more difficult and was there anything she could do to get me an appointment with the “nice” doctor. She thanked me for sharing my story and said she would talk with both doctors to see what she could do and would get back to me. Didn’t hear from her yesterday and since I am not getting better and it takes a while to get in with a new doctor, I decided to follow up and call her this morning. She said the “nice” doctor said he is sticking by the office policy and I won’t be able to switch doctors.  I asked her what my current doctor said in regard to not signing my handicap placard form. She said that the state is really coming down hard on physicians for disability claims and things like handicap placards. Are you kidding me? I said, “If you knew me, you would know I was once very active and have been healthy most of my life. And asking for a placard was not easy.”  She said, “I don’t doubt that, but the physicians have to be careful these days.” Then I asked her what I needed to do to get my records. I am going in tomorrow between noon and one PM to pick them up. What a pain. But can you believe that I just acquired the name of another rheumatologist that is right down the street? I was looking at rheumatologists online the other day and it was a bit overwhelming to think that I might have to narrow it down to one and start all over.

So, good riddance to my old rheumatologist. Feels good! Can’t wait to get my file and see everything my doctor has written about me. This is going to be great!  I wish my doctor the best, but I hope he at least learns a little something from this in regard to how you treat your patients. But as my husband pointed out–they aren’t hurting for business.

I then called the new rheumatology office. I know this place is older and does not have a fancy infusion center like my other doctor’s office. They don’t have a website either. The other office did. But the staff was much more pleasant and I was able to speak with the doctor’s nurse right away. Awesome. I told her that I was not an established patient and asked her if the doctor still prescribed AP. She asked who referred me and I told her that I was given his name by the Roadback Foundation.  She said, “It’s a foundation? And what is it–AT?” I’m thinking she is not aware of AP. She got back to me today. I told her that I never got a call back on the same day before and thanked her. She said that the doctor told her to tell me to keep my new appointment with him (first available was August 3—which stinks) and to bring everything with me that is part of my current protocol. I’m liking this guy already. My old doctor could have cared less about anything I’m taking because nothing I was taking regularly was a pharmaceutical. Whenever I would tell him about what I was doing or what type of exercise I was engaging in he would kind of smirk and type on his laptop.  I told my husband that I have between now and August 3 to really work on weaning my son. Cue the water works. I know it’s time. I want to be ready, or at least close to being ready to try the drug route when I see this new doctor.

Praying for my sisters and brothers.