How to surmount the pain

by Jennifer Tucker

I am almost 61 years old. At the age of 20, I was diagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis. I have battled with this ailment for well nigh 41 years.

It started with pains in my wrist and ankles. These subsided after a while, and then returned with renewed vigour in one joint, then another, till soon I was a mass of agony. I tried Unani medicines, ayurveda, homoeopathy, acupressure and allopathy.

Acupressure has been quite helpful but one needs to have sufficient strength in one's fingers to exert pressure. I had my right knee replaced by an artificial one in 1993 and this gave me a new lease on life. I was able to put my best foot forward as a teacher. I travelled extensively and did not feel debilitated.

Latterly, however, I have seen a drop in my platelet count due to Methotrexate treatment, which I have discontinued. I have put on excessive weight due to steroid intake.

My shoulders, wrists and ankles experience excruciating pain and I have had to resort to physiotherapy. I know there is no cure for this ailment. It is crippling, demoralizing and robs one of dignity and self-reliance. There are times when I have wanted to throw down the sponge. My body raked with pain, I have cried out, "Why me ?" No answer has come. Then the moment passes and I am once more grateful to all those who have supported me through the sunshine and shadow, who have prayed for and with me so that I have not succumbed to despair and frustration, who have shown me that life can be rich and meaningful despite the suffering.

My message to those similarly afflicted is to have faith in God, in your doctor and in yourself. I don't say you will always be strong and patient. You won't. I don't say the pain will go away. It won't. I don't say the skies will always be blue. They won't. I don't say there will be only laughter in the years ahead.

There won't. But with hope and trust in your heart, you will be able to look through your tears on the bleak day towards the bright horizon, as I have done, and be thankful that another day has dawned !

Efforts Bring Results

by Shivani Barve

I had written about my arthritic pains in the very first issue of MAI Magazine. Today, my arthritis is 9 years old.

I have a son who is 8 years of age. I have to play a role of mother, wife, daughter, and at times that of a maid, when she does not turn up ! Life is not easy, in fact it becomes extremely hectic when I have to manage all these roles with my heavy aches and pains. Who do I complain to ? And who has time and energy to listen to my complaints, when life is so very busy for everyone around me ?

Last year, it was time for my son to start his primary schooling. I really wanted to have him admitted to a good school of my choice. My husband was out of Pune due to his work schedule and I had to deal with that situation totally on my own. I was taking my son to a class to prepare him for an interview for admission in that school. I was also teaching him at home.

Admission in that school was not an easy task, but I mentally prepared myself to pass any and every hurdle ! I had to complete all the household chores very early in the morning and stand in a long line for hours, just to obtain an admission form ! Next task was to collect and submit the necessary papers.

After this procedure was completed, I had to take my little boy for the first interview in his life ! I was sitting outside the room on pins and needles, worrying about his performance.

Then came my interview with the school authorities. Both the parents of almost all children were present, but I was all alone fighting my battle. Then came a long and agonising waiting period. When finally I received a letter of acceptance, I can't express in words my feeling of joy and satisfaction about the success in such long drawn battle !

There are times when I remember my past good and healthy days. I used to do aerobics and climb Parvati 3 times daily. Then suddenly I return to my present arthritic condition and wonder what my future will be ! I am still young and can find energy to participate in my son's school activities, swimming, homework, etc. I wonder what my physical state will be in next few years. But I will have to find mental strength, as I want to see my son grow up in normal surroundings and be a responsible young man.

Disease at the doorstep; which treatment to choose?

by Dr. Kalindi Phadke

This is the question many Indian patients ask, as they have a long menu to select from - Modern medicine (Allopathy), age old Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Recki and so on. A major difference between Allopathy and the alternative systems of medicine is that Allopathy is based on treatment of the disease, while others emphasize on keeping the disease at bay.

Allopathic medicines are accepted well by a majority of patients in the world. The science was developed in the western world. The drugs are invented and tested in a very scientific manner, first on animals to determine their efficacy as well as toxicity, and later on thousands of patients. All the clinical data, including the metabolic pathways, accumulation of the drugs or metabolites in any particular organ, etc. are submitted to the government agency acting as a watch dog. With its approval they are marketed as drugs. Nevertheless, it must be added that these drug molecules are alien to the human body and can produce toxic effects. For this reason, many people shy away from this method of treatment. Also, the prices of some of these drugs and doctor's fees are not always within the reach of poor people. They are compelled to turn to alternative therapies.

Ayurvedic science was developed by the sages in the ancient times after many trials with people for a number of years. The emphasis of the treatment is on using natural herbal products and some animal products. Therefore, the chances of experiencing unwanted side effects are minimum. This science uses holistic approach of treatment, giving attention to both body and mind and encourages balanced lifestyle. In that sense, this way of treating a patient is far superior to the modern medicine.

The medical science has changed phenomenally since the days when Ayurvedic "Samhitas" were written in ancient times. There have been cross breedings within the human race leading to many mutations. Peoples' life styles, habits and the surroundings in which they live have changed. People are traveling extensively and are being introduced to new diseases unknown to them in the past. Sadly, not enough efforts have been made to modernize Ayurvedic medical science. Allopathic doctors are developing new drugs and laboratory tests to facilitate diagnosis and treatment of the disease. The practitioners of Ayurveda have not been open to accommodate such changes and make use of the newer knowledge to their benefit.

Ayurvedic treatment involves the use of plants and oils. There are definite procedures elaborated in the old literature which the basic materials must undergo to make them worthy for treatment. How sure can one be that the herbal products available in the market have been through such specific treatment(s) ?

What are the chances of receiving pure herbs from the suppliers without any mixture with nonmedicinal plants ? The analysis of the plant derived extracts show presence of many ingredients, one or two having the desired medicinal activity. Attempts to isolate these ingredients generally lead to the loss of activity. Different lots of plant materials contain varying concentrations of active ingredients. These could be some reasons why the drugs are not fast acting. Much standardization and improvisation is necessary to bring this science to the par with modern medicine.

The basic principle of Homeopathy is if administration of a substance to a normal individual leads to the symptoms of a particular disease, that same substance in highly diluted form will act as a cure for that disease. For example, if a substance causes stomach irritation and ulcers in a healthy person, that substance, when diluted with alcohol - water mixture (potentizing) will be a cure for ulcers.

The basic of Ayurveda and Homeopathy is that each person is different. The doctors must understand the patient's "prakruti" or nature before selecting a tailor - made treatment. The advice is "wait and watch", which can be time consuming and not very suitable for acute illness. Also, the chornic illness may worsen if too much time is wasted in understanding "prakruti". With such individualistic approach, proper drug trials involving many patients and standardization of any kind are virtually impossible. As the drugs of these "pathies" are slow acting, with a fear of losing patients, some practitioners tend to give a quick fix by adding powders of steroids (or antibiotics to control infections) to their therapies. It must be noted, though, that these systems of medicine have proven to be somewhat useful for allergies, asthma, common colds, ulcers, etc., particularly with children and aged population, due to the virtual absence of side effects.

The basis of alternative systems of medicines is to keep a person healthy. In Naturopathy, major emphasis is on proper diet, exercise, oil baths, massages and removal of "toxins" from the body. Nevertheless, when a person suffers from a diseases, will pure Naturopathy offer a cure ?

Acupressure, Acupuncture, Recki, etc. are beneficial for headches, muscle pain and to some extent hypertension. However, if a person is diabetic and needs insulin, how effective will these treatments be ?

In the recent years, these alternative systems of medicine are experiencing renaissance in the western world. In India, it has become fashionable in "high society" to read advertisements in newspapers and magazines and enroll for expensive treatments in naturopathy centers with resort - type atmosphere. When these people suffer from heart attack or some form of cancer is diagnosed, will they get admitted to the hospitals and start allopathic treatment or continue their mud baths, herbal medicines, messages and acupuncture ? All the systems of medicine have their limitations. Allopathy treats a disease while alternative systems treat a person to keep the disease away. All these "pathies" can be used to complement each other for patients benefits. For this, there is an acute need for family physicians. This is the age of specialization and family doctors are hard to find. But, the family doctors know the patients and their families for many years. They can treat patients and advise them to use other complementary therapies. When the need arises, they send patients to a superspecialist or a hospital. The patients who often change their doctors or "pathies" are doing disservice to themselves.

Despite the crippling disease

by Prof. Malti Agtey

It's a tale alright though not a fairy-tale. It's a tale of two ladies who unfortunately were hit by a dreadful and crippling disease in the bloom of youth. It's the story of misfortune, relatives' cold shoulders and at the same time one of the indomitable spirit, staunch courage to fight the disease for leading a normal life.

As is well-known, rheumatoid arthritis does not wait for the old age. It pounces on the young too. Ms. Shobha Dhamale and Vasanti Thopte are the two such victims. Ms. Shobha Dhamale got rheumatoid arthritis after marriage at the age of 25. A son was born and her ailment worsened. Knees were badly affected, standing, walking became an ordeal. Both Allopathic and Ayurvedic treatments were going on.

This Dalit lady, Shobha Dhamale, had been working in the office of the Director of Education as a typist before her marriage and continued working after marriage.

In 1996 she visited a renowned rheumatologist. In spite of the treatments, in 1999, she went in the wheel chair and got stuck there. Her Maratha husband (it was an inter caste marriage) gave up his job and she continued working though stuck to the wheel chair. Her husband helped her in commuting to office and back home. She did manage to do housework, but mainly the husband looked after all the chores and caring for their child. At least Dame Fate smiled on her. People in the office were helpful too. Due to the disease her body was totally shrunk. Hence, she bore a sparrow-like appearance. She spread joy with her smile wherever she went. Her smile probably had its roots in her husband's love, co-operation for her.

Smt. S. Dhamale is no more now. But her daunting spirit to fight the crippling disease and strong will to carry on the routine despite it is praiseworthy and eternal which will inspire the other patients.

The other heroin of tale is 1960 born Ms. Vasanti Thopte who got married at the age of 15 and started a job as a peon. Rheumatoid arthritis attacked her at that tender age. she would walk from Chatushringi area to Council Hall for work, with aching soles, wrists and knees. She was ill-treated by her in-laws and got turned out of the house. She had to take refuge at her mother's. Her marriage lasted only for six months.

Vasanti went to Sassoon hospital for the treatment. There she was given steroid, then received treatment from some private doctors. Her hands and feet are deformed.

In 1992, she came to a well known rheumatologist with her deformed organs and aching joints and is continuing his treatment since then.

She attends to her work at Telephone Exchange where she has been working for the last 25 years. She does the housework including cooking and cleaning.

Now she has got Govt. quarter opposite her working place so that she does not have to walk a long distance.

She is grateful to the office staff as they all are co-operative and kind. She constantly feels that she would have been happier and physically in better condition, had she been financially better off and received proper treatment earlier on in her life.

Even her present condition is no small achievement. The disease definitely needs monetary cushioning and also empathy and compassion from the people around.

My fight with rheumatoid arthritis

by Mrs.Varsha Jumde

Everything was going on smoothly in life. After spending almost twenty five years in Delhi, due to my husband's posting there. We had returned to Pune. Both the sons had settled down. Our responsibilities had reduced. We both were in good health, I had hypothyroidism for at most a decade but it was under control. We had plans to pursue many activities, hitherto not undertaken.

And suddenly it surfaced. With one finger getting swollen and painful, it slowly affected many parts and my activity was severely restricted. Examinations indicated that I had an attack of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Beginning with renounced Ayurvedic Vaidya, for a couple of months or so the long fight started. As no improvement was seen, different kinds of treatment including homeopathy and other vaidyas' ayurvedic medicines followed by allopathy were tried for almost a couple of years. However, disease was on the increase, disability growing, joints, particularly the knees not co-operating. I was fearing the impending dependence and getting depressed. At this stage I visited a well known Rheumatologist in Pune. And I am under his care since then for almost a decade.

Within a few months visible improvement was felt. However, the condition of the knees was beyond improvement as the damage was severe. So it was decided to undergo surgery for total knee replacement for both knees. With this done at the end of 1998, I could walk in a much normal manner and that was a great relief to me. However slowly my finger and toes started getting twisted and deformed. Surgeries to improve upon these conditions were undertaken, but they were only partially successful. By the ime this series of surgeries had finished, my left knee started giving trouble. It was just six years since the first knee replacement operation. Examination revealed that the original implant had slipped out of its proper position and there was no remedy except re-operation of the knee. I was not initially prepared for this but the condition worsened that I had to use the wheel chair in the house and I was forced to agree to the surgery. I was re-operated last year and I am much better now. However, regular exercises and medicines and periodical follow up are being strictly adhered to.

Over this long period, there have been frequent moments of despair and disappointment. "why has this disease caught me" is the usual question which is bothering me and I know has no answer. At the same time I have full faith in my doctors and I follow their advice and instructions in toto. I try to look to those worse affected than myself. I try to imagine the condition if this disease had caught me during the period when children were young and undergoing their education. Most important I have great faith that God is with me. He has bestowed on me his blessings. My Sadguru has always advised me to pray God "not for changing the difficult positions in life" but "for giving me courage to bear the difficulties". This has given me the strength to fight this battle !!

Will Power

by Mrs.Sindhu Saraf

I went for my routine check-up to the arthritis clinic when I met a 7 year old child suffering from arthritis and her parents. My mind went back by 15 years. I was 45 when my body was first introduced to rheumatoid arthritis. At least I was fortunate to lead a normal life for 45 years. I felt very sad for the girl who was suffering at this young age.

When I first had the attack, quite a few of my joints were painful. Slowly I became totally homebound and was walking in a weird fashion. I was fortunate to have four children who gave me emotional support and spent a lot of money on my treatment. Sometimes I feel sad that I have been living on medication for 15 years. My children always tell me to think about those whose condition is worse. I have traveled with my children to U. S., Canada, London, Singapore with not much of a problem as many facilities are available for people like me in those countries. I had physiotherapy & medical treatment in the U.S. also. Recently I underwent hip surgery after a fall but now I am recovering and trying to walk with a walker.

I play with my grand children, tell them stories. They tease me by saying that I walk like a penguin ! I have now accepted my disease as God's gift as he has given me many nice things in life, like supportive children who can afford all the expenses for my treatment. What else should I expect? All the patients must have will power to bear their pains with smiling faces and thank God for all the good things they have.

My daughter's fight with arthritis

by Mrs.Mangala Bhoite

We are originally from Satara, but moved to Pune for children's education. After a few years, when my daughter was in F.Y. Science class, she started having nausea and vomiting. Somehow she appeared for the exam, but later started having problems like loss of appetite, swollen knee, etc. The doctors diagnosed her illness as S.L.E. which is a form of arthritis. Along with this, she had cough and fluid was accumulated in her lungs. So the doctors prescribed medicines for tuberculosis. Her swollen knee and vomiting problems persisted. Later on fluid was accumulated in her abdomen. She was hospitalized, was on saline and medicines, but was having no relief. Many people suggested treatment of various pathics, but we wanted to continue allopathic treatment only. In all this treatment she had lost one year of college.

Finally, we took her to a rheumatologist, who stopped all T. B. medicines, started treating her for SLE. Initially, the liquid diet and then solid food was started. Slowly, she started standing, walking without support and doing some non-strenuous exercises. The doctor's treatment, all the tests etc. were continuing regularly. Finally, she finished college and began studying for a law degree. She started having other problems, such as acute nephritis syndrome with loss of protein in the urine. The treatments continued. When she was trying to get her Masters degree in Law, her knee was swollen and then avascular necrosis. Now she is a professor in Law College and wishes to complete her Ph.D. degree in Law. "With God's grace, one day all the medicines will be stopped and I shall a lead normal life", she says. In all this struggle, it is her positive attitude towards life that has allowed her to overcome the physical problems and complete her education.

Day - to - Day life of arthritis woman

by Mrs.Sharayu Bhat

In today's fast world a lady has many family responsibilities. The lady is serving some where, has husband, in laws, children, family functions, guests & so many such things. She has very busy schedule continuously for many years. She can not think about herself during this period & one fine morning she feels pain in some joints & ARTHRITIS begins.

Actually you wish to lead a normal life, do all your work & wish not to ask any help from anybody. But being a patient you cannot finish many things without taking help. You have to bear pain in the joints while working. Some movements are very difficult & some are impossible. It takes more time to finish any work you are doing. Naturally all this affects your mind & body. Many times you feel very awkward to ask for help, but you have to, because you can not do the work without help.

Most of Arthritis patients suffer from morning stiffness & cannot get up from bed. In this case, start moving your joints in all directions, very slowly for sometime, then get up. As far as possible use hot water for washing hands & face & brushing etc. Hot water is always comfortable in any season. Prepare your tea or coffee yourself & have some biscuits with it. While taking tea read news paper. See the headlines, news about water supply, electric supply & the local news & some article of your choice. While reading news paper you will forget your pain & you will get topics to talk with your family members. You may attend toilet & finish bath & perform pooja, prayer & other things. Now think about your breakfast & lunch. While doing arrangements you may plan for the things you are going to do in the morning & evening. Suppose you have to withdraw money from bank, consider the time to go, come back & the time in bank, also.

Accordingly, you may keep easy menu. Your breakfast has to be fresh, hot, nutritious & sufficient.Do not eat in a hurry.

Arrange the dining table according to your convenience. Keep the things in such a way that you need not take help. Fill up your glass with water from the jar before sitting in the chair. Your chair has to be very comfortable. Before starting fill up your dish yourself. Observe thoroughly the diet you are taking. You should avoid unhealthy food, food that is not recommended for you. You must avoid those dishes even if they are favorite. At the same time, you should take the dishes which suit your health but are not of your liking.

Afternoon nap helps a lot to Arthritis patients. Your body needs some rest. After the nap you may do knitting, stitching, embroidery, reading, singing etc. If you are observing TV, do something else also at the same time, like cutting vegetables, folding clothes. This will help your family & will give great pleasure. You will get the feeling of confidence. Those who have got deformity in fingers should do easy things like fulwat, gawale, etc. You may present it to your friends & relatives & they will appreciate it. If you can sell the things & earn some money, you will feel its warmth. Your family will be proud of you.

Take tea / coffee & have some snacks or biscuits with it in the evening. Then go to some temple, park or ground, walk for some time & then sit quietly. Observe the sky, treetops, birds, flowers, children playing on swing, slides, see-saw. Everyday the sky looks different, the flowers are different, the breeze is different. Playing children will amuse you & will become friendly with you. You will meet your friends & will make new friends also. Listen to your friends & you will come to know many things. They will tell you about their problems, disease & sufferings & you will come to know how lucky you are & how much less you suffer. If you meet a happy & healthy person, ask his routine & try to adopt good & suitable habits. Do not discuss & complain about your Arthritis every day, with everybody. They will get bored & may avoid you. Instead of Arthritis, talk about the current news, T.V. programmes, the book you are reading & so on. Do not discus about your family problems with everybody. Instead, talk to the person concerned & listen to his problem, difficulty & attitude. Try to convince your side also, but be submissive & humble because Arthritis patients need more help every now & then. Successful discussion will give you satisfaction & strength.

After the evening walk, wear loose, smooth cotton dress. Prepare light & easy dinner. If it is cooked early ready, well & good. Diner also has to be fresh & hot. Eat it peacefully & finish it at least one hour before going to bed. Take your medicines & brush your teeth before going to bed.

In bed, take a review of the day. Try to remember whether you hurt somebody, whether you avoided some work that you could do, what harmful dish you ate. In short, what mistakes did you commit. Instead of false excuses, try to correct them tomorrow. Think about the corrections you did today & the satisfaction you got by doing so and get sound sleep. Now Arthritis is under your control !

Coping with arthritis

by Mrs. Deepa Mehta

It is a human psychology to take things for granted in our life. We always assume that somethings can never go wrong with us. When my mother had to undergo the excruciating pain due to arthritis I never ever understood her suffering. I was in my teens and was probably having my own dream world, where everything was perfect. The word 'Arthritis' was completely foreign to me. I led an extremely normal and carefree life till I was 27 and married for 2 years. I then started experiencing trouble every morning when I got out of the bed, I was unable to walk normally and would limp with a severe ankle pain. The rest of the day was fine. So initially I ignored it thinking it will soon go away. But it was not to be. When I went for medical examination, I was diagonised with Rheumatoid Arthritis. My world fell apart. I was in a state of shock.

My family including my own 3 elder brothers were trying hard to find the logical answer as to why it is happening to me. Was it hereditary ? My brothers found difficult to believe as they are completely fit and healthy. As time passed by it became apparent that I had to go for medical help. My physical pain was able to find some solace from the medication. However I was facing psychological issues. I was uncertain about what life had in store for me. I went into depression mode.

In the meanwhile I joined yoga, It helped me regain my confidence mentally and physically. By then it was already 6 years that I was married, even at this stage I was unable to think about having a baby. Would it be safe for the child? Would the child also suffer from arthritis? What kind of effect would the pregnancy have on my health? Would I be a good mother for the child when now I'm not even able to walk well? A lot of questions but what where the answers? I was gripped by negative thoughts. But all was not lost. My husband my pillar of strength was very supportive and stood by me in these testing times. My doctor assured me that I was not the first one to be facing this predicament and assured that all would be well.

With all my faith in God I finally decided to go ahead and conceived the baby. During pregnancy surprisingly for us it seemed as if arthritis had disappeared I was not required to be on medication. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Today he is 8 years old.

In the following years I continued my medication supported with alternative therapies like physiotherapy, acupressure and even medicinal massage from time to time. This has helped me in fulfilling my role of a caring mother and a supportive wife.

My son is my new strength. I am living a new life through him. I'm still having arthritis but the pain has become a part of my life. My personal aim now is to spread awareness in the society highlighting that arthritis is no longer foreign, What could be better medium than MAI. With SAIBABA's blessings if I'm able to achieve even 5% of my goal I'll live happily for the rest of my life knowing that I have been instrumental in bringing up the positive change.

ARTHRITIS Art to live with a big heart and a righteous spirit!!!!