“Don’t live with psoriatic arthritis. Reverse it.”

“I met Palak Bhalla Ahuja on a cold December night, exactly a year ago, at an awards function. Pretty, petite and so charming, she seemingly looked radiant and sociable. But something about her drew me to her. There was melancholy in her eyes, and a twitch to the way she moved, which made me subconsciously alert. I knew this movement, I told myself. Intrigued, I was drawn to chat with her. Through our conversations, I got to know that she had just lost her mother, and all was not well. And thus began her journey with me to heal her psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease. Here’s Palak, unplugged, baring her heart out.” — Rachna Chhachhi
One morning I woke up with a horrific pain in my hands. My joints were very stiff and I couldn’t just open them up. At the back of my mind, I knew what was coming, as I had been dealing with psoriasis for the last two years, and I had to painfully accept the fact, that at 38 years, I had psoriatic arthritis.
I suddenly began to feel very tired. Not just run of the mill, overworked tired. More like, I-can’t-get-out-of-bed tired, can’t-keep-my-eyes-open tired, the non-functional kind of tired.  I was bounced around a few doctors and various tests. Finally I ended up with my very first autoimmune diagnosis, and I was put on methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug, immediately. Every day in the morning I would wake up with acute pain in my joints and would take 2/3 painkiller in a day but the pain just wouldn’t go away. Then finally, I would take a sleeping pill to get some sleep.The doctors suggested steroids on top of the methotrexate and sleeping pills, but I refused these. I was on heavy medication, but instead of feeling better I began to deteriorate. I became depressive, negative, and felt that the end was coming soon. My family saw my pain, my father is a doctor, but everyone seemed helpless to my condition.
Overnight, life had changed. The bubbly, passionate young woman I was seemed like a distant memory, and here was me, the deteriorating old woman, listless, not wanting to get out of the house, wanting to stay in bed all day, not wanting to meet anyone. I felt no one could understand what I was going through because I seemed to look okay. I wish people would understand what is it to live with chronic pain that deprives you from the quality of life you deserve. Rheumatology offers no cure, only pills to manage the condition, while I continued to live in pain.
One day my husband dragged me out of the bed for his award function. I wasn’t keen to go at all, but it was a big night and I felt that maybe I would feel better if I got out of my pyjamas and dressed up a bit. So I did just that. Getting into my heels was extremely painful, but I had not yet invested in a comfortable “swollen foot” shoe, so I got into the heels somehow. During the course of the evening, I was introduced to Rachna via my husband’s business partner, and I don’t even know why I just blurted out my situation to her. She immediately hugged me and said she had suffered an autoimmune disease herself and understood my pain, and that she will treat me. After having methotrexate for 4 months, I was ready to do anything to get okay and to be able to give up that toxic drug.
Rachna not only understood the ins and outs of what I was going through but also made me realise that with holistic living, I could reverse my disease symptoms and be medication free. I was willing to try everything, and so began Rachna and my journey together. My lifestyle became healthy, my pains became dull with time. I had two setbacks during my treatment with Rachna, one due to the side effects of methotrexate, which she very strongly told me to quit. My family was divided about this drastic step, but I somehow believed that the worst was going to be over. So I just took the leap of faith and quit it. The second setback was discovering I had hypothyroidism, again due to my autoimmune condition. Rachna told me she had it too because every woman with an autoimmune condition was prone to it. However, it was not going to affect my quality of life. And it didn’t.
Rachna and I celebrated my recovery with a glass of red wine at Raasta. The girlie selfie!

In the coming months, my pains began to vanish, my skin psoriasis disappeared. It’s been a year, and the flare ups are minor and get reversed quickly because my immune system and body have the ability to fight them without medicines. My energy is back and the days of listlessly lying in bed are a distant memory now. The bubbly young woman is back! In an autoimmune disease, you will always have good and bad days, but if you can have more good days and the intensity of the bad days dies out with the right diet and rest, then you know you have conquered it without toxic medication. Every day that you follow this lifestyle, you will get stronger and stronger and I see that when I see Rachna, who has been free from RA for 9 years, and her mobility and exercise levels are high, and I’m envious that she has cappuccino every day but doesn’t allow me! “A few more months,” she tells me fondly, because my body needs to get stronger to take deviations.

Today, I take care of my children and my family, I party with my friends and do a lot more that I never thought I will be able to do again. I do count myself lucky and this is a reminder that we have to appreciate what we have, even when the pain strikes.
Anyone reading my story who is suffering from psoriatic arthritis, don’t let it ever take over your life. There is a better, healthier, happier way. And I’m living proof of it.

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