JRA.... Journal of a Radical Arthritis Chick

Here I give advice, speak of my experiences and give information to those who want to better understand Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am NOT a medical professional, and you should always seek advice from a doctor.

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Location: MA, United States

Hello everyone! I am 28 years old and was diagnosed with JRA (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis) when I was just 3 years old. I've had my battles with this disease over the years, and have decided to create a blog. I want to share my stories and adivce with other RA chicks, or anyone interested, to raise awareness and get insight from others. Feel free to comment/question me about anything. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interview with Lauren Vaknine

Lauren Vaknine is 27 years old from England, author of the book My Enemy, My Friend, spokesperson for the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine and is also the youngest trustee of the British Homeopathic Association.  I met Lauren through this very blog!  She commented on one of my posts because her and I had similar stories, I emailed her and a friendship formed.  Lauren also suffers from JRA, since the age of 2 as well as Uveitis.  With the awful side effects from traditional harsh medicine, Lauren's parent's decided to try a different, more safe route for their child.  They decided to try homeopathic methods instead.   Here is an interview I had with Lauren about her lifestyle.

You were diagnosed at the age of 2 with JRA, similar to me. What medications were you put on and what were the side effects from them?
We were offered steroids, as in 1986 this was pretty much all that was available. My parents thought that steroids were too strong for a two year olds body, and despite the fact that the doctors advised that the best way to beat childhood arthritis was to give very large doses of steroids at the beginning, my parents disagreed and looked around for other options as they did not feel comfortable with the long term side effects. It turns out that fifteen years later, the paediatric rheumatologists who thought that prescribing large doses of steroids to young children early on was the best way, realised that they were wrong and had to apologise to all the children who were now teenagers and adults with hormone problems, bone problems like osteoporosis, deficiencies and growth problems. These new health problems were all side effects of the steroids and can never be reversed. So it took us a while to realise, but we did eventually see that my parents had done the right thing – and so did the doctors!

When were you diagnosed with Uveitis, and how has that affected you over the years? I was diagnosed with Uveitis a year after the JRA was diagnosed, when I was 3. When a child is diagnosed with JRA, they look out for Uveitis, especially if that child is a girl. During my childhood I only flared maybe once a year, usually in May / June time when the tree pollen count was high. Once every few years I’d have to have a steroid injection into the eye. Since diagnosis I have been taking steroid eye drops into the eye. After fifteen years of lots of eye drops and inflammation, I got a cataract. The cataract couldn’t be taken out because the flare was so high and the inflammation wouldn’t come down because the cataract was aggravating it so it was a catch 22 and they wouldn’t operate. It was the first time I ever went on a conventional medication and I was nearly 18. The doctors wanted me to take Methotrexate to get the inflammation down in the eye enough for them to operate but within 10 months of being on Mtx, the arthritis that had stayed in 4 joints for 16 years had now spread to every joint in my body. It also made my hair fall out and damaged my liver. This made me realise that an integrated approach to my healthcare was the only way forward. Eventually they operated on the eye and removed the cataracts which had, after 5 years, caused me to go blind in the right eye. The eye now has no lens and it cannot be replaced but the inflammation calmed down a lot.

When did you change to homeopathy methods?
I never changed. My parents looked around for other options when I was diagnosed and all they were offered was steroids. After extensive research they decided that homeopathy would be the best route for us and it has been. The reason being that arthritis is an autoimmune disease which means your immune system is fighting itself all the time. If this is the case you need to build that immune system up. The conventional medications unfortunately make the immune system shut down in order to be able to work and control the inflammation. So even if the inflammation is helped, you are left with a plethora of uncontrollable side effects. Homeopathy teaches your body to fight for itself, and essentially, to work as a whole, instead of fighting itself. It teaches your body to fight off illness and it builds up your immune system so that your body is well equipped to fight illness itself without chemicals that make you sick. The way I see it is that if you have an autoimmune disease, your body is weak as it is, so anything that makes it weaker can’t be good. Instead of using chemicals that fight the body, why don’t we work on improving our immune systems through natural sources! It really is that simple but it will not be spoken about in your doctors surgery so you have to do the work for yourself!

What natural supplements work best for you?
The thing with homeopathy is its catered for you. The remedy you are given on any given day is dependent on what you are going through at that moment. Where the pain is, where the swelling is, what relationship troubles you may be having, how the weather affects you, what you are dreaming. It is completely 100% individualised which is the wonderful thing about it. Apart from homeopathy the other things I find very helpful are meditation – the fastest way to a healthy body is a clear mind, acupuncture – at least once a month if not more, physio and hydro. And in terms of supplements I take vitamins C, D and E with selenium, fish oils, calcium and acidophilus. I also maintain a very healthy diet. Although you must treat yourself sometimes!

What made you write your book and how do you feel about it's success?
I wrote the book for no other purpose other than to share my story and show people the turn around my life has had. 8 years ago I was in a wheelchair and through perseverance and an integrated approach to my healthcare I live a relatively normal life and I wanted to show others that this is possible. I want to reach parents of children being diagnosed and tell them what options they have so that they don’t go down the road of having to deal with all the side effects of conventional medications years down the line and I wanted to tell people how much an illness affects you emotionally and that it must be dealt with early on. Counselling is important and support from your family but your family needs to know how to deal with it too and there is not enough help out there for this.
I feel very fortunate that my book has been a success. Since having it published I have become the youngest ever trustee of the British Homeopathic Association and patient spokesperson for the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. I now do talks at conferences, parliamentary events, private events and more to tell people my story and I am now working with the Health Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament to try and find a way to have emotional support and counselling offered to all families of children diagnosed with chronic or long term illnesses.
I hope that my book gets to the right people and that in some small way I am able to help them.

What would you like to see for the future for JRA and RA research?
I would like homeopathy to be more of an option given to patients instead of a last resort. Everyone is different and has to make their own decisions on what will work for them but they should at least be given the option and if the doctors don’t tell them about it, most people will think that medications with long term side effects are their only option. People should be free to keep their bodies healthy and there isn’t enough support for this cause. I would also like for there to be more research into Uveitis and how it can be helped.

My Enemy, My Friend is now available for eBooks!! You can purchase it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/My-Enemy-Friend-ebook/

Please be sure to visit Lauren's website! You can also purchase the paperback book here.   http://www.laurenvaknine.com/

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Catching up!

Hello readers! Sorry I haven't written a blog in a few weeks, life just gets so busy sometimes, especially around the holiday season.  Things have calmed down a bit, so I have some time to sit down and write. 

How was every one's holiday season?  My family celebrates Christmas, and we had a great day!  It's so nice spending time with family.  I had a few stops to make, so the day was busy but fun.  New Years Eve was spent going out to dinner with my fiance, and coming home to watch the ball drop.  We were in bed by 12:10am! Ha! It was such a lovely evening though, I am not complaining!

My knees were bothering me a lot over Christmas, not much stiffness, but I was experiencing some bad pain.  I'm not sure what it was, but it seemed to slowly go away.  I see my Rheumatologist next Wednesday (11th), so we will see what he has to say and how my blood work is.

I'm trying to regain some muscle strength, and get some exercise.  It's so hard to do when my fatigue knocks me on my butt, and when I do exercise I tend to overdo it when I feel good, and put myself into a flare.  My fiance got me the Kinect for xbox for Christmas, along with some dance games.  The games are such a workout, I'm sweating afterwards!  They're so fun, and you're dancing away that you don't even realize that you're working out - it's both good and bad!  Trying it out to get some exercise, along with my exercise bike, alternatively a couple days a week.  I am starting off slow, and seeing how I do, then I will progress from there.  Hopefully I can gain some of my strength back and it will help my fatigue, rather than hinder it.  Time will tell.  What does everyone else do for exercise?!

I've been seeing my chiropractor for aout 5 weeks now, and it seems to be helping a lot.  My back pain has lessened significantly, and I already see an improvement with my posture.  I still see him three times a week, and will probably keep that up for a while.  If anyone has back pain, even just muscle pain from stress, I'd suggest seeing a chiropractor! 

Anyways, working on some new blogs for the future.  As always, thanks for reading! :)