Arthritis Treatment and Prevention at Home and Clinic » Lifestyle http://www.youvsarthritis.com Your resource for comprehensive information about arthritis symptoms, arthritis pain relief and arthritis home remedies. Wed, 30 Nov 2011 04:41:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=375 It’s the Economy, Stupid–Affording Arthritis http://www.youvsarthritis.com/its-the-economy-stupid-affording-arthritis.html http://www.youvsarthritis.com/its-the-economy-stupid-affording-arthritis.html#comments Fri, 18 Jun 2010 09:02:43 +0000 Russell http://www.youvsarthritis.com/?p=25 Let’s face it: rheumatoid arthritis is an expensive hobby. Quarterly or even monthly visits to the rheumatologist, multiple prescriptions, physical therapy…who can afford it? Well, if you have to, you can…

Whenever I research an article, I scan website after website for pertinent information…which means I often read the same general information several times a week. Usually, I am able to scan through without any major incident; the other day, however, I read something that I’ve read probably a dozen times before, but this time it made me want to put my fist into the computer: “People who are educated and affluent tend to deal with RA better than those in low-income homes.”

Really? Well, who would ever guess?

Apparently, not the researchers who conduct these very expensive, often taxpayer supported studies. Personally, I would like to use some of my wasted tax dollars to pay off some of my medical debts…or, here’s an idea: maybe I could use the money to get a couple of degrees so I, too, could afford to have arthritis.

Sorry. Guess that struck a nerve.

Still, if it weren’t for comments like that, the odious expression “Well, duh!” would have fallen the way of “far out” and “radical, dude!” into slang death. Of course, well-to-do people deal with RA better…they’re the few people in this country who can afford RA. Not only can they afford a rheumatologist, they can afford to go to Mayo or Duke or Johns Hopkins to get the full arthritis spa treatment: JAMA superstar rheumatologist, specially trained nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist and even a psychiatrist to help with the transition. Afterwards, they can drive straight to their pharmacist with a prescription for Enbrel—absolutely secure in the fact that their insurance will cover it—and go back to their jobs which involve telling other people what they should build/design/type.

So, do I resent rich people? Hell, no. I resent that I can’t afford to be healthy. Without a doubt, America offers the finest medical training, technology and treatment in the world and yet we are ranked 12th in health care. (Italy, if you are interested, ranks number one). Sin is not a word that I frequently use, but I truly believe that it is a sin for anyone to be denied adequate medical care because they lack money…and as much as I love this great country of ours (and who isn’t patriotic, these days?), I believe that this have/have not system of health care is one of its greatest shortcomings.

Often, while on this subject, someone will say to me, “Yes, and look at the animals in prison. All of their medical treatment is paid for by you and me…” usually followed by the suggestion that bad people be put in a dungeon/ on a deserted island/ to death. My beliefs are even more radical: I believe that all members of the species Homo sapiens—even those of the slimy, single-cell variety—are entitled to health care. I honestly believe that it is our right as human beings to be treated when we are sick, no matter what our financial situation.

Don’t get me wrong: I may be a pinko, commie liberal, but I don’t have the first clue as to how to reform the health care system; I also respect that doctors, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies would like to enjoy the fruits of a free market society as much as the next guy. (I also recognize that—given the times—it may be years before health care reform is even mentioned again).

I do, however, have an idea on how to get the lawmakers in this country to at least think about the high costs of health care: let’s take away their fancy health benefits. Why not? You and I pay for it, we should be able stop paying for it. Let these fat cats pay for their own colonoscopies and bypass surgeries. Maybe after shelling out $300-$1500 a month for prescriptions, they might decide it’s in their best interest to spend a little time studying solutions for an overlooked national crisis.

In the Meantime…

Some of the more astute readers out there may have detected that I am slightly bitter about this issue. You’re wrong…I’m very bitter. I’ve just concluded a two-year fight with my insurance company over Remicaide (they have finally conceded, if only to shut me up…but they still won’t pay for Enbrel), and while I am grateful to finally be able to use Remicaide, I can’t help but be angry for that wasted time, for all those flares, for the new deformities, and…for all those other people out there who are slowly being crippled because they, too, can’t afford to be healthy.

Or can they? Those who can afford to shell out $12,000 a year for Remicaide/Enbrel can afford the Cadillac-brand of health insurance that already pays 100% of prescription/hospitalization. And I’m not talking about the truly poor, who can qualify for Medicaid—which also pays out 100%. I’m talking about people whose insurance pays 70 or 80%. I’m talking about me (because when I really get angry, it’s usually because I’m mad at myself).

It wasn’t that my insurance company wouldn’t pay for Remicaide at all…it was that (and I won’t bore you with the details of why) they would only pay 70%. Well, by my calculations, 70% of $12,000=forget it. So I fought them and did without for two years, limping about the house and secretly resenting my husband for not saying, “Just go ahead and do it…we’ll manage somehow.”

And I’m the one who hates martyrs.

I know that I’ve used this analogy before, so bear with me: if I had cancer, I would do whatever it took to get well. If I had to hold fundraisers, collect cans by the side of the road, sell my body for pocket change…you name it, I would do it. So why didn’t I take my own treatment as seriously? Rheumatoid arthritis, if not treated, can ultimately be fatal. But, because it’s not fatal tomorrow, I think that many of us are shortchanging our health because we don’t want to add (more) financial strain on our families.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times again: medicine is just as important as food. Just as you don’t need to ask permission to eat, you don’t need anybody’s permission to pay for proper medical treatment.

Are you sure you can’t afford your medical care? Do you have cable? Do you drive a late-model car? Do you cave when your children insist on labels instead of clothes? Most of us could cut expenses if we had to….and guess what, we have to.

And, because I am psychic (a lie…if I were psychic, I would be rich and this article probably wouldn’t even occur to me), I know what many of you are probably saying by now: haven’t I sacrificed enough? Hasn’t my family? Yes, of course you have…it’s obscene how much many of us have sacrificed and I doubt that any of us have unaffected families, either. But suppose the treatment you are denying yourself really worked! Perhaps you would even feel well enough to get/retain a job. In other words, denying yourself adequate medical treatment may actually be an exercise in false economy.

Please do not get me wrong. Smile warrior that I am, I am also deeply in debt. Even with insurance grudgingly picking up 90% of the tab, my medical expenses run roughly $300-$500 a month…and that’s not including treatment for my son’s asthma or my daughter’s chronic—and very debilitating—migraines. Every month, I scheme and scramble—through eBay or making and selling this and that—to come up with a hundred here and there to at least put a dent in our debt and keep my already-resentful husband from going on one of his tirades.

It has occurred to me that not only will some people remain silent in the face of need, they will sleep well at night if you are crippled because of it…and to hell with that. Even I’m not that much of a martyr.

So, though I scheme and scramble, I also remain resolute: I will get proper treatment…if I have to sell my soul to the hospital, I will not go without proper medical care again, nor will I ask permission to do so. And neither should you.

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It’s the Economy, Stupid: Resources http://www.youvsarthritis.com/its-the-economy-stupid-resources.html http://www.youvsarthritis.com/its-the-economy-stupid-resources.html#comments Wed, 02 Jun 2010 13:50:53 +0000 Russell http://www.youvsarthritis.com/?p=34 Okay…if medicine is as important as food, what do you do when the choice is between medicine and food? You swallow your pride and ask for help…

Really? Well, who would ever guess?

Apparently, not the researchers who conduct these very expensive, often taxpayer supported studies. Personally, I would like to use some of my wasted tax dollars to pay off some of my medical debts…or, here’s an idea: maybe I could use the money to get a couple of degrees so I, too, could afford to have arthritis.

Sorry. Guess that struck a nerve.

Still, if it weren’t for comments like that, the odious expression “Well, duh!” would have fallen the way of “far out” and “radical, dude!” into slang death. Of course, well-to-do people deal with RA better…they’re the few people in this country who can afford RA. Not only can they afford a rheumatologist, they can afford to go to Mayo or Duke or Johns Hopkins to get the full arthritis spa treatment: JAMA superstar rheumatologist, specially trained nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist and even a psychiatrist to help with the transition. Afterwards, they can drive straight to their pharmacist with a prescription for Enbrel—absolutely secure in the fact that their insurance will cover it—and go back to their jobs which involve telling other people what they should build/design/type.

So, do I resent rich people? Hell, no. I resent that I can’t afford to be healthy. Without a doubt, America offers the finest medical training, technology and treatment in the world and yet we are ranked 12th in health care. (Italy, if you are interested, ranks number one). Sin is not a word that I frequently use, but I truly believe that it is a sin for anyone to be denied adequate medical care because they lack money…and as much as I love this great country of ours (and who isn’t patriotic, these days?), I believe that this have/have not system of health care is one of its greatest shortcomings.

Often, while on this subject, someone will say to me, “Yes, and look at the animals in prison. All of their medical treatment is paid for by you and me…” usually followed by the suggestion that bad people be put in a dungeon/ on a deserted island/ to death. My beliefs are even more radical: I believe that all members of the species Homo sapiens—even those of the slimy, single-cell variety—are entitled to health care. I honestly believe that it is our right as human beings to be treated when we are sick, no matter what our financial situation.

Don’t get me wrong: I may be a pinko, commie liberal, but I don’t have the first clue as to how to reform the health care system; I also respect that doctors, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies would like to enjoy the fruits of a free market society as much as the next guy. (I also recognize that—given the times—it may be years before health care reform is even mentioned again).

I do, however, have an idea on how to get the lawmakers in this country to at least think about the high costs of health care: let’s take away their fancy health benefits. Why not? You and I pay for it, we should be able stop paying for it. Let these fat cats pay for their own colonoscopies and bypass surgeries. Maybe after shelling out $300-$1500 a month for prescriptions, they might decide it’s in their best interest to spend a little time studying solutions for an overlooked national crisis.

In the Meantime…

Some of the more astute readers out there may have detected that I am slightly bitter about this issue. You’re wrong…I’m very bitter. I’ve just concluded a two-year fight with my insurance company over Remicaide (they have finally conceded, if only to shut me up…but they still won’t pay for Enbrel), and while I am grateful to finally be able to use Remicaide, I can’t help but be angry for that wasted time, for all those flares, for the new deformities, and…for all those other people out there who are slowly being crippled because they, too, can’t afford to be healthy.

Or can they? Those who can afford to shell out $12,000 a year for Remicaide/Enbrel can afford the Cadillac-brand of health insurance that already pays 100% of prescription/hospitalization. And I’m not talking about the truly poor, who can qualify for Medicaid—which also pays out 100%. I’m talking about people whose insurance pays 70 or 80%. I’m talking about me (because when I really get angry, it’s usually because I’m mad at myself).

It wasn’t that my insurance company wouldn’t pay for Remicaide at all…it was that (and I won’t bore you with the details of why) they would only pay 70%. Well, by my calculations, 70% of $12,000=forget it. So I fought them and did without for two years, limping about the house and secretly resenting my husband for not saying, “Just go ahead and do it…we’ll manage somehow.”

And I’m the one who hates martyrs.

I know that I’ve used this analogy before, so bear with me: if I had cancer, I would do whatever it took to get well. If I had to hold fundraisers, collect cans by the side of the road, sell my body for pocket change…you name it, I would do it. So why didn’t I take my own treatment as seriously? Rheumatoid arthritis, if not treated, can ultimately be fatal. But, because it’s not fatal tomorrow, I think that many of us are shortchanging our health because we don’t want to add (more) financial strain on our families.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times again: medicine is just as important as food. Just as you don’t need to ask permission to eat, you don’t need anybody’s permission to pay for proper medical treatment.

Are you sure you can’t afford your medical care? Do you have cable? Do you drive a late-model car? Do you cave when your children insist on labels instead of clothes? Most of us could cut expenses if we had to….and guess what, we have to.

And, because I am psychic (a lie…if I were psychic, I would be rich and this article probably wouldn’t even occur to me), I know what many of you are probably saying by now: haven’t I sacrificed enough? Hasn’t my family? Yes, of course you have…it’s obscene how much many of us have sacrificed and I doubt that any of us have unaffected families, either. But suppose the treatment you are denying yourself really worked! Perhaps you would even feel well enough to get/retain a job. In other words, denying yourself adequate medical treatment may actually be an exercise in false economy.

Please do not get me wrong. Smile warrior that I am, I am also deeply in debt. Even with insurance grudgingly picking up 90% of the tab, my medical expenses run roughly $300-$500 a month…and that’s not including treatment for my son’s asthma or my daughter’s chronic—and very debilitating—migraines. Every month, I scheme and scramble—through eBay or making and selling this and that—to come up with a hundred here and there to at least put a dent in our debt and keep my already-resentful husband from going on one of his tirades.

It has occurred to me that not only will some people remain silent in the face of need, they will sleep well at night if you are crippled because of it…and to hell with that. Even I’m not that much of a martyr.

So, though I scheme and scramble, I also remain resolute: I will get proper treatment…if I have to sell my soul to the hospital, I will not go without proper medical care again, nor will I ask permission to do so. And neither should you.

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Your Life, After Diagnosis http://www.youvsarthritis.com/your-life-after-diagnosis.html http://www.youvsarthritis.com/your-life-after-diagnosis.html#comments Thu, 18 Feb 2010 10:19:47 +0000 Russell http://www.youvsarthritis.com/?p=6 by Michael DuVall

A diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis can be devastating, sometimes requiring major changes in lifestyle. But there is life after RA…

I would have rather the doctor told me I had cancer.

For me, rheumatoid arthritis meant my paternal grandmother. As I was growing up, I watched as Grandma slipped from cane to walker to wheelchair and finally, to bed. Towards the end, she couldn’t walk, write, or even brush her own teeth. Few people grieved at her funeral; the people who really cared for Grandma were just relieved that her suffering was over.

I believed RA meant enduring a pointless life filled with pain, devoid of joy, and ending with a eulogy titled: “She’s Better Off”. Now, of course, we know about new medications, exercise, adaptive techniques, rehabilitation—treatment that wasn’t available for my grandmother. I am—and I plan to remain—an active, productive person. But when first diagnosed, I was devastated. My expectations for myself and for those around me were completely skewed and as a result, I made a lot of bad decisions regarding my treatment. With all the benefit of five years of hindsight, here’s what I would suggest to anyone who’s just been diagnosed.

All Hail Cleo, Queen of De-nial

It is not uncommon for people confronted with traumatic changes in their lives to experience Dr. Kubler-Ross’ “Stages of Dying”—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Of course, RA in and of itself is not fatal, but often RA does represent a “death”, or at least an end, to certain dreams and expectations. When I was first diagnosed, I was an interpreter for the deaf and a novice fencer. I believe that the shock of illness combined with the loss of my career and favorite activity contributed to a yearlong bout of denial (hence, the title) in which I ignored my doctor’s advice and tried to “heal” myself through herbs and other ineffective methods.

For many of us, RA represents the death of our self-image and we must allow ourselves time to grieve for who we were. You may experience all or none of the “Stages”, but go ahead and mourn your loss. The sooner you resolve these feelings of loss, the sooner you’ll be able to focus on the abilities you do have…and even develop new abilities!

My Doctor, My Partner

The relationship between a rheumatologist and his patient is a commitment that often outlasts the average marriage…so choose your doctor carefully. Chances are you will be seeing each other at least four times a year; if you don’t get along, it can cause undue stress and even affect your recovery. A good doctor combines competence with courtesy, makes certain that the patient understands both the diagnosis and the treatment, and answers questions in laymen’s terms.

By the same token, listen to your doctor. Keep track of specific symptoms (e.g. exactly how long does morning stiffness last?) and let him know when certain situations trigger flares. Some therapies require patience—Plaquenil, for example, takes six months to become effective—so don’t be so quick to give up on a certain treatment. Above all, never suddenly stop taking medication without consulting your doctor first.

Also, unless you have a very mild form of RA, please consider seeing a rheumatologist. While a family practitioner does receive some training in rheumatic diseases, there are at least 170 different kinds of arthritis alone and dozens of types of synovitis (RA). Along with four years of medical school and three years of internal medicine, a rheumatologist must complete two to three years of training in rheumatology to become board certified and is then required to participate in regular continuing education. RA is a serious disease—entrust yourself to the care of a specialist.

Nobody Understands

You’re right…they don’t.

Your family, your friends, your coworkers, even your spouse will not understand. And, despite the efforts of some wonderful people who genuinely want to understand what you’re going through, they never will. It can leave you feeling alienated within your own house. Most people underestimate the endurance chronic pain requires; fewer comprehend its loneliness.

However, there are people out there who have learned to deal with arthritis and who will be able to empathize with you better than your family, your friends or your doctor. Check your local hospitals and community centers for an arthritis support group. DO NOT ISOLATE YOURSELF! Studies show that people who keep community ties are happier and healthier.

Keep Informed, Not Obsessed

An informed patient is a good patient. The more we know about how to care for ourselves, the better the chances for our recovery. And with the Internet, we are able to educate ourselves as never before on new drugs, clinical trials, studies and alternative treatments.

So what’s wrong with that?

Nothing…except when RA becomes the focus of our lives. Chronic disease is a greedy god and it demands our attention. But when we give it too much attention, when we tell people that we have RA within five minutes of an introduction (something I’m still occasionally guilty of), when we spend hours scouring the internet for information, bulletin boards and chat rooms to discuss our RA, when our conversations turn increasingly to our latest symptoms, then we’re turning RA into a lifestyle.

Keep informed, stay up-to-date, know all the latest techniques and treatments available…and then live your life in spite of RA, not because of RA.

Believe in Something Bigger Than Yourself…Even if You’re Not a Believer

I understand why some cultures consider disease to be a demon or the work of demons. I’ve been known to refer to RA as the “great malefic god” because sometimes it seems as if RA is bigger than me, more powerful than me and—in a word—relentless. It’s a terrible thing, feeling controlled.

That’s why I believe that some form of spirituality is important. When you are feeling besieged (one of my many terms for having a flare), it’s liberating to be able to believe in something bigger than yourself, something more powerful and enduring than RA. I believe that all religions and beliefs (or lack thereof) are valid; I personally do not belong to a church. I don’t think it matters, though. Whether you celebrate God or Jehovah or Allah or the Great Mother, whether you believe in the teachings of Buddha or Yogananda or Zoroaster, or if you believe only in what you see and hear but still take the time to close your eyes and listen to the sound of your breathing, you are—for a moment—believing in something greater than yourself. For just a moment, you are escaping your troubles and pain and in so doing, triumphing over RA.

It Will Get Better

You will learn how to deal with RA. Over time, you’ll find the right medication, you’ll learn adaptive techniques, and you’ll discover—through trial and error—your limitations and your abilities. Right now, Your Life A.D. may seem dismal, but one day—sooner for some, later for others—you’ll find your equilibrium. A whole day will pass and you’ll realize that you didn’t even think about being sick…that you didn’t feel sick, even if there was some pain. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never think about RA; it doesn’t even mean that you’ll ever truly get used to it. But that day will mark the first day you prepare yourself to live in spite of RA.

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