By: Robyn Grow
I’d like to share what I have learned through my experience with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Several years ago I began having soreness in my inner-thigh area. At first I thought that I had somehow pulled a muscle because I had been squatting down a lot as I was working with the first-graders that I teach. I decided that I was out of shape and that I should workout more to get rid of the soreness. The pain progressed to the extent that I had sharp pain radiating down my leg, sometimes both legs. I could not stand on one leg (like when I was putting on a shoe). I went to my regular physician’s assistant and was told that nothing was wrong and that people have aches and pains.
Later I noticed that my hands and feet began to feel as if they had been slammed in a door. I went to a rheumatologist and found that I had both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. The x-rays also concluded that I had osteitis pubis (a side effect of RA and osteo attacking my pubic joint). I began needing to use a cane to walk on most days because the pain seemed to be weight bearing. I felt like I was walking around with some kind of fracture (or sciatic nerve down both legs). I had the pain all of the time. I could no longer teach, and I began to feel like my quality of life was slipping away from me. I began visiting an endless succession of doctors and enduring the usual required MRI, X-rays and CAT scans. All the experts agreed that I had a problem, but they didn’t have any healing solutions for me. Instead, they only offered me drugs, mostly biologics (which is mild form chemo) like Methotrexate and steroid injections. Since I am in my early 50’s, these drugs were scary for me because of the long-term dangers associated with them. I chose to take a daily antibiotic (hydroxichloriquin) that kept the rheumatoid under better control and gave me more energy to focus on walking normally again.
I spoke with a physiologist, and she told me that every pound that I lose would take 6-8 pounds of pressure off of my joints. I thought to myself, “That sounds like an easy way to lift some of the immense pain that I am feeling.” So, I began a journey to feel better by losing 30 pounds. Losing 30 pounds is equivalent to 180 pounds of pressure off of my aching joints. The weight-loss did lift some of the pain, however I was still in jeopardy of losing my ability to walk as the pain was still there every time I stood, walked or tried to lift anything.
I went the full route in using homeopathic remedies. Each time I tried a new combination, I stuck to it for 2-3 months. I never really felt like there was any cure or relief in using any of them. I also used several of the miracle cures, drinks, and concoctions. Most didn’t help, and some of them even made me very ill. Through research I learned that if you have a serious condition, some homeopathics can actually block your prescribed medications, so natural remedies should be run by the prescribing doctor first. After about a year and a half of this, the only natural remedies that proved helpful to me were turmeric and ginger.
I began getting up early in the morning at 5:30 am when I was in the least amount of pain so I could walk 30 minutes. Later I was able to walk longer. Sadly as the 10:00 am hour would approach, I was in too much pain to be able to do much more. I just kept going and also went to physical therapy. When the physical therapy ran through my insurance, I bought a used Pilates Reformer and became a Pilates expert. (Pilates is great because you can modify it to meet your needs. You are also laying down as you exercise and gravity is not adding to the pain factor.)
I kept going to different doctors! (Don’t give up if you haven’t found any help!) I had been everywhere! I even went to the orthopedist who takes care of a very famous football team (osteitis pubis is common in extreme athletes). He wrote a prescription for biologics and told me that surgery would not help me. (Don’t even ask me what that disappointment took out of my bank account.) I decided to try a younger orthopedic doctor who worked in a diverse practice (athletes, young and old patients). He took a new set of x-rays and, after consulting with his peers, asked me if I would like to have my osteitis pubis taken care of through a surgical fusion of the pubis symphysis. At this point, I couldn’t work, and I was rapidly losing my quality of life. I scheduled the surgery. It meant a 3-day stay at the hospital and a couple months on a walker.
A few months later, I was back in business, walking normally and bike-riding this. I still watched my weight, walked, and kept the Pilates. Happy to be walking again, there was still a progression of the disease and fibromyalgia surfaced as well. (Fibro often pairs with RA.) I was trying to keep going, work, ignore my joint pain and feel blessed that I could walk. I will admit to those who are reading this that I still struggled through each day. My joints hurt more and more and the fatigue was creeping up on me more and more. I did the Methotrexate route for about a year and it was awful! They took me off of it because it was damaging my liver.
As I sucked it up and continued with my life, I finally got down on my knees and prayed to my Heavenly Father to heal me completely. I had never done that before. I asked him to help me all the time, but I’d never asked to be healed completely. Within a short time of my prayer, a sweet friend of mine who also was quite ill asked me if I would go on a ten-day eating challenge with her. She said if I joined her, I’d have more energy at the end. I thought to myself, “I am so exhausted all the time, but I can do anything for ten days.” Honestly, I was so sick of well-meaning people telling me, “This is a cure, that is a cure,” I would have never done it except for the fact I did it to support someone who was way worse off.
So that is how I started to innocently follow the McDougall 10-day (whole food, plant-based) Program. I didn’t make their fancy recipes everyday. Instead, I just followed the rules of plant-based eating. At the end of the 10 days, I was shocked and amazed that I was very close to pain free! I also was happy with a 13-pound weight-loss. The only problem at that time was that I realized that something in animal products was causing my RA. (I researched the concept and learned that this is called reactive RA which is considered “rare.” Ha! I have met many others!) I became more responsible with being a plant-based eater and balancing my nutrients. After about a month, I stopped taking my medications. After three months I went in to my primary doctor and told her that I was no longer in need of medication and that I felt great. She was supportive, but she had me go to the Lab for all the tests. The lab results indicated I no longer had RA or Fibromyalgia! The nutritionist was highly impressed with my bloodwork and my RA doctor and I had teary hugs. I said to her, “I bet you love it when this happens.” Her reply was, “I have never seen a complete remission like this.” I am grateful for her as it took me a long time to find a good RA doctor. Now I will only see her once a year instead of every 2-3 months.
I now live every day with no regrets as a plant-based eater because I don’t crave food that I know made me sick! I also have read the book Discovering the Word of Wisdom, which is one person’s view of how the Word of Wisdom pairs so nicely with a plant-based diet. There is also a Discovering the Word of Wisdom FaceBook support group and monthly potlucks. At the potluck that I went to I met several others who had had similar experiences: desperate health issues and getting better when they went plant-based. I do have small aches and pains as weather changes or if I eat out too often (always at places that claim plant-based), but I am so much better! The fact remains that God healed me by showing me what I needed to do. I had to do my part. If I get preoccupied by life and fall away from my exercise routine or eat out too much, I don’t feel as well, but I still am so much better and still off of all my meds. Meds are scary! In my opinion, the younger you are, the more leery of meds you should be as they all have long-term side effects. The key is: no animal products, meat, dairy, fish, butter and no oils.
A lot of people will tell me that they could never go plant based, but for me no food that causes me to be ill is worth it. I feel so privileged to be a daughter of God and to know that in this busy world with so much suffering (even worse than mine) he listened to my prayer and showed me what I needed to do in order to get better. If you read this to feel better, I hope and pray it helps you. Please know that you too are a child of God, and he loves you and is aware of your pain. You only need to ask, and he will answer your prayer too. It may be in different ways than your plan, but his way is always better.
Robyn Grow (57) lives in Lehi, Utah. She is a mother of five and a grandmother of ten. Family is everything to her. She helps to care for three sets of ailing parents whenever needed, so she must be as healthy and active as possible. Robyn is a master-teacher and has spent years in the classroom working with a diverse population of young gifted children and children of poverty. Her educational background includes degrees in teaching, linguistics, and cultural diversity from Cal-State and the University of Utah. She is currently teaching ESL over the internet to children in China. She loves cooking, outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, skiing, and anything that includes a nice day and family. Living the Word of Wisdom and plant-based eating has gifted all her activities back to her.