Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis


When I was doing a seminar at Mt Gambier in South Australia I had the good fortune to meet a remarkable young lady, Debbie Leahy, who told me of her success in her battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). We spoke about Guided Imagery and the methods espoused by psycho-neuro-immunologists whereby, with our minds, we can increase our T4 cell count (the fighting cell) by picturing and imagining the increase of our white cell count overcoming the red cells in the source area of any illness. (Say for example, a cancer in a particular part of our body or an inoperable tumour in our head). What Debbie told me is that the reverse of the above is done when working with RA. That is, picture and imagine that the white cells are "backing off" areas of RA. This is so important that I asked Debbie to tell me more. I now bring you Debbie's exchange of emails with me. Thank you Debbie - there is a book in your journey.

Dear Sandy,

Of course I don't mind you using my 'story' if it's to help others. Do you really think that it will help others? It's strange, but when I had such amazing results with the diet I was on, I tried to tell others suffering from arthritis, but it was like having one of those dreams where you shout really loud but no sound actually comes out of your mouth. That was 14 years go, oh how much I have learnt about approaching people since then.

There are a few personal obstacles for me to still get over and I will. When I do, I will shift my focus onto taking what I have learnt and in some way put it out there.

There is nothing I would like better than to be able to assist others to help themselves. I will one day. It's one of my goals. In the meantime I'm happy for you to use my 'story' as an example. The biggest challenge I had along this journey was the feeling that I was the only one.

I didn't know any other person who was dealing with RA the same way I was. I only wish I had someone to talk to that had already done it. I'm happy to talk to anyone that feels this way, because actually having a conversation with someone who is been there and done it means so much.

I wish you much success with it.

Warmest wishes

Debbie Leahy   

Dear Sandy

I'm really not sure where to start, (which is probably why you had to chase me up and really insist that I send you this email). I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis since Feb 1991, looked for alternative ways to control it, found what worked and what didn't, but I never wrote about it. I am not a writer. I like being with people and will talk about my experiences to anyone who is interested - but write it down Oh I don't know? Can the past 14 years really be written down in an email

When I was told, at the age of 27, that I had rheumatoid arthritis, initially I was relieved. Thank goodness this wasn't life threatening. Then reality began to sink in as I heard the doctor speak words and phrases such as "no cure" "debilitating" "no hope" "wheelchair in ten years time" and "learn to live with it" amongst many others.

Learn to live with it? No way. I soon learnt that rheumatoid arthritis can control people lives, I was determined that I was going to control it instead of it controlling me.

I had only been taking anti-inflammatory medication for four months, and was being encouraged by my rheumatologist to have cortisone injections. I didn't know anything about cortisone but as the nurse began to explain the procedure I was certain that there had to be another way. They had already told me that the injection was only to relieve the symptoms of RA and that it would not cure it. I refused to have the injection and decided that there had to be an alternative.

At first I turned to homeopathy and diet. I also began to read all I could on RA and what was actually happening within the body. But this only depressed me more. I refused to accept what could happen to my body as RA progressed. I was so determined not to let it happen. Somehow knowing about it was like inviting it to happen. Rather than focus on typical outcomes I decided I only needed to know what was actually happening within my body. I learnt that when you have rheumatoid arthritis, white blood cells (whose normal job is to attack unwanted invaders such as bacteria and viruses) move from your bloodstream into your synovia. There, these blood cells appear to play an important role in causing the synovial membrane to become inflamed (synovitis). This causes swelling, immobility and pain.

So I began my fight. Because there was so much focus on diet controlling RA, I decided that certain foods must trigger the body to behave in this manner. I believed that this was confirmed when the diet I was using had such an amazing result. I was waking up in the morning without being in pain, had more energy, could climb stairs unaided, and accomplish other tasks that I had recently been unable to do. This happened within a week of starting the diet.

Over the years to follow I learnt more and more about controlling RA. I believe when you shift your focus you are suddenly exposed to knowledge that will help you to achieve whatever goal you have set out to do. It's all about choices and focus. We get what we focus on. I decided my focus was going to be on being mobile and healthy. I learnt about meditation and keeping a positive state of mind. I experienced the RA getting worse when I was negative or stressed. I learnt about mind over matter and how my thoughts can affect my emotions. It wasn't always easy to do. I had a young family, and of course I would occasionally get tired of the fight and decided "it's not fair, why me" but I eventually got to the stage where I thought of myself as a 'normal' healthy person, wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter and employee, just getting on with life.

I can't remember exactly when I arrived at this stage but I know it was a process of trial and error. Diet, positive thinking, sheer determination and more recently meditation, all contributed. During meditation I imagine a healing colour surrounding the joint that I am having trouble with. (I have stiffness and pain in different joints at different times. It's sort of like - guess which joint next.) I imagine the white blood cells, that I know are attacking the cells in the synovial fluid, retreating like an army. I create my own little battle scene happening in the area around the joint, I imagine the General ordering his foot soldiers to pull back. I also allow myself to feel any emotion that I'm experiencing at the time and 'drop through it'. I find this one difficult to explain. It's sort of accepting the emotion and falling through it. I would certainly love to improve my meditation skills and wish I had more time to practise it. (Getting up very early in the morning is definitely out for me. I love the cosy comfort of my warm bed too much.) If you have any tips here I would welcome them.

Lately I have had major changes in my life and keeping in control has been challenging but I attribute my success to the fact that I have an incredible belief that I can control RA instead of it controlling me. I believe in having a positive outlook on life and that my mind can and will control my body and I just point blank refuse to accept it any other way.

You asked me about web sites. I'm afraid I don't know any. All my learning has come from reading arthritis, diet and motivational books plus my own experiences. Over the past two years I have studied to become a Neuro-Linguistic Programming practitioner and the tools of NLP have certainly assisted me. I have let go of limiting beliefs and decisions I made at an unconscious level and I am now setting firm positives goals into my unconscious mind. For me it's a personal journey and I truly believe that each and every one of us can overcome any illness/disease if we have the will, determination and dedication to do so.

Thank you for getting in touch with me again. I'm not sure if what I have written is of any interest to you, (I can't believe I have actually written so much) but thank you, because I really think I have gained something out of writing it all down. I'm afraid I don't think about it much any more, I tend to just keep my focus on the way I would like it to be, but please feel free to ask me any questions any time.

I admire your work Sandy, what you do is amazing. You have reached out and touched many people who have never thought of thinking any other way. That's a gift. Keep up the good work. Have a safe trip when you travel to the UK and USA and please keep in touch.

With warm regards

We at CALM found the following Dietary advice for the treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis on the Internet at it certainly seems sensible to follow this diet and see what happens.

For effective management of Rheumatoid arthritis it is important to change the type of fat in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the inflammatory pathway of the human body and thus have increased popularity in the dietary management of Rheumatoid arthritis.

Increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake either in tablet form or as they occur in dietary oils. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are: canola oil (the oil and margarine), salmon oil, soybean oil, soybeans, walnut oil, walnuts, avocado oil and fresh avocado.

Many foods aggravate Rheumatoid arthritis. One should try to reduce acid-forming foods in your diet to a minimum.

Foods that are acid forming and should be limited and avoided in your diet are: alcohol, dairy, berries, tea, coffee, refined wheat, saturated fats, salts, processed foods, fried and grilled foods.

Eat lots of raw or steamed foods. Increase your intake of fish, chicken, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and rice.

The best way is to follow an eliminating diet and thus pinpoint the exact culprits.

So, this is such an important concept I ask you to pass on this email to anyone struggling with RA.

All The Best

Sandy signature
Sandy MacGregor


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