It all started 7 years ago in May 2008 in Hongkong. I had persistent pain in my right thumb and index finger joints which bothered me a lot. After seeing the blood test reports my GP referred me to a rheumatologist. Another set of blood tests and I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease – Rheumatoid Arthritis in July 2008. At that moment I had not realized that my life was going to change forever. In the beginning, I was prescribed DMARD (Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drug) – Methotrexate and Folic acid weekly. I was asked to take blood tests every two months to check my ESR, RA, Anti CCP and CRP.
My body responded well and this continued for one year; it included some good days and some painful days but it was manageable. After my husband and I started doing research on the internet we realized that there is no particular reason or cure for this disease. Doctors tried combinations of drugs to treat RA and it worked differently for each person. In July 2009 we visited India and got a chance to go to an Ayurvedic centre. They seemed to understand and told me it is a Vata problem according to Ayurveda. For a month I followed the treatment – powders, shakes and tablets with allopathic drugs. They had asked me to avoid certain vegetables and fruits and assured me that slowly I will be able to reduce my DMARDS. I was feeling good so I thought of reducing Methotrexate slowly, one tablet per week since it is a mild chemotherapy drug. It was a mistake. After four weeks, one night I had a severe attack in my left shoulder. It was terrible, nothing I had ever experienced before. It felt like someone was drilling in my shoulder with a machine. I was screaming and just wanted somebody to cut off that body part. That was my first experience of severe RA pain. I do not remember how I passed that night. My husband and daughters saw what I was going through and they tried to comfort me in every possible way. Blood tests showed more inflammation, higher ESR so medicine doses went up. It took 2-3 days to become normal.
My RA was controlled with the drugs and painkillers but slowly I started having hair fall as a side effect. There was a lot of acidity as well so I was asked to do an endoscopy and had to take medicines for a few months. That led to another DMARD – Hydroxychloroquine (HCQS) that I had to take with Methotrexate.
After a year we moved to Mumbai in July 2010 and got in touch with rheumatologists here. They asked me to continue with the medicines. In Hong Kong, I was working as a teacher for three and a half years but decided to take it easy when we moved. My health became my first priority. I used to exercise four to five days a week, alternating between walking, gym, yoga, kickboxing and stretching. I tried homoeopathic treatment also for a few months but it did not make much of a difference. During the rainy and winter season, I felt it aggravated more. Having certain foods made an impact as well. I started avoiding fermented food, Chinese food (MSG) urad daal, and guava because I had pain immediately after eating these things.
For the next four years, I kept on taking Methotrexate, HCQS, Folvite, Saaz and painkillers (SOS). My ESR ranged from 25 to 45 and the Methotrexate dose reached a maximum of 25mg per week. I used to have attacks in my wrists, knuckles, elbows, shoulders, knees, hip joints, ankles and jaws – sometimes even 2-3 joints together. The attacks were so bad that it was difficult to do day-to-day work on some days. Once my left hip joint was hurting and even painkillers did not help. After 15 days my rheumatologist suggested steroid injection and I had no options. It was extremely painful; I could not walk for three days. It took a week to walk normally again. Over time we realized that steroids damage the bones and joints permanently but allopathic doctors have no other solution. Later on, anytime my rheumatologist suggested the steroids, I did not allow her, I instead managed with painkillers, oil massages, crepe bandages etc.
Last year in May 2014 I got severe attack in six joints all over my body – both wrists, both shoulders, both hip joints. My life came to a stand-still. I was feeling crippled- not able to do any work, not able to move my hands, not able to walk. The whole month went like a blur. I was bedridden, exhausted, sleeping with painkillers, a heating pad, crepe bandages and sprays. Nothing was working. I was lost, hopes of getting better became a distant dream. Even after taking allopathic medicines for six years, exercising regularly, RA was slowly overpowering my body and me. At one point I just wanted this life to end.
My husband kept on doing research on RA to see if there is any treatment possible. There had to be some other way. It is then I came to know from a friend about a naturopath who had successfully controlled RA for his patient. We started researching about naturopaths and naturopathy. After going through many websites, we read about Rachna Chhachhi – a nutritional therapist who herself suffered from severe RA. Reading her story and how she cured herself gave us some hope. My husband wrote to her and she replied quickly. It was so comforting talking to her and explaining my problem as she was understanding everything that I have been through- the extreme pain, fatigue, frustration, negativity, hopelessness.
We started the treatment in May end. She changed my diet completely, cutting the inflammatory food and adding anti-inflammatory food, supplements, green tea, fruits. I was off dairy, gluten, pulses, legumes, certain vegetables and fruits. It was very difficult initially to follow the chart as I was used to our staple food, but as time passed, I slowly got used to the new diet. After one month, my ESR halved and I was feeling much better. She was like a friend, guide, philosopher, I could talk to her about anything and I knew she would understand. Two-three months later it relapsed again but overall the frequency and intensity were coming down. That gave me the motivation to continue my diet. After nine months of treatment when I got the blood tests done before meeting Rachna, my ESR was in the normal range; the first time in the last six and a half years. I had tears in my eyes, we were ecstatic.
It has almost been a year since I started Rachna’s treatment, a journey that helped me come out of my painful situation. My loving and caring husband, both daughters and my parents have been the emotional pillars throughout my journey. I want to thank Rachna from the bottom of my heart for changing mine and so many others’ lives in multiple ways. Keep smiling, spreading happiness and continue doing the good work 🙂
— Richa Chourasia, 42 years