As I wrote in the first part of my story, the illness hit me pretty hard. Next, I consistently describe its progress over the years.
I deliberately omit some details in the treatment protocols and the measures that I applied. I will write about this in more detail in the following parts.
For about five years, I attributed the first signals about the presence of problems in the lower back to constant work at the computer. “Ou… It’s all a sedentary lifestyle!”, — I said when I felt discomfort in the lower back. And this despite the fact that I have been involved in sports practically throughout my entire life. Not every sport is useful. And after finishing school I did just not the most useful — a high load on the joints and back.
Before that, there was a drug fight against various urinary infections. The symptoms of which were already the first inflammation in the knee and in the eyes.
After a while, a relapse in the joints and eyes, already without the manifestation of infections … but all this was treated, of course, with antibiotics.
Then, on my way, there was no doctor who would enlighten my young stupid mind that for the rest of my life, I need to keep an eye on my markers of inflammation and pass, just in case, some genetic tests. Although, now, of course, I understand that such admonition would hardly have worked. In our free era, when everyone survives as best he can, they do not teach us the science of how to be healthy, and the obligatory and strict medical examination has sunk into oblivion. This is how we exist until push comes to shove.
The Calm Before the Storm
Over time, I managed to get married, visit several countries, graduate from a once-abandoned higher education.
For several years I have lived like any average inhabitant of the planet. I ate and drank what the advertisement told me — food and drinks, in beautiful packages and at affordable prices. I worked for wear and tear, completely immersing myself in the process. Until late at night and seven days a week, completing tasks one by one.
Outwardly, I looked healthy.
Although, the progress of the disease was already underway. Certainly, an expert would notice the problem with the naked eye.
I must say that the work gave me great pleasure. I loved programming, and I still love doing it. Because of this, I did not notice how the burden of responsibility was growing over me, chronic stress intensified, strength was depleted.
Then it happened: the first strike!
I provoked the first severe attack in the lower back by lifting the extra ten kilograms on the deadlift on the advice of my coach. I felt the effect only the next morning, when I could not get out of bed, feeling a powerful spasm in the lower back. Couldn’t straighten up, couldn’t turn my body.
This spasm did not subside for several days. The coach sent me to a rather strange granny. Putting headphones on me, she tried to find out what problems I had. As I understood the essence of the method: the headphones sent acoustic signals into my body, the device picked up resonances and, comparing them with the reference values, gave an approximate diagnosis. I must say that this old lady’s magic seemed dubious to me, and it worked mainly in favor of the owner of the device, who, by the way, took about $50 for this procedure.
Now I remember that the old lady gave some pretty good advice on nutrition and stress management. Of course, I ignored her advices. On the way, she still sold me some dietary supplements, and I have used them.
For a year, I ignored the problem. I did a massage. I decided to postpone sports until better times. Furthermore, I left with my wife on a trip to Russia. When we returned, I’ve adapted to the existence of a problem with the lower back. Having gone on like this for almost a year. It was at this time (then I still did not realize it) that I lost the mobility of my lower back forever, having grown ankylosis of the vertebrae.
Finally, according to the strict instructions of a person who was more worried about the problem with my back, my mother, I finally went to a medical center for diagnostics. Do an MRI, the diagnosis was made: Ankylosing spondylitis.
I passed the necessary tests, everything was confirmed.
Then there were visits to doctors, studying the diagnosis, methods of treatment, lifestyle and a gradual decline in the activity of the disease. What advice the doctors gave me and what measures I took, I will tell you in one of the following parts.
Within six months, the activity of the disease in the lower back began to subside, but the hip joint began to become a problem. Which, with a strict periodicity, became inflamed and began to give me inconvenience. And I finally decided to make an appointment to the doctor for my diagnosis. To a rheumatologist.
Rheumatologist is a special word for me now. From that moment on, I began to understand what a narrow specialization is.
Looking at me with big eyes, she was indignant: why did I not go to a rheumatologist for so long. I must say that I was in complete agreement with this indignation. So, the doctor quickly put me on the conveyor belt. Taking out and filling out the prescription form, she put me into circulation.
The recipe was excellent: anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, chondroprotectors, dietary supplements, physiotherapy. Everything: several types, unique colors, unique smells and a variety of uses.
To my modest: “Maybe this is not necessary?!”, the calm face of the doctor gave out: “It is necessary… it is necessary… you have not been treated like this yet, but should have been. After all, you have it sitting there somewhere!". By “it” meant, as I understand it, the pathogens of bacterial infections.
At that moment, I was asked to apply for a disability, but very few people at my age would want to write down such a title on paper. Therefore, I modestly declined. And I must say, have not regretted it ever since.
Well, since I have not been treated like that yet, but in life, they say, you have to try everything, I plunged into this funny adventure.
It was the beginning of the year in which I became a father. Later, a wonderful person was born. Who knows how I would have scrambled out of what I was going to feel in the following months after my first appointment with a rheumatologist, if not my son. This is the topic of the subsequent parts of my story. And now let’s return to the lovely days of the end of winter and the beginning of the blossoming Bishkek city spring of 2017.
On a prescription, I had to undergo a 10-day course of treatment. The first week went well, thanks to anti-inflammatory drugs, I felt relief in my joints, massage and exercise therapy moved my tired muscles and ligaments.
But on the 7th or 8th day, the symptoms began to return even despite the anti-inflammatory drugs. Muscle pains all over the back, joint swelling. If before going to the doctor I could do without the constant use of pills, then after completing the course of “treatment” I had to get hooked on them steadily.
Then came corticosteroids and antibiotics.
The doctor sent me to her student, as she put it: an excellent student! The new rheumatologist wanted to take me in another turn, but in a qualitatively different way. Further, according to their methods, there are immunosuppressants … In general, I ran away from these masters of symptomatic treatment.
And I have never been seen by any rheumatologist again.
All spring and almost all summer I lived like a tree. It was hard for me to move, hard to sit, hard to lie down and sleep. I could work at the computer for no more than 20 minutes. The neck ached — it aches without movement, pulls when moving. Daily medication, apathy, depression, pain … and the birth of a son.
On May 26th, before going to bed, my wife and I felt that we would become parents tomorrow. We did not sleep and went to the hospital at night. Without food, without taking any medication, I was with my beloved until the birth of the child. An interesting experiment for me turned out to be how, under “healthy” stress, cortisol blocks the inflammatory activity of the body. I could run from one floor of the maternity hospital to another almost without noticing problems with muscles and joints.
The next day, the pain returned. Between discussions on choosing a name and the sobs of our newly-made son, my wife injected me with anti-inflammatory drugs right in the hospital ward.
Then my hard days of fighting with my body continued. With a body that with great difficulty can lift its child, and it was almost impossible to move him from place to place. Fortunately, at this time we lived with my parents, who helped us a lot with the baby.
Exit from the exacerbation
All this time I studied my disease, its etiology and the experience of other patients. The Internet was of great help in this.
A dim understanding began to come to me that any ailment must have a cause. And if you treat only the consequence of the disease, then because of the side effects, I am unlikely to live happily ever after.
What’s next, I thought. Since the last time I was so badly crippled by medication, then obviously I need to start from there. I realized that the organs of the digestive tract, in particular the liver, and in general, all the others, receive the greatest harm from drugs. At this point, I already had problems with the bowel movement. Of course, rare and difficult trips to the toilet against the background of my main pain did not seem to me to be anything remarkable. Now I already understand that these symptoms were the main and main signals that I needed to pay attention to.
I turned to a Gastroenterologist.
Here I had to shell out a tidy sum for all diagnostic procedures.
Diagnostics revealed that I had iron deficiency anemia, as well as an enlarged and damaged liver. The doctor prescribed treatment. “Finally,” I thought, “I’m not treating the symptoms, but the problem!”. Such treatment is always long. The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis went away for a very long time, the swollen joints did not cool down. But around October of that year, I started, through pain, going to the gym, cycling. Reduced anti-inflammatory drugs to a minimum. A little later, I started swimming in the pool.
And I continued to look for the causes of the disease. Began to experiment more specifically with food.
By the next summer, I no longer had active inflammation in the joints. And I, with a creak, but still stopped taking anti-inflammatory drugs. By this time, we have already actively switched to a healthy diet. The plans were to try veganism and vegetarianism, and see how it will affect our well-being.
I didn’t take medicine, did sports, ate what I thought was healthy food, and nursed my one-year-old son.
But then there was a blow that I did not expect. After several months of going to doctors, my mother, with great difficulty, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, it was on May 20. On June 20, she was gone. It was clearly seen that it was not cancer, but chemotherapy and diabetes that was eating it up before our eyes. During this month, I shoveled tons of information on cancer …
I have not gone to the doctors since then.
This applies to those doctors who, it seems to them, “treat” chronic ailments. Of course, there remain surgeons, traumatologists, dentists and others who deal with emergency health problems.
I was very worried about the loss. For another year, I dreamed about Mom. In every dream she is alive, but we learn about her diagnosis a little earlier and try to help her.
I started drinking anti-inflammatory drugs again. But not for long. About a month.
By the spring, we already ate mainly vegetarian products, and I decided that I needed to improve my hormonal activity, relieve the already strong chronic stress.
And I initiated the process of dismissal from my job, which all this time was hanging over me. That was not easy. “I want to sit with the child”, I said, to which the answer was: “Come on! You can play enough with your grandchildren in old age!" It was not a fact that I would live to see my grandchildren in this way, I thought. Because of my hyperresponsibility, I could not quit my eight-year work without a suitable replacement — I resigned only on the first of April next year.
All this time I did not have an ideal state, there was always something sipping and a little ache. And the further, the more and more this pain intensified.
By the time I quit work, I felt like an old drug addict: apathy, weakness, fog in my head, muscle cramps … as I later found out, most likely, it was iron deficiency anemia again. But before that, I literally gave my body to be slowly absorbed into an ocean of pain and weakness.
In the fall of 2019, I started taking anti-inflammatory drugs again. And by the beginning of the new year, I could no longer get out of bed on my own.
I will talk in more detail about my third exacerbation and how I got out of it in one of the other parts.
And in the next publication I will tell you what traditional official medicine offers in this regard.