I will tell you some of the details of my painful and frightening encounter with rheumatoid arthritis.
After the birth of each of my children, I came down with some type of what is known as autoimmune disease. After the first birth, I got Graves disease (hyperthyroidism). After the second birth, I came down with serious asthma, which doesn't bother me much now, but nearly killed me for awhile, especially during my last pregnancy. After the third pregnancy, I started having pain in my feet, my left knee, and one wrist in January, 1985. My pulmonary specialist sent me to a rheumatologist who diagnosed RA and gave me Clinoril and then Naprosyn.
Gradually the pain came back, and I got damage to some joints, especially my left wrist. As each drug stopped working, I was put on something else. I can't think of all of them now, but the last two were Plaquenil and sulphasalazine. During the last year, I got the syndrome where my eyes and mouth become very dry, especially while I am sleeping. These last two medicines worked for several years, and I didn't know the disease was spreading. Suddenly, in July 1996, they stopped working, and I was in horrible pain. The disease had spread to my neck, both shoulders, both wrists (off and on in various finger joints), both feet, one ankle, both elbows, and my right hip. I had become sensitized to almost every food, so that I would flare up after eating, especially if I ate food that wasn't entirely natural. My husband probably thought I was crazy because I was constantly adjusting my diet and saying I was allergic to this and then that.
Anyway, I suffered the rest of the summer, trying to avoid going on methotrexate. I couldn't sleep, and I could hardly walk, especially in the mornings. My hands and feet became very swollen, and I couldn't even touch my face with my right hand because my elbow was so swollen and painful. I had to have help to get dressed in some clothes. I was very depressed because I finally realized how sick I was and that there was nothing my doctor knew to do about it, so I thought I had no future except for more of the unbearable pain.
I met an anesthesiologist who specialized in pain control, and I was strongly considering going on time release morphine for the pain. I was determined to stay off methotrexate, so I went to an alternative medicine doctor and did a water only fast for ten days. During the fast, my pain went away, and I was hopeful that I could control the disease with diet, but, as soon as I ate my first meal of zucchini, the pain came right back, full force. By that time, I had lost 15 pounds, and my blood was really messed up. I was very anemic and so sick. I was pain and only pain.
Then I saw one line about the "unproven" theories of Dr. Thomas Brown, and my husband found "The Road Back" at the library. I was on a mission to try it, so the next time I got sick, I asked for doxycycline. As soon as I took the doxy, my pain got ten times worse! How could that even be possible? So I immediately stopped it, and the doctor put me on Ceftin, a very expensive, strong antibiotic. I took the first dose and that night, when I got up to hobble to the bathroom, I WALKED WITHOUT PAIN. I was so much better, it was unbelievable. I was shocked! I asked the doctor for another ten days of the drug, and I took it for almost a month in the end.
Meanwhile I took the book to my rheumotologist and, although he had said he hadn't heard of tetracycline treatment when I had asked him before, he admitted that he had gone to medical school at George Washington while Dr. Brown was head of the medical school. He said that most people thought he was a little crazy though brilliant because he wouldn't let go of his outdated, unworkable theories. He said he had lied to me because he didn't want me to try things that just didn't work. I am very determined, and I refused the methotrexate, and wheedled and begged until he said that he would give me the Minocin for three months, and at the end of that time, I would have to take the methotrexate or find another doctor. He produced a study about it (suddenly he knew everything), and started me on 100 mg of minocycline twice a day along with Relafen twice a day. At first I got terrible headaches from the Minocin, and it took awhile for the Relafen to work, but I gradually started getting better. I had pain, but I was never as bad as I had been before the Ceftin. My theory is that the Ceftin knocked the disease back enough to avoid the worst of the herxing. Or maybe I was just so bad that I was used to it. I had become so weak, and my knees were so swollen, I couldn't stand up by myself if I sat down. I couldn't get out of the tub by myself. I felt like I was dying, and I didn't care.
Gradually, gradually, in the months since I started antibiotics, I have become stronger again. My shoes fit, and I can get out of the tub and stand up from sitting on a low bench. I can eat almost any food except for nightshade foods (which I eat anyway at times, causing pain the next day). I have always done a lot of exercises and weights up until I got really sick in July. My doctor thinks this helped prevent so much permanent damage to my bones. Now I am able to start up again. In the last two days, I have cycled over 40 miles. My shoulders and wrists, not to mention my bottom, hurt from it, but I did it. I am so happy to be able to do things again.
My rheumotologist is very pleased, but he thinks the Minocin is just acting as an anti-inflammatory. That better not be true. He has renewed my prescriptions twice now. Let me tell you an odd thing I have noticed. When I had Grave's disease, I drank radioactive iodine which killed part of my thyroid. I took the same dose of synthroid for twenty years (.15mg). Then, during the last five years when my arthritis was so much worse, my thyroid became more and more weak until I gradually moved up to taking .3mg of synthroid, which is a lot for someone my size. Now, since I have been on the antibiotics, my thyroid has started getting stronger, and my dose of synthroid has gone down steadily. It is now at .225 and probably is still high.
I am ready for about a hundred years of wellness now. I have so much I want to do. Illness makes you realize that, doesn't it?
Well, that's my story. I am tempted to cut the Minocin back to once a day to see if anything happens. I think the dose I have been on has benefited me, but, if I can get on with less, why not do it. I believe in this treatment, and I think it will work for everyone if people just don't give up too soon. I think the anthropological research in Dr. Brown's book indicates the true nature of the disease in that, in the distant past, human remains showed evidence of RA only in America, but, gradually it has spread all over the world. How could that be if this were just an autoimmune response?
Gloria M. Tate
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org