Our stories are ever evolving. Life is full of experiences, good and bad. The diversity of what we experience during a lifetime shapes us, shapes our thoughts and opinions along with the things we know or ‘think we know’. And, our expectations, even our reality, can change faster than a Porsche can go from 0 to 60.
I’ve been lucky, in more ways than one. My time in the military and as a Police Officer has helped me to develop a never surrender attitude that has probably contributed to my ability to thrive in life and remain alive and healthy. I’ve had to call on these survival instincts on both the foreign battlefield, during the first Gulf War, as well as the domestic battlefield while doing my part to fight crime and help those affected by the criminal element. But, the battle outlined below has been, the literal, fight for my life.
This is my RA story
In January of this year (2016), after a very stressful series of business events, I began to suddenly have slight tenderness on the bottom of one foot. I wasn’t sure exactly what I might have done to the foot, but I figured I must have thrown something out of whack while exercising. I typically stay in pretty good shape by working out and or jogging 3-4 times a week. Maybe I overdid it at some point. Sure that it would go away on it’s own, I didn’t immediately worry.
Then, about a week later, the other foot began hurting in the same spot, mostly around the ball of my feet. At first, this just amounted to some weird, minor discomfort. But, as the days went by, the discomfort begun to spread through the rest of my feet, including the tops as well as the toes. And slowly but surely, the discomfort turned to pain, which began to cause some difficulty walking, much less any real exercise. And, with the pain, came visible swelling. By this time, I had began researching and trying to figure out what could possibly be causing this.
At first, I thought it might be gout. But no, the symptoms just weren’t the same. Then I ran across some information that pointed to something called ‘leaky gut’, where supposedly food items that are not supposed to be able to permeate your intestines, do, causing your body to attack the foreign particles, hence the swelling and pain. Thinking that I had it figured out, I began taking all of the recommended supplements to help with a leaky gut. But, oddly enough, even with the supplements and some moderate diet change, nothing seemed to be helping and the symptoms were now worsening. And, things were beginning to go downhill fast. I researched one possibility after another, without much initial success.
By mid February, the pain and swelling had grown to include my fingers, just one or two at first, and then more as the days went by. The pain seemed to be more first thing in the morning and would somewhat subside as the day went on. However, If I sat for a length of time the pain would return as soon as I returned to my feet.
As the days progressed, so did this new illness. By March 2016, my symptoms were:
- Foot pain and swelling, especially on waking.
- Hand and finger pain and swelling
- Wrist pain and swelling.
- Shoulder and ankle pain.
- Nodules on the bottom part of my arm below the elbow on both sides.
- Nodule somewhere near my voice box that causes hoarseness and a ‘click’ when swallowing.
- TMJ like symptoms that made it difficult to bite down on the left side.
- Occasional slight fever.
- Occasional night sweats.
- Brain fog and some cognitive issues.
- I lost 20 lbs in 5 months, while still eating the amounts of food that I had eaten previously.
- And oh, the flu-like body aches, (mostly towards the end of the work day and in the evening).
Later I also had these symptoms for a brief period
- Phantom odors that smelled like smoke or an ash tray
- Constantly seeping nose. Not really like a runny nose, but where you constantly feel like you have to wipe it because it’s always moist.
By now, I could no longer open a jar, I walked with a limp (especially after sitting for a while), and literally had problems performing even small tasks like opening a door or climbing in and out of a vehicle. Walking down stairs, especially first thing in the morning, was accomplished one slow and painful step at a time. Even turning the key to start the car brought unbearable pain. Hot baths helped. So, at the end of each day, I’d spend an hour in a hot bath. After my bath, I would actually feel fairly normal for a while and would be able to get to sleep. But then, around 2am, the pain would wake me and remind me that I was really sick.
I went to a local doctor, who said that even though I hadn’t yet tested positive for the RA marker, all other inflammation markers were elevated to alarming levels. Being a Gulf War Vet, I began to think that maybe my symptoms were caused by the same illness that has sickened and killed thousands upon thousands of Gulf War Veterans. So, I began the month long process of getting an appointment at the VA hospital.
While waiting for my VA appointment, my constant research of my illness led me to information that presented the possibility that RA (and other autoimmune illnesses like MS, Fibromyalgia, Chronic fatigue, Lupus, Crohn’s, IBS etc.) had a bacterial or viral origin. In other words, you are sick because you have a systemic bacterial and or viral infection that is wreaking havoc on your body and mind. The more I researched this as a cause for my illness, the more everything made sense. The fevers, the body aches and flu-like symptoms and night sweats all made more sense if it were being caused by a bacterial or viral invader.
So, after exhaustive research into a bacteria called ‘Mycoplasma’ as well as other bacterial and viral possibilities, I began to treat myself as if this were the cause of my illness. As I began treatment with antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiviral supplements, something strange happened…I began to get better.
At first, any kind of recovery was slow, but definitely welcomed. The disease, at this point, had left me desperate, in constant pain, depressed and unable to think clearly. On starting the new treatments, my occasional low grade fever and night sweats would be among the first major symptoms to (thankfully) go away. Encouraged by my progress, I continued my research to try to locate treatments that others had found effective.
I found that there are essentially 3 different, but equally important, factors that you need to treat.
- Boost the Immune system
- Repair damaged gut bacteria
- Bacteria/Virus eradication
To see the list of supplements and natural medicines that I took, and am taking still in many cases, go to this page:
To read more about my treatment success, go to this page:
Monitoring and guidance of a health care professional
It’s hard for most people to embark on this kind of healing journey alone. And, these types of systemic infections can affect a plethora of vital functions in the body. If possible, I highly recommend the use of a qualified Functional medicine doctor to help you navigate the road to recovery. My Functional Medicine doctor scoured my bloodwork and made both diet and supplement recommendations, without asking me to rely on any pharmaceutical drugs.