Sunday, 10 July 2016

A Goodbye to Coffee

When I was thirteen years old, my mum and I had a very steady weekend routine. Right after school on Friday, we would go to my doctor’s office where a nurse would give me an injection of methotrexate. It wasn’t a huge deal, but I began to dread Fridays because of the medicine’s side effects. A lot of people with autoimmune arthritis do very well on methotrexate and go into remission. But I didn’t. I remember the doctor often telling me that the medicine “had better start working soon, because [I] won’t like the next level.” It was horrifying to hear this as a kid. I knew it wasn’t my fault, yet I blamed myself. It felt hopeless; if the medicine that worked for everyone else failed me, what would that mean for me later on?
But years later, I realized there was no reason to feel hopeless.

I’ve seen many different doctors since, and I’ve found that there’s no one way to treat chronic pain. But the most successful approach I’ve found is to treat the person, not the disease. The outcome is always better when the goal is to care for the person overall. You can certainly put your hand over the wound to stop the bleeding, but you need to uncover it and let it bleed a little as you stitch it up so it heals.

I had always been very skeptical of natural or alternative approaches to treating chronic pain. Maybe it’s because those ideas were never brought up with the doctors. But I really was holding onto the hope that there was a medicine out there that would bring me to remission- that all the pain of trial and error with medications would be worth it one day when I found ‘the one.’ And to try a different approach would make it all for naught.

It was extremely inspiring to read and follow Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy as he changed his life by deciding to keep on walking and eat cleanly, especially after his intense battle for medical care. And I began to wonder if that was something I could do too. It made sense to me that healing the body would stop the pain. But it wasn’t until this year I began to feel called to try it, after having too many issues with exposure to infection that I went without Enbrel for a few months.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been adding in recommended strength training and limiting ‘inflammatory foods,’ just to see what happens, and it seemed to help a little. But it was when I completely stopped drinking coffee that I found a lot of relief from pain and stiffness. By no means is it a cure, but it makes me hopeful that I can take my health into my own hands.

So while I’m not advocating for people to stop all medication and drop their rheumatologists (that can be very dangerous), I am advocating for people with chronic pain to hold onto hope and never give up. What I want is for everyone to know there’s always another option, even if it doesn’t seem clear at first. Don’t be afraid to try something new. And never, ever put yourself down because a treatment doesn’t work for you. 

Super inspirational sunset