RAY, rheumatoid arthritis

My battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis started in October 1997. It would have started sooner but I did not know what was happening. I was typically very active; playing racquetball two or three times a week and bike riding 20 to 50 miles per week. I knew something was not quite right for the last several years. Little things began to happen. Recurring sinus infections, aches and pains that would come and go, unexplained night sweats for which my M.D. could find no cause, and inflamed tonsils that showed no sign of infection when tested.

Since I was put on blood pressure medicines and cholesterol medicines during this period, I blamed them for some of the problems. The doctors blamed normal seasonal allergies and would give various antihistamines and nasal sprays, which created their own problematic symptoms. I even consulted "specialists" who told me that I was more susceptible to allergies than most people. My eye doctor had no explanation for the itching in my eyes or the blurred vision from the mucus. I kept thinking to myself that if this is part of getting old, I did not like any part of it. I had just turned 54 was planning on a lot of good years ahead. I would later find out that all the above symptoms were caused by my problem with candidiasis.

In the spring of 1997 I began training for an annual 100 mile bike ride usually held in August. For some reason, I was not getting into physical shape as usual. I would begin to tire after riding 10 or 15 miles and by the time I finished 20 or 25 miles, I was completely exhausted.

On August 1, 1997 I woke with a severe pain in my right shoulder. I called my doctor for an appointment. He gave me some pills and I left. In a couple of days the pain was gone and I thought nothing more of the situation. Only later would I look at the diagnosis sheet and see that he had marked "rheumatoid arthritis" as the diagnosis. At this time, no tests were done to confirm the diagnosis.

Later in August of 1997 I went on to participate in the bike ride and completed 100 kilometers in 5 hours. Not lightening speed, but a good time for me. A week later while attending the funeral of my aunt, I noticed that my left hand, wrist and forearm began to hurt. Within a few hours I was in terrible pain and the area was inflamed and swollen. I still had some of the medicine left from my last visit to the doctor so I took that. In a couple of days the pain was somewhat better. The pain remained in my hand and wrists so I scheduled an appointment with my doctor. He took a blood sample and tests revealed that I did indeed have rheumatoid arthritis. My RA latex number was 507. He did not seem too concerned but gave me some samples of a NSAID and told me to take 2 or 3 twice a day and that I could adjust the dose to whatever I needed. At the time I did not understand that I was in for some rough times ahead. (Later I looked back at previous tests done during routine physicals and discovered that in April of 1996 my RA latex number was 27, slightly out of the range of 0 to 20 being normal.)

By the middle of October, I was taking 2000 to 3000 mg of Relafen NSAID each day. Even with that, the pain was almost unbearable, mostly in my wrists and hands. The pain then began to move around, leaving one area only to reappear somewhere else. Some days were not too bad, others terrible. There was times when just the weight of bed covers on my ankles caused severe pain. Because of the pain, sleep became almost impossible except from exhaustion. Every waking moment was punctuated with pain. The pain moved into my shoulders and shoulder blade area. I could not get comfortable even lying still in bed.

I decided that I needed to find out more about what was happening to me. My wife went to the library and checked out 5 different books on arthritis. It just so happened that the first of the 5 books I read was "The Road Back" by Dr. McPherson Brown. I read each book in turn. In every one except "The Road Back", the thrust was how to live with the pain and discomfort of arthritis, because there is no cure for the disease. I made the decision that I was in so much pain, there was no way I could live with this disease. The only hope I had at the time was to find out about the antibiotic treatment mentioned by Dr. Brown. I began by writing a letter to the national arthritis group founded by Dr. Brown. Friends told me not to wait for treatment so I made an appointment with a local rhumatoligist. He could not see me for five weeks. A week or so later with no response from my letter, I began searching the Internet. I ran across the antibiotic treatment and luckily found a doctor within 5 miles of my home who treated patients with the antibiotic protocol espoused by Dr. Brown. I remember calling for an appointment, thinking I would have to wait at least a week or two to get an appointment. The receptionist asked me when I would like to come in so I made an appointment for the next day.

On my visit the next day, in addition to going over my positive results of the RA test, I mentioned all the other problems I had been having over the last couple of years. The doctor decided to test me for candida. She found that I had a serious overgrowth of yeast in my system. It was decided that I was to be treated for the candida problem beginning immediately, and would start the antibiotic the following Friday, November 11.

While all this was taking place, I had read enough to know that the medications usually prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis could cause many serious side affects, none of which I wanted to put up with. I decided that I would avoid them if at all possible.

I began the antibiotic therapy with IV's three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Since at the time it was thought that my RA was a recent occurrence, I would need only a series of seven IV treatments before going on oral Minocin two times a week and the IV only one time per week. In addition to the Lincocin IV's, I was given multivitamin IV's also for seven treatments.

In mid December, my left elbow began swelling, and developed a large bulge from an accumulation of fluid. During one of my visits for the IV, the doctor drained the fluid hoping that would cure the problem. Within a few days the elbow was again bulged with fluid. I waited a couple of weeks hoping it would disappear on its own. When it did not, I scheduled an appointment with my regular M.D. to discuss the problem. He said that the problem was not caused by the RA and drained the elbow again. It was during this visit that I told him that the pain from the RA was so severe that I needed something to help besides the 3000 mg of Relafen I was taking each day. It was then that he prescribed Plaquinil, giving me the impression that I would be pain free in a few days. At this time I was on the oral Minocin three days a weeks, and had quit the IV's. I made visits to the eye doctor for baseline tests because the Plaquinil can cause vision problems.

When the swelling in my elbow came back again, I waited two weeks and went back to my M.D. This time he drained the elbow and gave me a shot of cortisone in the area of the swelling. I complained that the Plaquenil did not seem to be working. The doctor said it takes a couple of weeks to begin to become effective so I continued the medication. The next day I was feeling great. There was almost no hint of the arthritis pain I had been suffering with. During the following few days, the pain became a little worse each day so that after a few days I hurt just as bad as before. I later realized that the cortisone injection in my elbow was responsible for the lack of pain. The swelling in the elbow was now gone.

It was now late January 1998. My pain had climbed back up to a level where it was barely tolerable day to day. I again made appointments to start the IV's once a week and was told to increase the Minocin to 200 mg twice a week in addition to the IV. At the suggestion of my antibiotic doctor, I quit the Plaquinil without noticing any difference.

I began also seeing a chiropractor because I was having sharp pains in my upper back that would keep me awake most nights. The pressure also caused severe headaches. The chiropractor was able to afford some relief and maintain mobility in my wrists and ankles.

This went on for 8 weeks, with only a little improvement in the pain I was feeling. Some days were a little better than others but overall, little change. Then during the ninth week I began noticing the pain level decrease. For one week I felt better. Then a second week I felt better yet. Then another week with less pain. I was afraid to tell anyone for fear that things would not continue.

It was now June 1998 and I felt good enough to get back to the gym and try out some exercises and racquetball. I took it easy but everything seemed to work, and with only a little pain. The following day, I tried bike riding. With the exception of some discomfort in my wrists and ankles, I rode 12 miles with little pain. Granted, I was tired after the ride, but having been without exercise for 6 months, I think I was doing quite well.

It has now been seven months since I restarted the once a week IV's. There have been some ups and downs along the way but the month to month trend has been less pain and more mobility. I am on no medications except the IV's and Minocin. I do take a multi-vitamin along with an acidophilus and garlic tablet daily. I plan on the weekly IV's until my RA latex numbers return to normal, then taper off, remaining on the Minocin three days per week. In July, my latest blood test showed a RA latex number of 110, down from the original 507.

I have again started my regular work out program, lifting weights, jogging, playing racquetball and bike riding. Because my wrists still give me some pain, biking long distances and weight lifting are still the most difficult for me. I am 95% to being fully recovered. I am confident that 100% is only a short time away.

Fast forward now to May 2001. I have not had an antibiotic IV for almost two years now. I still take 100 mg. of Minocin twice a day, three days a weeks. I also take a glucosamine supplement daily. I have had several checks of my RA Latex numbers over the last couple of years. The last three readings have been 39, 43, and 40. That is much improved over the 507 where I started. A reading of 20 or below is normal. The numbers show I still have rheumatoid arthritis but it is under control. I am able to do the things most any other 58 year old man can do. It is probably worth mentioning that my regular MD commented during one of my annual physicals, "I don't know what you are doing but whatever it is, it's working". The last time he checked my wrists, he said he could find no evidence of rheumatoid arthritis in the joints.

It would be misleading to say I am never bothered by pain in some of my joints. I do have minor pains, mostly in my knees. This could be from old football injuries and is similar to pains long before I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis. After a couple of racquetball games, or working outdoors most of the day, I am sore for about a day.

Words cannot express how fortunate I feel having found the antibiotic treatment for my arthritis. I have been able to carry on with my life, enjoying each day with the ability to do and enjoy things that I once believed would be impossible for me. I certainly recommend the treatment for anyone with RA. If anyone would like to contact me personally, please feel free to do so.

Ray Martini

You can reach me at ray@all-plastics.com

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