"Iesha, you have osteoarthritis and will most likely need to have both your knees replaced within the next ten years."
Hearing a doctor tell you those words is certainly a shock to your system, especially when you are only in your early thirties. Well, those were the words I heard one morning during a visit to my new Rheumatologist. Of course, those words were less shocking than the words that told me I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
Let me start back at the beginning, it was a dark and cold winter's night... just kidding, when I was in my late 20's I started experiencing intense burning and aching sensations in my elbows and knees. But what was weird, the sensation only set in if I kept them bent for longer than 20 minutes. Reading a book at night in bed was a chore and long car rides were torturous. Eventually I began to experience this burning and aching in my thumbs, ankles, and wrists, along with stiffness but only if there was no movement for awhile. I remember the first time I experienced it in my ankles, I was getting out of bed first thing in the morning and almost fell because of the pain and stiffness. I thought, "What is happening to me?"
This lead to me spending hours on the internet trying to find anything that would explain what was going on in my body. I first stumbled on wheat intolerance, the symptoms were very similar to what I was experiencing, so I stopped eating wheat for a month. It seemed to help, but I didn't stick with it, I went back to eating wheat after my month long experiment was over... just terrible I know!
Now fast forward about eight years, I'm in my mid thirties and living on the third floor of an apartment complex with 36 steps and no elevator leading to my front door. My joints had progressed from an occasional irritation, depending upon my activities, to a constant annoyance. Bending my right knee to climb stairs or even get in a car was almost impossible. The situation was bad and with my continued self-diagnosis via the internet, I was pretty sure I had RA. Now all I needed was for my doctor to confirm it. Well confirmation was received at the beginning of 2013, there it was in black and white. As my doctor explained the lab results to me all I could do was stare at the paper, taking note of how random my allergies are. For instance, I'm allergic to shrimp, but not shellfish and I'm allergic to wheat but not gluten. Then we got to the last page of results... and the confirmation of having RA.
Something about receiving the confirmation just crushed me. I remember walking out of the doctor's office, with a referral to a Rheumatologist, getting in my car and just sobbing. I called Mr. UC and he tried to console me but I was scared, I was nervous, I wasn't sure what the Rheumatologist would say, I wasn't sure what the future would look like... my mind was racing with worst case scenarios. Because I had already been researching information on the internet, I knew how disruptive RA can be. I also knew the medication potentially prescribed to me had terrible side effects. What was a girl to do?
A few weeks later, I'm sitting in the waiting area of the Rheumatologist's office, and let's just say I feel... out of place. I was surround by smiling faces that clearly had a lot more life experience than me. I wondered how I could be sitting here at my age, I'm only in thirties. When my name was called, I followed the nurse back to a small room and sat patiently waiting for my new specialist. Thank goodness he was a sweetheart and had decades of experience as a Rheumatologist. He began my visit by checking my range of motion, joint tenderness and swelling. After about 30 minutes of being prodding, he did let me know currently my RA was mild, but there was inflammation throughout my body. I'm sure this was from eating wheat. (What can I say? I looooove pizza and pastries) He also said that I have osteoarthritis in both my knees and most likely would need knee replacement within 10 years. I left his office extremely sore, with a list of restrictions, a prescription for pain ointment and a suggestion to lose a few pounds.
This time I did not cry. I knew it was time to get down to business. I can be quite stubborn at times and this was one of those times. I was not going to just accept that I would now have to lead this inactive lifestyle full of medication and pain. So began my quest to heal my body naturally. That quest lead me down the path of being a raw vegan. (You can read here why I chose raw veganism.) It has been one of the best decisions I've ever made.
Now that I am on this path and my body is healing itself, I want to share my journey with you. I want to share how it was possible for me to live pain free. For those readers dealing with RA or if you know someone that has been diagnosed with RA, please reach out to me. I'd love share the specific details with you.
Thanks for reading about my journey.