My Healing Story

Disease Back Ground

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic, progressive, auto-immune disease causing inflammation in the joints and resulting in painful deformity and immobility.  Unlike other types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is caused when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys it’s own tissue and joints.    

The standard treatment is to manage this disease with drugs and to suppress the immune system for life. Needless to say, suppressing the immune system with drugs life-long is a poor approach and can lead to numerous side effects and complications whilst never addressing the root cause of the dis-ease in the first place.

Crippling disease at 35 years old

One morning in late 2012, I was lying in bed ready to begin my day.  

As I tried to move, I discovered I was physically unable to get out of bed.  My knees, feet, hands, shoulders and elbows were inflamed and throbbing with pain. It was hard to move and it felt like a bus had hit me overnight. This was very untimely, as I had two small children to look after and I didn’t have time to be sick. 

My husband Brett helped me out of bed, dressed me and carried me into the doctors office.  I expected them to diagnose Ross River Fever and that in a month or two I would regain my health.  Unfortunately, that was not the case and I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis.

My first specialist appointment

At my first specialist appointment with the rheumatologist, I was told there was no known cause or cure for the disease and that I would have to manage the pain and inflammation with drugs. The thought of heavy medication and side effects frightened me. So, I asked the rheumatologist about natural treatments and diet, but was told there was no natural solutions and to get use to the idea of life long drug therapy.

I was prescribed Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine), which would suppress my immune system, but it could also cause blindness as well as other side effects, so I would have to get my eyes checked regularly for damage.  I decided not to take it for fear of the side effects and decided to use non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) instead.

I was deeply grief stricken, as you might be when someone dies. I had lost something very dear to me…my health.  What made things worse was that I was given no options or hope of ever recovering.  I was fearful of what my future might hold and overwhelmed at how I would manage.

What life was like living with chronic pain and inflammation

Life was not easy and it was devastating not being able to perform the tasks I had taken for granted. Because of pain, I had trouble with every task I needed to use my hands, feet, shoulders and knees for.  When my jaw became affected even eating became difficult. 

I had to rely on others to help me do basic tasks.  My two daughters who were three and four at the time had to grow up fast. They had to help me dress, leave me alone to sleep – because I was exhausted and they learnt how to be careful around me, so not to touch parts of my body that were painful and cause me distress. 

I grieved the loss of my independence and we all had to adapt, so I could still participate in life.  Driving became difficult, because it required the use of my shoulder to change the gears, so we bought an automatic car to make it easier for me to drive. Turning on taps created pain in my wrists and I became angry and frustrated when I had to use two hands to turn them on.  So, my husband replaced them with flick mixers, which allowed me to use them pain free.  

I learnt to walk downstairs sideways like a crab to reduce the pain in my knees.  Because dressing myself became a problem, I would choose clothes that were easy to put on and remove as well. One day I put my shirt on inside out and back to front and because it would take so much effort and discomfort to change it, I just left it and went out like that. The inflammation was so draining that by 9am in the morning, I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally.

Below is an image of my swollen wrist one morning when I woke up.  I would dread going to bed at night, because night-time and mornings were always the hardest.  My body would flair up with pain and wake me up during the middle of the night. I found some temporary relief with cold packs and hot showers, which my husband would help me with.  I’m grateful he never once complained about losing sleep to help me.  My fingers also swelled and I could not wear my wedding ring anymore.

Rheumatoid arthritis wrist

The long, winding road to recovery

Instead of accepting what the specialist had told me, I started researching.  My sister Desiree provided the first glimpse of hope by giving me the DVD “Sick fat and nearly Dead”  Click here to watch.  I watched in awe as Jo Cross healed his auto-immune disease and other health issues.  He healed and became drug free by juice fasting, so I decided to try the same thing.

I had to get well.  So my first experience of healing started with a 6 week juice fast, I also wanted to use all the resources available to me so I also tried:

  • Chinese herbalists
  • Acupuncture and cupping
  • Naturopaths
  • Periodic fasting
  • Taking countless supplements
  • Colonics
  • Homeopathy
  • I also had my amalgam fillings removed

It was all very expensive!  Even though these were all supportive in one way or another, I kept falling short of the results I wanted, to be pain free and drug free.  So, I continued my search.

I was determined to find answers and was inspired by the stories of healing I heard around me, so I studied and applied the ideas of countless natural healing methods and teachers, including;

Barbara Allan author of Conquering arthritis who promotes an elimination style diet and meditation.

The Gerson Therapy which uses coffee enemas, plant-based meals, juicing, niacin and liver tablets.

I travelled to the Living Food Institute in Atlanta USA and did a 10 day course in the art of natural healing, but I discovered I was already doing most of what they were teaching (except the wheat grass enema implants).

The Paddison Program, which advocates for a low fat, vegan diet containing exercise and support.

John McDougall who promotes a whole food, plant based low fat diet

The GAPS protocol and Body Ecology Diet, which both encourage the use of gelatine rich bone broths, which I found to be an immensely helpful addition to my healing.

Confusion and set backs 

It was quite confusing at times, the recommendations varied hugely from program to program. If something wasn’t working then I would try something else.  Even though I was making some gains, I was still falling short of true healing and was not able to stop the medication, becuase the pain would always come back. 

I had many setbacks along the way, at one point I had developed a bad sinus infection and required two courses of extra strong antibiotics. This acted like an atomic bomb on my system, which undid all the progress I had made.  The outrageous increase in pain and swelling made me vow never to take an antibiotic again, unless it was life or death, because it was so devastating to my recovery.

Two years had passed and even though the disease was not progressing I was still dependent on the drugs for pain relief.   It was clear to me that an elimination diet played a key roll in my recovery, but what was I missing????

My Ah-ha moments and recovery

Then, it struck me the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories that I was taking were damaging my gut and keeping me sick. So, with the support of my doctor, we swapped out the medication to an immune suppressant and my gut and body started to heal.

Every month the pain reduced and my blood tests improved, unfortunately I also started experiencing the side effects from the medication, which progressively got worse, until I hit a deep depression. I developed a urinary tract infection that my body was unable to fight off, because I was taking an immune suppressant.  But, I knew that if I took antibiotics again it would cause the rheumatoid arthritis to relapse, so I made the decision not to take them and ride it out by supporting my system in other ways.  

After 6 months of modifiying my diet and lifestyle, I was able to stop taking the Plaquenil, and the rheumatoid arthritis was well under control.  A few months later the urinary tract infection also disappeared.  I had a few relapes when I couldn't follow the 8 foundations I discovered that worked.  But I could bounce back quickly because I now had the strategies and knowledge. 

It has not been a success only journey and I have had many setbacks, which I’ve overcome with a fierce determination and faith in my body to heal.  I was told I could not heal from this disease and that diet and lifestyle had nothing to do with my health, but I proved the doctors wrong when my pain reduced, I proved them wrong when my blood tests came back normal, I proved them wrong when I stopped taking the drugs.  Our bodies are designed to heal whenwe give them what it needs. 

From my research and experience I now see that the basic foundations of healing are:

  1. 1
    A specific low alergen, anti-inflammatory plant-based diet 
  2. 2
  3. 3
    Rest / sleep
  4. 4
    Stress reduction
  5. 5
  6. 6
    Positive attitude (Having faith and gratitude)
  7. 7
    Reducing toxins 
  8. 8
    Having support

When I combined all of these foundations, healing was made possible. Recovery is not found in supplements, quick fixes or drugs that suppress symptoms. It's happens when we take action and embrace all 8 foundations of health. 

Healing is accessible to anyone who has the thirst for knowledge, a desire to change and commitment to persist.

Having the support of my wonderful husband Brett has been key in me being able to make the changes I need.  I have gained enormous strength from him and he never once doubted my ability to heal. He even fasted on a couple of occasions to show his support.  He supported my use of coffee enemas, water fasts and consumption of crazy concoctions and allowed me time to rest and sleep when I needed it.  A huge thank you to you Brett, I love you to the moon and back, I couldn’t have done it without you.

I am so grateful to have my life back and not to live in fear. I hope my story inspires and creates hope, that you can have healing in your life too.

All the best on your healing journey!

Andrea Richardson

"Reversing the debilitating auto-immune disease rheumatoid arthritis, was one of the most rewarding experiences. Now, I can enjoy all that life offers, without pain and fear for my future"

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