In early winter 1997, I was a very active, healthy, and happy 43 year old. Little did I know how my life was about to change.
I started to experience stiffness in my hands/fingers upon arising in the morning. As the winter turned to spring, the stiffness and now pains were becoming worse. By the summer of 1997, a mere 3 months, my feet and knees were now involved. I was finding it very difficult to sleep, let alone get out of bed in the morning. My stamina was nil, and I was needing to take two to three naps during the day. I was finding no relief from over-the-counter pain relievers. I was finding it difficult to believe how quickly my body was deteriorating right before my eyes!
Desperate, I dragged myself to the family doctor, knowing I had some sort of arthritis, but afraid to find out. Quickly, they were able to diagnosis a classic case of rheumatoid arthritis. I was provided with some oral cortisone, to hold me until an appointment could be made with a rheumatologist.
Crying, that I believed my life was over, she assured me that it wasn't. Once I started on some medications, I would soon be good as new. That's what she said. I was so relieved! "The swelling in my fingers and wrist will go down?" I asked. She told me, "of course". I was given a quick exam, started on a medication called Plaquenil and some prescription strength Naprosyn (antiinflammatory), plus the cortisone of course.
Well, the cortisone worked some magic for me. I started feeling a little better. I had a little more stamina, only needing one to two naps a day. Pains were decreasing.
I dutifully continued to take my medications. I decided to purchase a small paperbook book, to educate myself about my illness. While reading, I came across a paragraph that mentioned that a recent bacterial infection could be the impetus for my illness. I questioned the doctor about that information with my next visit, and she merely chuckled, and said "no" to my theory, despite that fact that I had gotten a streptococcal nasal infection from a recent routine dental cleaning that I was still fighting! Well, I thought, she's the expert. And I shrugged it off.
By the end of the year (1997), I began to realize, that after 4 months of the medications, I was not seeing any improvement in the swelling and stiffness of my hands/wrists. In fact, I now had new areas of swelling and pain, previously uninvolved. With a visit in January 1998, now she was talking about adding a drug called methrotrexate, a powerful and toxic medication. I knew it was time to get serious.
I started to read books on arthritis, and began surfing the internet to find any information. I found a web site called rheumatic.org and the Road Back Foundation. I read the information on the web sites, and purchased the book they recommended, "The Arthritis Breakthrough". While reading, I found more references to a bacterial infection and something called a mycoplasma being responsible for my illness. I decided this sounded plausible, and searched for a physician to help.
After locating a rheumatologist in southern California, who has specialized in this area of antibiotic treatment for 10 years, I made an appointment. He performed baseline blood tests, x-rays, and a thorough exam. My blood sample was sent to an independent outside laboratory that specializes in testing for mycoplasma. Me anwhile, I was sent home with an oral tetracycline derivative called Minocin, to be taken 3 days a week.
Within three weeks, the results of the mycoplasma tests were in. I was indeed positive for mycoplasma fermentans. Now I knew I had something to fight - a reason for my illness. I was not just going to be covering up symptoms! I was attacking the cause!
Well, that was one year ago. It is now February 1999. Let me tell you how my life is now. I no longer need to take naps during the day. I have all the stamina I need to get through even long days. I have no pain or stiffness in the mornings. I still have some remaining swelling in my wrist and one finger. But it is not painful, nor interferes with my activities.
The ultimate test for me was last month (January 1999), when I went to Colorado for five days and snow skied every day! I was able to go all day! And my joints didn't complain! That was a life-affirming experience for me. I didn't think I would ever be able to participate in my beloved sport ever again.
I continue to take the Minocin three days a week. I require absolutely no O.T.C. anti-inflammatories and I haven't for about seven months now. I have been off cortisone and Plaquenil for nine months now.
Well, I hope my little story provides inspiration and hope to those who read it! I am forever grateful that I found this web site, and the wonderful people who where there to answer my many questions when I needed the help.
Please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org