The Long Path To Rheumatoid Arthritis and Self Care

By way of concise introduction, the phrase “physician heal thyself” pretty well wraps it up! After 35 years of practising medicine (family and hospice) and having a healthy, I thought, well balanced married (happily and with 2 great children) life, I was able to retire at the relatively young age of 57. I thoroughly loved my work but equally looked forward to and have embraced continuing my very adventurous life, including lots of travel. My two grown children (and now with young grandchildren) have independent lives our daughter living in Western Canada and our son living life in Australia!

It was on one of our trips to Australia (2007) that I had my first major medical issue. While hiking in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney I noted that I was extremely short of breath with a soaring heart rate. Several trips to the ER, after ruling out pneumonia and interstitial lung disease, I was correctly diagnosed with BOOP (brochiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia) which is an immune complex disease. It was not obvious what the cause was. (Perhaps black mold where we had been renting?). I had to have a CTT scan and a bronchoscopy to make the diagnosis. I lucked out and was under the care of an experienced respirologist. It completely cleared with prednisone.

I wondered why this happened but life marched on: I felt well, and I didn’t give it much more thought. However, in 2014, I developed a Baker’s cyst in my right knee. Initially I thought it was due to age and had some physiotherapy. However, it didn’t resolve; instead it steadily worsened and I developed night sweats. On a trip in Tuscon, Arizona (2015) I had to go to the E/R . An aspiration showed lots of neutrophils (pus cells) and an MRI showed two huge areas of fluid so I was taken to the operating room for debridement. I was treated for septic arthritis with broad spectrum antibiotics for 6 weeks; however, nothing was ever cultured - no fungus, no bacteria, no Lyme disease. After a few weeks of the antibiotics, every joint was affected. I had trouble walking. I couldn’t pull the toilet paper off the roller, I was having trouble eating as it was affecting my TMJ joints as well. (I have since learned about the microbiome!!)

In the 4-5 years since this seminal event, I have had my eyes opened wide, much wider than in conventional medical school training! Why is this happening? How can I reverse it? I’ve expanded my caregivers to include naturopaths, massage therapy, a functional medicine physician and dietician, as well as my family physician and rheumatologist. If you are reading this, you are likely travelling a similar path,

I am learning things everyday that affect my well being. These include being an active participant in the direction of traditional care and exploring the many facets of how we influence our own health by our everyday decisions.

Science is exploding with new information.eg, my DNA analysis has shown that I need to focus on encouraging detoxification. So an infra red sauna is not just a very seldom treat...it is built into our daily routine, as is daily exercise, mindfulness , yoga and diet

I am empowered to do what I can and also to with with my traditional medicine providers to achieve my best health possible.

Charmaine Jones, Dragon Claw Ambassador, Canada