Friday, March 19, 2010

My New Favorite Medicine

I think I like this advice. And I may start following it on a weekly basis. Thai Tuesdays anyone?

"An ancient spice, long used in traditional Asian medicine, may hold promise for the prevention of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, according to a recently completed study at The University of Arizona College of Medicine. It is encouraging news for millions of senior citizens concerned about both conditions. Turmeric, the spice that flavors and gives its yellow color to many curries and other foods, has been used for centuries by practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine to treat inflammatory disorders.
"Turmeric extract containing the ingredient curcumin is marketed widely in the Western world as a dietary supplement for the treatment and prevention of a variety of disorders, including arthritis.
"The researchers found that the curcuminoid extract inhibits a transcription factor called NF-KB from being activated in the joint. A transcription factor is a protein that controls when genes are switched on or off. Once the transcription factor NF-KB is activated, or turned on, it binds to genes and enhances production of inflammatory proteins, destructive to the joint. The finding that curcuminoid extract inhibits activation of NF-KB suggests that turmeric dietary supplements share the same mechanism of action as anti-arthritic pharmaceuticals under development that target NF-KB.
"It also suggests that turmeric may have a use in other inflammatory disorders, such as asthma, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
"In addition to preventing joint inflammation, Dr. Funk's study shows that the curcuminoid extract blocked the pathway that affects bone resorption. Noting that bone loss associated with osteoporosis in women typically begins before the onset of menopause, she has begun work on another NIH-funded study to determine whether turmeric taken as a dietary supplement during perimenopause can prevent bone loss and osteoporosis.
"Both of the studies are supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), both of the NIH" (from

I wonder if you can overdose on yellow curry?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Real Thing, Baby?

The Timeline

Oct 8, 2009–Feb 25, 2010: Katie thinks she just has Bursitis all this time. Bursitis is caused by either (1) sports or trauma, (2) rheumatoid arthritis, or (3) infection, and it feels worse than death. Then the Bursitis-like pain starts coming more frequently and spreads from shoulder to shoulder to hand to foot to jaw. Her throat even starts hurting when she touches the outside of it or turns her head. It was nothing she'd ever felt before and when she swallowed it felt scraping on cartilage . . . because Katie knows what scraping cartilage feels like, just like she knows what death feels like.

Feb 25, 2010 (thursday): Student health center doctor checks Katie out and does blood work to test for rheumatoid arthritis, which is "a chronic and progressive disease where the immune system attacks the joints. It is characterized by pain, inflammation and swelling of the joints, stiffness, weakness, loss of mobility, and deformity. Tissues throughout the body can be affected, including the skin, blood vessels, heart, lungs, and muscles" (Wikipedia, I believe).

Mar 1, 2010 (monday): Rheumatoid panel comes back positive, which means Katie could have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, or another autoimmune disease. X-rays show no joint damage in shoulders, hand, and foot, but foot has a stress fracture (from doing absolutely nothing). Doctor tells her to see a rheumatologist to properly diagnose her. She also tells Katie to see a foot specialist for orthotics.

Mar 8, 2010 (monday): Katie sees her holistic doctor Barbara, who has saved the day countless times past. The diagnosis is that multiple kinds of parasites have come to life again in Katie's body, particularly in Katie's connective tissue . . . just like what happened on Katie's mission in Venezuela in 2003. Back then parasites had set up camp in Katie's right shoulder, but she was treated for them when she got home and her shoulder felt great within a week. The return of her friends is due to an overdose of estress and other health issues that weakened her, which gave them free reign of her bodyThis time around Katie thought there was no way she could have parasites in her shoulders because she hadn't left the country in a year. (Katie likes talking in the 3rd person.)

Katie also has Strep G, which is body Strep and attacks the joints. She got different forms of Staph infections when she went to Argentina in 2007 and Egypt in 2008, so this wasn't surprising. Katie's earlier unusual throat pain was connected to the Strep G too. And bones, arthritis, and pain came up as the number 1, number 2, and number 3 problems in Katie's body. BUT . . . the arthritis showing itself didn't appear to be RA. Barbara said, "Now I may be wrong, but it doesn't look like you have RA, although you do have arthritis."

Mar 10, 2010 (wednesday): Katie sees a rheumatologist for the first time. In preparation she researched everything Barbara had told her and made sure to sound knowledgeable enough to ask the doctor viable questions. Katie's main desire is that the doctor take into consideration that the inflammation could be caused by infection (i.e., parasites and bacteria) before diagnosing her with something she doesn't have and prescribing medicine she doesn't need. After Katie explains all of her symptoms and the doctor checks her out, the doctor agrees that she doesn't think Katie has RA, primarily because Katie's pains aren't displaying themselves symmetrically like normal RA patients and Katie's white blood cell count is normal. Most people with autoimmune diseases have high white blood cells counts because their body is attacking itself. The rheumatologist has Katie do some more blood work to make sure it's not Hep B or C or RA. This final RA test is called the anti-CCP and is more sensitive than the Rheumatoid panel. If the results are positive, it will confirm that Katie has RA. The doctor tells Katie it sounds like parasites are the cause and to come back in a week and a half for ultrasound on her shoulders and hands.

March 16, 2010 (yesterday): Test results are back, and Katie tested positive on the anti-CCP, which measures the amount of antibodies in a person. Normal is 1–20. Katie scores 153. Rheumatologist says that Katie's in the early stages of RA. Katie will see the rheumatologist again on Thursday March 25th for ultrasound.

A little in denial, Katie does more research. Her roommate Ashley is a PA and joins her in the research. Ashley's hypothesis is that since Katie's symptoms are not typical RA, the cause is still bacteria and parasites, but RA is showing up in the blood work because Katie's genes show RA. People who feel great but have RA dormant in them will show up positive on the RA tests. Katie has RA but it has not yet shown itself or is now just starting (for a week and a half now the joints of my fingers have killed, but still not in the normal RA fashion).

The current dilemma: When it comes to early RA, doctors want to aggressively treat to prevent the joints from quickly deteriorating. Medications such as Methotrexate (a drug first used in the 1960s to treat cancer)  are powerful and can do serious damage to your organs. If I don't have to be on Methotrexate (or any others drugs), I don't want to be. You can't be on it when you're pregnant, once you've been on it you could be unable to conceive, and some of it may still in your system even once you're off it and pregnant, causing birth defects. I've talked to a handful of people who have RA, and many of them have had bad side effects from the medicine. My new friend Liz I met last night (her roommate brought me dinner) went into shock upon taking the medication and her mom had to call 911. And then they pumped her stomach.

To sum up the overall feeling I have, I feel beyond blessed that I'm finding out I have RA while it's in the early stages, and even though I've usually been facetious when I've called my herds of parasites "friends," I can't help but thank them, first for saving me from colon cancer and then from full-onset RA. I didn't think that'd make me emotional but it did. Here's picture of a few of them to quitarme (that's Spanish) of that, even though this picture really isn't that horrifying compared to the others I could've posted.

So the research will continue and so will more talks with God. I know He's guiding me every step of the way.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I darn well better create.

The events of the past couple weeks have allowed me, prodded me, shoved me into reflection. My life is now in 3-D—in my face and quickly unraveling (in a good way) the realities of what I may not be able to do months, years from now. I've reclaimed my paint brushes, I'm appreciating my Mon/Wed morning walks, and I'm paying more attention to the independence I currently have. If I must start wearing pants with elastic waist bands because I can't do zippers or tuck in my shirt, I'm going to embrace it and wear the coolest zipperless pants you've ever seen. Whatever the future brings, I'm enjoying today. This life isn't the end, and there is plenty of eternity for me to rock climb and swim laps and do the wave and pick up babies.

Just now in meandering through my journal I came across this. I don't remember writing it, but I know I wrote it for me to read today.

"2.28.09. I need to take my journal with me so my thoughts aren't scattered on pieces of scratch paper only to be lost and later thrown away. If I say I'm an artist and want to be an artist and thrive on creating, I darn well better create. What am I waiting for? Paint, dress, design, decorate, collage, scheme, muster, plaster, cut, draw, scribble, illuminate, ponder, portray, portrait, sketch, capture. And then share!!! I need to do what makes me happy and lets my talents unfold. I need to finish what I start and whittle through my mental pile of unfinished creations. I don't have to hang out with someone because I feel bad. My time is valuable and can never be replaced. If I love the Lord I will spend time with Him. (Thanks for putting it so well, Elder Wirthlin.) Expand. Breathe deep. Open my heart. Let nature inspire. Take care of my mortal body. Express myself. Eliminate chaos and confusion and mediocrity. Let the Spirit confound and engage and excite. Trust. Cut fear from my vocabulary and banish it from my existence. Allow people in. Find comfort in past experiences, but keep building upward on them. And live today, live in the moment—don't already be too preoccupied with the next, the future."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Surpassing gratitude . . .

for unrestrained, eye-watering yawns.
 for being able to feed myself, spoon to mouth just like that.
   for driving carefree while in the midst of utter recklessness—very rare for me but very empowering.
     for the deep. The subsurface, the substance, the raw and undefiled.
       for the divine in the most simple of creations—the Plan in the most unimaginable of situations.