September 23, 2009

Rheumatoid Arthritis - my experience :)

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, systemic inflammatory disorder that may affect many tissues and organs, but principally attacks all the joints. About 1% of the world's population is afflicted by rheumatoid arthritis, women three times more often than men.

Last year, I was carefully handpicked into this 1% of the world's population! When I travelled to Minneapolis, US in the winter, I was all excited about my first snow fall, making a snowman, seeing the white world and taking all the snow rides. But less did I know that my life was going to change for a while (or may be forever :-/). Though my stay was all that I had dreamt of, I went back to India with a gift: Joints pain! It started with the wrist and the fingers. I thought it could be RSI because of laptop usage, took medicines, physiotherapy, but it didnt work. Changed couple of doctors, and took lot of tests at the end to realize it was RA.

When I was first diagonized, I did not take the illness (just like anything else in life) very seriously, Fine, I have a problem, I need to take medicines, I'll be alright, was my thought. My orthopaedic doctor reffered me to a Rheumatologist, Dr. Satish Kalanje in Bangalore Hospital. When I first met this doctor, he explained me what the problem looks like and the only solution to it being DMARD (Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatic Drug) which comes along with lot of side effects. But a lot of times, the disease vanishes itself within 6months, so, they will not start DMARD until the disease establishes itself. So, he put me on painkillers and asked me to go back after 3 months. The only thing I had asked him was, Can I go to my Dance Class or not, he had smiled and said, wait for sometime. (heh, I still dont know how long that sometime is!)

I was told that among lot of other side effects, while taking a particular DMARD, I was not suppose to conceive. Though I was just 8 months away from my marriage and forming a family was nowhere in to the radar, the thought of the drug having any relation to pregnancy scared me. At the same time there were a lot of people whose uncles, aunties, cousins, grannys having arthritis, who condemned the idea of taking alopathy and asked me to take Ayurvedic. So, my next step was Ayurvedic Medicine. By now, my joints pain was extended to all 3 joints in each finger, wrist, knee and back and I started living on 2 painkillers a day. the problem is very werid, if you are sitting at one position or lying down without moving, there is absolutely no problem, but the moment you move a bit, it pains.

I meet a doctor, who as all other Ayurvedic doctors, HATED English medicine. He explained, this problem is because of the cold climate and the fluid which acts as a greese between the joints gets hard during cold and that is why it opposes movement of the joints. He asked me to stop the pain killers and start with his black color golis. The pain I was having was unbearable! along with this, someone suggested start taking Neurotherapy Massage. Though while getting it done, it was giving me some relief, nothing much changed through out the day.

I had started limping, everyone in office had started noticing me and asking if I was alright. I lost 6 kgs of weight in 3 months, I used to love just lying down in the bed like a dead body, at night during sleep, I used to wakeup each time I was changing the posture, because it used to pain. When I wake up, if it is early morning, I did Pranayama and then sleep again. By now, the disease had spread itself to all possible joints in my body, including the joints at the jaw. Because of that, I was not able to chew anything hard.

My grand mother who is 87 years old, used to bend and touch her hand to the ground and tell me, you also do this, its not very difficult, I could just smile and say I cant :). I remember going to a Kamath Restuarant along with my dear friend Rao and eating set dosa. Aunty later told me, she had gone home and cried in front of her seeing me struggle to chew the dosa. I remember one day shouting at my mother for adding lot of urid dal and channa dal in upma because I couldnt chew. I sometimes wonder how I managed the dance program in office, Goa trip and Dandiya during last Navratri when I had so much pain. One thing that stands out of my memory is having panipuri with my cab gang in office Cafetaria and not able to open my mouth fully for even the smallest puri :(. I'd gone to the ladies room and cried that day :(. February was my wedding and it was November when I was still limping, not able to sit on the floor, not able to climb the stairs etc.

That was when it dawned on me, that I should get back to allopathy. thats when I realized, let me be relieved of the pain, I shall battle the side effects, and let ME survive first, and then, I can think about problems related to conceiving :). So, I went back to Dr Satish Kalanje again. Got nice scoldings from him for ignoring the disease. Last 6 months of not taking any medicines for the disease had taken its toll. The ESR count which is supposed to be 0-20 for a normal person and was 35 for me in the beginning, had gone upto 100 when I went to him. I started with Methotrexate (DMARD) in December and slowly I started recovering. By the time of my wedding, though I wasn't able to sit on the floor, I could dance happily on the DJ nite, previous day of wedding ;). I did not know being normal was so exciting :)

I dont know if i'll ever be able to go for trekking, or join back my dance class, the disease might actually come back in the winter, especially now when i'm in a colder country. But you know, I have seen the worse, so, I should be able to manage even if it gets a little bad :). Besides Parents, I owe a lot to Aunty, Rao, Nichu, Joyee, Manju and Hero for all that they are :) Thanks for being the pillars of my strength! Only those who saw me during those days, knew how I was. I feel happy when I look back, I didn't do that bad after all :)

PS: I have not exaggerated or made RA look bigger than it is. This is what is my experience has been and may be if someone is diagonized and starts the medication immediately, they will not have to go through all I did :)

September 09, 2009

Paris Pranaya...

Paris, the City of Love, the City of Lights... and after my visit, I have no doubt why they call it that :). The city has so much to offer and if you are planning to explore the whole of Paris in one small trip, forget it, its not gonna happen. We went for a 4 days trip and could just get a small glimpse of the City.
We started on Thursday evening and took Eurostar from London to Paris. It was a pleasant 2 hr 20 min journey. The speciality of the train is it goes through English Channel Tunnel for 20 minutes or so. We stayed at a Hotel Called Louvre Forum at Rue du Buloi [pronouced as ruju-bulva]. The area was very close to Louvre Museum and its a pretty decent place to hang out. The rooms were pretty small, but we were fine with it, since our main agenda was mainly roaming around.

On Friday, we started with Musee Du Lourve. It was initially built as a Palace which later was turned into a Museum. If you do not plan what you intend to see in the museum, you'll definetely get lost! We spent around 4 hours, and could see only the much talked about paintings of Leonardo da vinci.

A small trivia: It took around 700 years to construct this historic monument :O. So, Hero & I were joking aroud it like this: if you go ask anyone in Paris what their father was doing, answer would be constructing Louvre, what about grand father, ditto, what about their grandfather, ditto would be the answer :) he he

Inside the Museum...
Some beautiful Paintings...
[The Museum entry fee was 8 Euros and audio guide was for 6 Euros. I'd recommend the audio guide, without which you'll not explore anything as all the boards and descriptions of paintings are in French :]
As you come out of the Louvre, you find a huge garden known as Tuileries Garden which was built in the memory of Tuileries Palace which was burnt in 19th Century.
The other end of the garden is Place de la Concorde. During french revolution, a guillotin was erected here and this place has witnessed many notable criminals being executed.As we moved ahead, we entered a retail heaven called Avenue des Champs-Elysees. Its known in France as the most beautiful avenue in the world. The whole street is covered with Chestnut trees on both the sides and all the big brands of clothing, bags and shoes, which makes it look very beautiful :D :D. Whoever said money cant buy happiness... sigh!
The other end of Champs Elysees is Arc de Triumph, to honor the soldiers who fought for France. We can take tickets for the elevator and go up for a better view of the city, but since there was a long queue, we did not climb up. Underneath there is a tomb of an unknown soldier from world war I. There is also an eternal flame lit in the memory of the dead who were never identified in the World wars.
Day two was at fantasy world, The Disney land. Since both of us were very keen on taking all the rides, we took fast passes and could go to only 4 rides. [Pirates of Carribean , Rock n roller coaster avec Aerosmith, Big Thunder Mountain and Finding Nemo]. We also loved a theatre show called cinemagique which was a combination of live performance synchronized to different movie scenes stiched together. Its a good watch if you want to take a break from the rides and relax. Again, one day is just not enough for this magic land! Day three: We started with Sacre Du coeur [a Roman Catholic basilica dedicated to sacred heart of Jesus]. Its a very beautiful church atop a hill (Montmarte). The architecutre will leave you stunned, but one thing I did not like was there is neither information written in English, nor do they give audio guides. So, we just ended up seeing a beautiful building without knowing anything about it.
Around this temple is artist street where you find so many people writing caricatures. The area around this Church is very nice to look around.
After that, we took a train and headed towards Notre Dame de Paris [meaning, Our lady of Paris]. It is a stunning gothic architecture marvel! They took around 3 centuries to Construct this Church. It was finally completed in 1320. We took audio guides and it proved really informative. There is a small Museum inside which has a nail and a small peice of the Cross which was used to crucifixion of Jesus. Also, this church holds the official chair of Archbishop of Paris.

Inside of Notre Dame Church, is filled with Colorful Stained glass windows. remember Knowledge tree?
We had lunch at an Indian Restaurant (after enough craving) and then headed towards Pantheon. This was originally constructed as a church, but later was made into a Burial Place. inside the pantheon...
Day Four was the last day of our trip, so we wanted to take it slow. We checked out from our room and kept the luggage at the front desk since our flight was in the evening. Our last day was completely dedicated to The Eiffel Tower. It was constructed by Gustav Eiffel in 1889 for the 100th year celebration of French Revolution.
The tower has three levels; we took tickets for the 3rd level and descended down to the other 2 levels. The whole city can be seen from the top of the tower. And one more must-do thing in Paris is taking the Siene river cruise. We went on the 3rd day and had a glimpse of the City of Lights. We couldnt capture much of it in our Camera, but look at the Iron Lady in all her glory. Every 15 minutes the lighting changes and its a treat to watch :)
As all good things come to an end, so did our trip and we headed back home.
One word to describe Paris is Beautiful! (No wonder, i've used that word so many times in this post :D)
Paris Pranaya..... for sure you'll fall in love with it :)