Chronic Illnesses: There is life after diagnosis

By Wakini Kuria

I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.- Joyce Meyer

Chronic illnesses can be strenuous to both the patient and their caregivers. I have battled rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for 16 years.

It has been a rough journey, where my family and I struggled psychologically, emotionally and financially. Maintaining arthritis is extremely expensive, if you consider medications, physiotherapy, diet and of course, specialists don’t come cheap.

Back in 2015, I was introduced to corticosteroids, ‘the wonder drug’ by my then doctor after I limped into his office hunched double in massive pains. The so called `wonder drug’ harbours no wonders at all. It is mostly used for patients with lupus, asthma and arthritis.

Corticosteroids treat the inflammation, but not the root cause of the inflammation, which essentially means that the underlying cause is still present. Without inflammation, there is no pain. For three months, I was painless. It was bliss. I felt this was it!

For the next three years, such became my routine. After every three months, I would go for the jab. Blissful life it was up until I became addicted and now I went in after every single month.

I knew things were bad when the side effects became evident. I lost my dark skin to rangi ya thao. Whereby, my skin became more fragile and easy to bruise. Wear and tear of muscles, skin thinning, soreness, development of cataracts, redistribution of fat, leading to a swollen face (moon face) and abdomen, thin arms and legs (osteoporosis).

I so badly wanted to quit but I was far too gone to stop. Then, there is something monstrous about over-the-counter drugs. When the pain gets worse you know where to get your relief from. All good intentions of quitting are kicked out of the window and quickly forgotten.

At the tail end of year 2017, I made the bold decision just not to go for the jab. Now, with steroids you just don’t wake up one day and decide ‘I quit’ but I did. I was unceremoniously served the bitter gourd of massive pains, withdrawal symptoms and quickly graduated to the depression class where I just wished and willed for death to save me.

I have come to fully understand that scientific meds can work against you. In my case, I dealt with the tragedy of fighting arthritis itself, prescription addiction and toxicity (which by the way is very different from side effects).

My biggest mistake after steroids, was being a lone ranger. Had I walked this journey with a specialist, I’m sure as the rain itself that things would have turned out differently.

To all patients out there, increase your contact time with your doctor and make it count. Ask questions: Why this drug? Side effects? Allergic? Alternative? It is important to note that allergic reactions (body rejecting the medicine) kills faster than the disease.

For some chronic diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, keeping warm and eating right are best options to curbing this condition. Fruit and vegetables help in repairing the wear-and-tear of joints and muscles. I am a happy vegan.

Finally, you don’t have to walk this difficult journey alone. Join support groups. Exchanging notes with other warriors. It goes a long way and the sense of not alone does wonders to motivate you to keep fighting no matter what. ‘Everyday with Arthritis’ is such one support body where you get support groups and get introduced to specialists at absolutely no cost.

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