Hi, My Name Is Brian Darby and I’ve Had Rheumatoid Arthritis for Over 35 Years
A very warm welcome to you, I sincerely hope you find my blog to be useful. I’m learning more about RA all the time, and gaining new insights with each passing day. I want to use this blog to share what I’ve learned and experienced over three and a half decades in my constant struggle with RA. I also want to share and discuss new material and solutions which I’m uncovering through continuous reading, research, dialogues, and experimentation.
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis around thirty-five years ago. For a period of thirty-two years or so it had an increasingly negative impact on my life. It put an end to five years of dedicated training and study of full contact karate, it ultimately ended thirty-five years of playing the violin, guitar and mandolin. It prevented me from continuing almost all of my hobbies and interests.
It drastically reduced my ability to do any physical work, it also impaired my typing, my coordination, in fact almost every aspect of my life. A lifetime of skills and education became severely restricted.
Of course, there was the pain, inflammation, lack of sleep and the general disintegration of everyday life. The impact on everything that a healthy person would take for granted, you know, the little things like standing up, walking, combing your hair etc. :-)
However, as everyone who’s had the misfortune to experience this disease will understand, by far the worst thing was the devastating effect it had on my confidence, self-esteem, self-belief, motivation and my emotional ability to deal with even simple problems and tasks.
I’m a very positive, ambitious person, so throughout this period of my life I fought like crazy to beat this disease, to ignore its effects, to ‘carry on as normal’…
I should mention that I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t eat junk food and I’ve been vegetarian most of my life, although for a couple of years I was pescatarian in the belief that the omega-3’s from fish and fish oil would help to reduce my inflammation. More recently (2018), for almost a year now I have been fully whole food plant-based with minimal added salt, oil, and sugar. For the early part of my life and perhaps during half of the years fighting the early stages of rheumatoid arthritis, I kept myself very fit (karate, swimming, running etc.). I had always worked hard to maintain my health, I think that’s one of the reasons why the increasingly debilitating effects of rheumatoid arthritis had such a big psychological impact on me. I remember being angry and frustrated at becoming so ill after having invested so much time and effort into maintaining my health and learning about fitness and nutrition.
As an engineer, I was determined to understand the cause of my RA and to find a solution to it. I was not going to accept my situation and ‘manage my arthritis’ as the medical profession and most of the self-help resources would put it. Yes, I went through all the normal tests, saw lots of specialists over many years, all recommending various drug treatments, I heard all the advice… Nobody offered any hope of a cure or a solution, just treatment for the pain and inflammation and a steady decline in health, largely brought about by the side effects of most of the treatments.
I decided early on that I wouldn’t take any oral medication for my rheumatoid arthritis. I would plough on and try to find my own solution. I would face the pain (how hard could it be?) and know where I was up to each day, rather than be numbed by pain killers and be unaware of the damage being caused by the disease.
I was in for a surprise! As many of you will know, the pain caused by RA is something else again, enough said… So, I had to find some method of functioning each day in order to do my work (I ran an electronics design company which I later migrated across to IT and web design), I still didn’t want to take pain killers and other drugs by mouth because I wanted to protect my stomach, kidneys, liver, eyesight etc. You know, all the little things that a person relies on every day :-)
After further talks with another specialist I discovered that it was possible to have localised injections (synthetic corticosteroids) into the specific joints that were causing the most severe problems. I opted for these as a temporary solution until I could find my own ‘cure’ for this disease.
Again, as many of you will be aware, it’s often a specific joint (knee, elbow or wrist for example) that causes most of the pain (or sometimes a pair) and I found that a direct injection into my knee for example (see photo of my knees – the left knee had been injected, the right was scheduled for an injection), would be very effective and allow me to continue working for up to a year or more. The side effects were minimal and the drug stayed mostly within the synovial membrane in my knee. The small amount of drug that did leak out into my system, had a calming effect on the rest of my symptoms.
This is how I survived for twenty-five years or so, I’ve had maybe twenty injections over this period and I managed to avoid any form of oral medication, not even aspirin. However, there was a price, both my wrists became fused (they no longer flex), my right leg is permanently bent and I have two broken/fused fingers.
About five years ago, my situation became much worse and I was having injections every three months just to keep mobile. I was told I would finally have to start a drug regime. By the way, don’t you love the small print accompanying anti-inflammatory drugs? “May cause kidney failure.”, “May cause loss of eyesight.”, And my favourite: “Anti-inflammatories can sometimes make heart failure, or kidney failure worse.” How??? How exactly can heart failure or kidney failure be made any worse?? :-)
Throughout this entire period, I tried every conceivable method, system, and alternative therapy I could find or invent, in order to try to engineer a solution. Almost everything was unsuccessful, a few things had a mild impact, but one thing consistently worked; unfortunately it had one major drawback; ‘death’ :-) Yes, I’m smiling because if I hadn’t developed a sense of humour about this ridiculous disease, I would have died many years ago.
The method that worked every time, was to stop eating…. full stop.
If I stopped eating, the heat would disappear, the pressure would reduce, the inflammation would reduce and the pain would almost disappear too! Of course I could only continue this for a few days, then as soon as I started eating again, all the symptoms returned.
I should mention that I also read every accessible resource and research paper on rheumatoid arthritis (and associated diseases and treatments) and I also borrowed, bought and read over six hundred books on this subject ranging from medical texts, alternative therapies and the importance of sleep and stress reduction, through to nutrition and exercise.
Just over five years ago, with some engineering skill and a lot of luck, I stumbled upon a temporary solution to my problem, spurred on by the thought of having to finally start following a drug regimen, as I mentioned above. At the time I didn’t realise it was part of a fundamental solution or at least a huge step in the right direction, it just provided enough relief to avoid the follow up injection that was due about two months later.
I was happy because I was managing to extend the time period between injections and I thought maybe if I can cope for about six months, then I would be able to continue as before and avoid the use of oral drugs!
To my delight I noticed that the heat (you know, the heat that you feel in all your affected joints) faded, the inflammation reduced by itself (this never happened before, normally once inflammation starts, it’s a one way process until I receive a corticosteroid injection), mobility increased and pain disappeared almost completely. The remaining pain was the result of all the accumulated damage but NOT the active rheumatoid arthritis.
I continued with this solution for a few years and I was still fine. It was the reason why I started this blog, to share it with you and anyone else that you know who has rheumatoid arthritis (or related). Due to my changing circumstances and knowledge over the last few years, I have since changed my diet again several times, I explain why in these two posts: My Rheumatoid Arthritis – I Finally Discovered its Original Cause and Rheumatoid Arthritis – Infection Plus a Gut Reaction. Finally, in the last year I have moved to a fully whole food plant-based diet which appears to be the best overall solution. However, my original diet could still be very effective for many people with RA and because of its simplicity, it’s well worth a try, particularly if you would find it difficult to move all the way to a whole food plant-based diet.
If I had adopted a whole food plant-based diet twenty years ago or even ten years ago, I would still be able to do all the things that I worked so hard to learn how to do, but better late than never. I sincerely hope that research and discoveries (and particularly my more recent insights) will help some others with this disease, preferably before any permanent damage is caused.
I firmly believe that inflammatory arthritis is more like a set of ‘symptoms’ than a disease, and I’ll explain this further within this blog. Inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, I believe, are lifestyle diseases and I believe that the inflammation and pain are the ‘symptoms’ of these diseases and not the definition. RA symptoms can have hundreds of causes or triggers but I’m certain that poor diet and lifestyle habits form the major driving force towards of the disease state.
You can read the details of how I originally removed the causes of my arthritis here: Preventing Rheumatoid Arthritis – Removing the Causes. I’ll be updating the page shortly to provide access to my current diet, treatments and methods of curing rheumatoid arthritis which of course I’m still working on, as it’s a continual process.
I wish you the best of health, hope and happiness… Don’t give in to this illness, tell it what you think of it, tell it to go where the sun doesn’t shine ;-) and fight to reclaim your life.
I’ll try to help as much as I can by adding further updates and relevant information on this blog, and also by responding as often as I can to your comments.
Please take good care of yourself.