With great pain, mom got in to see her doctor. In the 70’s, people still had a family doctor, not some medical network that you had to maneuver.
Tests were run and soon it became apparent to Dr. Brien* that mom had Rheumatoid Arthritis. Fortunately, she was diagnosed thoroughly and swiftly. Unfortunately, there were not the treatments we have now for such a diagnosis. Mom’s first medical regime for her new condition was mega doses of plain aspirin. All she could do is go home and rest. She was basically bed-bound for a year.
Rest was nearly impossible. Mom tried sleeping in the bed. That didn’t work. She tried sleeping in a chair. No success there. Finally she ended up sleeping at the dining room table with her head on a pillow. She hurt all over. Even her hair hurt, I recall her saying. And the aspirin? It helped very little but was doing a number on her gut and hearing.
“I’ve got to find something better,” she remarked. “This stuff is just making me deaf and stupid.” Hence the search for something better began.
Throughout her life, mom tried traditional medicine, lots of natural remedies and probably a fair amount of quackery thrown in. When questioned why she was on so many different things, she would reply, “when you’re sick, you will try anything to gain relief.” She even did DMSO for a stint, which is a liniment for horses that she got secretly through our veterinarian, because it was illegal to dispense to humans. This remedy actually worked to ease the pain and inflammation, but like most of the lotions and potions she used, it stopped working after a time, which sent her searching for the next relief remedy.
Probably the one biggest improvement for her came from a rather non-traditional source. A doctor, I don’t know whether he was an M.D., was practicing out of Desert Hot Springs, CA. He was treating R.A. with a mega dose of flu shot vaccine. As weird as it might seem, that is the one big thing that helped mom to get walking again. Basically she was carried onto the bus to go to treatment, but came back and stepped off the bus under her own power. If I recall, she was hard pressed to find a doctor who would administer her flu shots but she did find someone though it was a treatment that was mainly frowned on by the ordinary practicing physician.
Of course, after a time, even this too pooped out and the next treatment was sought after. It was a life long journey for my mother who suffered so badly from this terrible autoimmune disease. In those days, I’m not even sure if doctors knew anything about autoimmune diseases. Fortunately today there is more education on such but unfortunately it still takes our doctors a long time to come to that autoimmune conclusion. My opinion is it goes against the philosophy of the American Arthritis Association and the American Medical Association because they, like most doctors, want to cover up symptoms, and continue to treat and treat, not try to cure or slow progressive symptoms. Autoimmune diseases are progressive so if you don’t slow the progress, it’s fruitless to continue with just the ordinary pain pill. Of course, this is strictly my uneducated opinion, so please don’t sue me if you disagree.
So what does this dialog about my mom have to do with me? When you go to the doctor, you fill out all kinds of medical paperwork, including a medical history. Isn’t true that part of the medical history will ask if a close relative has or has had cancer, diabetes or another ailment? One of the selections is Rheumatoid Arthritis. Ah! Genetic connection. It’s all in our DNA and genes! So yes, every time I went to a new doctor, I filled out what my mom had, thinking that there may be a connection with my back pain, and stiffness. Funny or not, apparently it’s practice for doctors to never read the medical histories of patients. Not one of my doctors ever asked me to take any specific test like the RA blood test. I had to beg for it myself. I’m sure all these doctors felt vindicated when this test came back negative. It was much easier for them to say “if you’d just lose some weight, it will make your back feel better.” Or “I don’t see anything wrong with you. Perhaps a mental health professional could be of some help to you.”
I thought the next chapter I might reveal what I have had to go through personally up until now to get a real diagnosis. It’s ridiculous but true. Doctors want their fee for doing basically no research and little examining, physically. It all started with my first doctor about 15 years ago.