It was a beautiful sunny Sunday in May of 1999. I set out with friends on a conditioning hike from the 5000 foot Paradise parking lot at the base of Mt. Rainier, the goal was Camp Muir at 10,000 feet. The year before I accomplished this hike in 4 1/2 hours. This year I struggled, but determined to complete the hike I pressed on, one foot after the other. Six hours later, I made it to base camp, literally exhausted. I required help carrying my gear back down the mountain.
The next morning I couldn’t get out of bed. My throat was swollen closed, my saliva dribbled out my mouth. My muscles and joints hurt so bad I couldn’t move. My temperature was 93, and although I was wearing sweats, under a down comforter, and it was 75 degrees out, I shivered uncontrollably. I knew something was seriously wrong, and I wanted to die.
A few weeks before this I went to see a naturopathic doctor, complaining of frequent sore throats, excessive weight loss and joint injuries to my elbows, wrists, knees, shoulders, and ankles. He did a darkfield blood test and advised me that I probably have either Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus, and should consult a Rheumatologist. I did exactly that, and they took some blood tests. I was still awaiting the results when I went on the training hike that day in May at Mt. Rainier. I had been in excellent shape, and was planning to climb to the summit of Mt. Rainier in July. My phone rang that morning and I physically couldn’t answer it. Later that morning there was a knock at the door. It took me awhile but I made it to the door, and there were my concerned parents. My employees had called them telling them I didn’t show up for work or answer my phone. My father took me to the clinic where I had seen the Rheumatologist, and the test results were in, I had MCTD or Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, an Autoimmune disease consisting of a combination of symptoms of Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Scleraderma. She prescribed prednisone, an antiinflamatory Steroid, to calm my immune system. It worked. Within 3 hours of taking the prednisone I felt like a new man. Life went on and I was out jogging again in no time.
After a few months I went to see another Rheumatologist at Virginia Mason, who recommended that I try to stop taking Prednisone, that long term usage could do damage to my internal organs. Over the next month I decreased my prednisone dosage, and soon was prednisone free. Unfortunatly this was short lived, as I started having symptom flare-ups. Sore throat, temperature fluctuations, joint swelling, severe sunburn, followed by severe fatigue and depression. I had to take prednisone again.
I tried many alternative methods to cure myself . I was determined to beat this. I saw a Naturopath and took many supplements. I read books on lupus and other autoimmune diseases. I tried chiropractic, accupuncture, eating vegetarian, juicing, and did a couple body cleansing fasts. More flare ups. Nothing seemed to work except prednisone. Life as I new it was over. I became very depressed. I quit taking care of myself. I didn’t really care anymore.
Somewhere along the line I managed to come to terms with my condition, it wasn’t easy. I was able to get off the Prednisone except when I had flare ups, every couple months. Life became manageable for me again. I had to let go of my previously active lifestyle. I had to accept my life the way it was and move on. Later that year my sister was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. This changed my perspective dramatically. I may be in pain and struggle physically, but I wasn’t going to die from my condition anytime soon. Unfortunately my sister lost her battle with cancer. One thing is for sure, a serious disease changes your whole perspective on life. I started feeling gratitude for the simple things in life. I have more empathy for others suffering physical challenges. I had a choice, I could feel sorry for myself, which I did plenty, or I could move on with my life the best I can.
Today I manage pretty well, occasional flare ups, usually brought on by emotional stress and lack of sleep. I still take prednisone when I have flare ups, now only once or twice a year. I have learened to recognize the symptoms early on, and take better care of myself. I started biking and swimming a couple years ago. I try to walk as much as I can. I have made huge changes in my life, my health and my nutrition.
In 2008 I participated in an Olympic distance Triathlon as well as 2 Century Bike Rides (100 mile rides) I Have to work alot harder than most folks, and I go alot sower, but I DID IT! I will continue to participate in walks, bike rides and triathlons. I will also continue to learn about nutrition and health to manage my connective tissue disease. I refuse to let Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis dictate my life.
I still have pain, and I still have flare ups. I had a full work up by a Rheumatologist in 2007, when all was said and done he told me I was the healthiest Rheumatoid patient he’d ever seen.
I will attempt to share what I have learned about my health and nutrition, and how I have overcome Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, MCTD, and Connective Tissue / Autoimmune Disease. Regardless of your degree of severity with Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis, I hope some of the information I share is helpful.