Once upon a time (some 25 years ago) when I was a keen gardener, I developed a HUGE thumb joint, took a blood test, and was told by the GP that I had, in his words, 'arthritides' floating about in my blood. I had no idea what that meant, and by the time the results came back my thumb had stopped swelling and hurting, so I thanked him cheerily and forgot all about it.
For the last 25 years I have enjoyed a wonderfully rich life which has included Tango and Blues dancing (for fun), the continuation of a singing career, and the practice and teaching of Reiki, which has undoubtedly changed both me and my life in the deepest of ways, and still does so.
Since the menopause I have been experiencing all kinds of skin problems, which I put down to thinning, very dry skin. About a year ago I began to feel uncommonly tired and became prone to infections, and this I put down to dancing until 6am, plus hanging out with a delicious grandson who has been delighting the whole family with every germ known to man, it would seem! Then six months ago I began experiencing swelling, heat, and discomfort in the joints of my wrists, hands and feet. This I put down to - well, I hadn't a clue (although I did remember my gardening thumb). All these things improved with daily Reiki treatment, a bit of attention to diet, and more rest: perhaps living life like a 21 year old isn't on at 66, I thought!
Then in October last year I received a call from the haematology team at my local oncology unit. When checking routine bloods for something else they had found a raised white cell count and increased lymphocytes of the T-cell variety. Ho-hum. Suddenly I was in a machine that began to roll. A bone marrow biopsy showed mono-cloning of T-cells, indicative of lymphoma or leukaemia but a CT scan showed up zilch. It was a fear-inducing process, truly stressful, but I didn't 'feel' that cancer was the issue, although I appreciate it could be in the future.
I did my research. Cloned T-cells can also, it would seem, be found in something called RA! So I began to follow that road of investigation with a wonderful Rheumatologist at my local hospital. And yes, I have the beginnings of RA or, more likely, PA (dermatology appointment awaited).
I began on 15mg of Prednisolone, and within 5 days - yes, FIVE days - I was completely back to normal. I have tried (and failed twice, and most dismally) Sulfasalazine, and am supposed to begin on Leflunamide, BUT... a drug that hangs out in your system for TWO years when you stop taking it? That needs to be 'washed out' in an emergency??
I have read with gratitude all the wonderful posts on this site, including the ones which say, 'you don't always hear about the successes because mostly people are posting when they're in trouble'.
So, here's my thing. I understand that RA/PA is incurable and that the long-term results can be wantonly destructive. I understand that the meds available can help to put the disease into remission at best and ease it at worst. I understand that it may take the trying of many different meds to find the one or ones that are right for each individual. I understand that I'm in the early stages of disease and thus it cannot yet be known how it will progress in me. I understand that not treating the disease puts me at risk from other diseases, including lymphoma and leukaemia. (I've been asked to dial in a blood test in August for these.) And heart disease, stroke, lung disease...
The upshot of this story is that I am now on 5mg of Prednisolone and will be gently reducing to nil over the next couple of months with the support of my GP, and that I'm giving myself six months to explore all options that don't include drugs which make me feel worse that the disease itself! I may fail, and I may yet have to face taking toxic drugs administered with the best of intent and with my best interests at heart. I am not in denial, I am not an 'anti-orthodox medicine' Reikimaster, and (despite a contrary opinion from friends) I am not daft!
So, thank you for listening to this long story, for properly hearing me, and for being here: it has been wonderful to feel that my dilemma, to be medically treated or not - or if so, how so - will have been experienced by so many of you. All thoughts, advices and comments will be welcomed, and regardless of what goes off or what I decide, I'll be reading all your posts.
With respect and gratitude.