We discuss in this interview:
- Melissa’s first signals of inflammation, treated as neuroma
- Her first RA diagnosis and initial treatment with prednisone
- How she was facing a heavy treatment on multiple drugs
- Melissa’s research for natural alternatives on the internet
- How switching to a plant-based diet led to immediate improvements
- She then found the Paddison Program and got even better
- With her physical state getting better, Melissa got back to running
- After a few months she was able to run 8 kilometers
- Beneficial effects on the liver
Clint – Thanks for joining me for another episode where we explore ways in which we can reverse inflammatory arthritis. We have another guest to learn from today, and she has a story of tremendous improvement with her rheumatoid arthritis. She was diagnosed a little over 2 years ago but believes her symptoms have been running quite a few years before that. Her name’s Melissa, she’s from South Africa and she has got a very interesting story to share with us. So thanks so much for joining us today.
Melissa – All right. Thanks so much for the intro, Clint. I’m excited to share my journey so far.
Clint – We have been enjoying your Instagram updates and you have shared sort of highlights of recent things that you’ve been able to do after going on to the Paddison Program and changing your diet and increasing your exercise. Can you just give us a quick before and after maybe a snapshot of some sort of the progress?
Melissa – So before I honestly thought that I would never be able to run again, I used to enjoy running. I was in a good place when I started getting my pain. I was unable to look after my toddler, it was really hard to just do anything, change nappies, open bottles, open taps, dress myself. But now I am doing everything for myself and I can take care of my family. I’ve just done an 8K run, which I didn’t think I would do again, which was amazing. And I’m. Yeah, I’m just hoping to keep on improving now.
Clint – Yeah, it’s fantastic to be able to run again. It’s one of those things amongst the rheumatoid arthritis community that is sort of positioned, as, almost only for people who don’t have RA.
Melissa – Yes.
Clint – So for you to run 8 kilometers is extraordinary. let’s talk about that, and for people who are looking at watching or listening to this entire episode, we are going to be covering liver enzymes that have improved by improving the dietary approach. We’re going to talk about coming off prednisone, aren’t we? We’re going to talk about how you’re able to run again and the build-up to that and how you sort of built your body up to be able to run again. We’re going to talk about Plaquenil, sulfasalazine, methotrexate, arava and all of these good, one whole things. So I’ll let you tell us, first of all, a little bit about the pre-diagnosis phase. How come it took so long, what happened there?
Melissa – So what happened was in 2017, I unfortunately had a miscarriage. And I remember it so vividly because the day it happened, I started experiencing pain in my wrists. At that stage, I was working in an office with Edmond and my friend still said, maybe it’s just from all the typing like carpal tunnel syndrome. What would happen, you kind of feel it coming on the stiffness and the pain and then it would just subside again and it was moving around. It would be my elbow and then my shoulders would hurt, my back, my hips, my knees, it just kept moving around in my body. I went to the doctor’s, they couldn’t really find anything wrong. They did lots of blood tests and everyone kind of thought it was just because of the miscarriage. It eventually kind of settled in my feet. I stopped having joint pain, but I had tremendous pain in my feet, it felt like I was walking on pebbles and they became so swollen. I said to my husband, something is not right. Like, I need to see someone else. And that’s when I kind of had to stop running. It was just too painful, I couldn’t put my takies on anymore. So they sent me for a CAT scan for my feet, they actually picked up that I had neuroma’s which is also a type of inflammation. I still remember the doctor actually calling everyone around because I’ve never seen so many. I had three and they were huge on my feet. And so I ended up needing an operation to get them removed. They said there’s no way that they would clear up naturally.
Melissa – I’ve lost a lot of feeling where they had to cut away. The Neuroma was like one centimeter in diameter, which is almost the size of a marble. So I think that was kind of a red flag of severe inflammation, which no one just ever picked up on because they focused on the neuroma. So after that, I felt fine, I was waiting for my feet to heal so I can start getting back into running and exercising again. Then we felt pregnant again. obviously, I didn’t do any exercise, I was so overcautious this time. When I started weaning my youngest one, I just noticed one night getting up when he woke up and I couldn’t pick him up out of the cart. My hands were just so sensitive, so sore, and then it was my feet. So it kind of came back in my hands and my feet and my feet started swelling again, and I thought I had neuroma. So they sent me for scans, there was nothing, they just said, we can’t find anything. But there’s severe inflammation in your feet. From there, I eventually went to see someone I couldn’t get into with the doctor because we only have one in the whole Eastern Cape, there’s only one rheumatologist. And I actually phoned them.
Clint – Are you in Cape Town?
Melissa – I’m in Eastern Cape, I’m in Grahamstown. So Eastern Cape is quite a big province.
Clint – Yeah.
Melissa – And in the entire Eastern Cape, there’s only one rheumatologist. So you would have to go to Jo’burg or Cape Town, which is 12 or 9 hours away to see another one.
Clint – Wow.
Melissa – So when I found her books were closed, you couldn’t even get an appointment. And here I was in severe pain, I couldn’t walk, my husband had to carry me to bed sometimes at night the kids were upset. Mom is always the strong one and always looking after us and I was just unable to do stuff. I think it started long ago, there was just and I’ve spoken to other people before, so maybe someone listening out there that had that also had neuroma. And they’ve also eventually it went over into RA so that could have been an indication of something isn’t right.
Clint – That’s crazy. So what did you do? I mean, did you then go to the waiting list or did you go to Jo’burg or Cape Town?
Melissa – I couldn’t even get on a waiting list. So I phoned them in January in tears, it was like 7 -00 in the morning. And I said that I have to phone in July, they couldn’t even put me on a waiting list. My local GP is amazing, he was my next call. He said to my husband, just bring it to the office right now, I’ll meet you guys there, he gave me an injection, I explained to them I can’t see the rheumatologist. So he started me off on prednisone just so that I could function, and then he eventually referred me to a specialist. I can’t remember what he did exactly, but he specialized in arthritis as well. So he ended up doing loads of tests and blood works. And then he came back to me and said He actually thinks I’ve got RA at that stage. Then the plan was I had an appointment to see someone in Johannesburg and then COVID happened. Everything just stopped, we never got to Jo’burg, and I never got to see a doctor. It was just terrible.
Clint – And so you did maybe a year and a half or something on the prednisone.
Melissa – On Prednisone and my GP, then started me on methotrexate because you said that would have been the first thing that she would have started me on anyway. But I was very reluctant, it took months, but eventually I said to them I can’t go on like this anymore. I can’t just drink copious amounts of Voltaren and prednisone just to function. I just knew that you know, you know, your face starts swelling up. So apart from being depressed that you can’t function, you look in the mirror and you’re depressed again because you just don’t look like yourself, you know?
Clint – It’s awful. I got buddies who help people with different diseases, different conditions in particular one group of friends of mine Mastering diabetes. My friends help people with type two diabetes and type one diabetes. And I look at the type two diabetes, which, testimonials come through in abundance on their site. It just pales in comparison to the challenges that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis, it’s a whole different beast. We as a community, as a rheumatoid community, it’s what we deal with and it’s what our life is, we face it, and we work on these challenges and we try to calm them and stuff. And there really is not a lot of things that are as hard as this. It’s really up there with like as bad a condition as you could ever, unfortunately, be presented with.
Melissa – You can’t explain it to anyone if they haven’t experienced it. And I think that was the hardest for my husband as well, was he saw me in pain, but I didn’t know what to do. You know, you and you try and explain it to someone. It lets you feels like if anyone’s going to touch you, you’re just going to shatter to pieces. You know, your hands are just so sensitive. The kids can’t touch you and you just sit there. I remember having days where I would just sit with my hands like this. And no one must touch me. And you just feel sorry for yourself. And until. Until the prednisone starts kicking in. I mean, it takes hours before you can. Before you can function. And I was I was speaking to some of my friends and we’ve seen the transformation. And they, you know, I tried to explain to them what I had gone through because in lockdown, the worst part of my RA happened in lockdown. So not a lot of people saw what was going on. And just my close, you know, my husband and my kids are actually the only ones that saw me on my really worst days. And my mom and I said to them, guys, you just can’t I can’t explain to you the pain. It’s like in your bones, you know, even try to think back. Feeling as good as I feel now, I sometimes would get how bad I was and how sore it was. And just going for a walk was so painful. Limping. I limped for a year and a half. I thought eventually my my hips are going to give in. You know, something else is going to going to cave in because I can’t walk properly. Yes. Absolutely.
Clint – Goodness. So tell us. After the curve had passed to the point where you were then able to see a specialist. What happened?
Melissa – So I managed to eventually see her in 2021, in April. So that means I was on prednisone for a year and a half before I eventually got to see her. No, it wasn’t possible, no one could travel. We were all like band, everyone was locked in the boundaries, and the borders were closed. And because of COVID, I was waiting 6 months and that became another 6 months. So I eventually got a booking for April in 2021. So yeah, so she was really concerned that I was still on prednisone for that amount of time. I said, Well, there was nothing else to do, that’s how I had to function. So I went to see her then in April and she looked at me and examined and my CRP levels were really high, I think it was about 25 at that stage. She was concerned, she said I had a really aggressive kind of RA, whatever that means. So for the amount of time I’ve had and the damage it had done so far, she was really concerned with. So she said we needed an aggressive plan and she started me off with and then sulfasalazine I can’t pronounce that one. And kept me on methotrexate, but increase the dose and I said I should stay on prednisone if I feel I need it. So that was her three-month plan. Never spoke about exercise, we never spoke about diet. I just felt so hopeless, it felt like there was nothing that I could do and I just refuse to accept that there was nothing that I can do that it was only going to be medication. And from the first appointment, she started prepping me for the fact that eventually I would have to go onto biologics. I was like, that can’t be it there has to be something else.
Clint – I can completely relate to that, I was told similar things. Diet doesn’t really matter, no talk of exercise at all. In fact, when it comes to exercise, even rheumatologists that are close to me that I work with frequently, some of them are pretty shy to even comment on exercise. I think that when you become highly specialized in a medical field, it seems to make some of the specialists reluctant to speak outside of their knowledge bases if they can’t even offer a personal opinion. Common sense should come into this and say, exercise is beneficial, exercise is helpful. You have to read the literature. If you go into PubMed and you say rheumatoid arthritis exercise, the guidelines come up straight away that everyone under exercises, exercises are safe, resistance training is safe, cardiovascular exercise is underdone and should be encouraged amongst people with RA. All the studies support it so the rheumatologist is almost just ignoring the literature which they should know by saying, oh no, not even comment. It it should be pushed upon us, you’ve got to keep moving, you must. It’s one of the greatest therapeutic approaches you have in your toolkit is to become more active, become more fit, so, yes, it’s mind-blowing. Like what patients know sometimes that the doctors don’t. But that’s okay, we the heck of a lot of stuff they know they know that we don’t. And so that’s true knowledge.
Melissa – That’s true and they’ve seen a lot, you know. but I know what I feel.
Clint – Yeah and you felt like there’s got to be something more. So you’ve walked away from that appointment on Plaquenil, Sulfasalazine, Methotrexate and Prednisone.
Melissa – I had a hand like a handful of tablets. I was still sending my friends messages, I took a picture I said, this is my healthy breakfast this morning, just a handful of pills. I think it was so hard for me to accept because I’ve never been sick, I’ve never had any issues, I’ve always been healthy, and I’ve always looked after myself. I was following what I thought was a relatively healthy diet, exercised. And suddenly, you just get diagnosed with the label and they just tell you it’s never going to go away, you are stuck with this. And then you see people coming into the waiting room. And I look at their hands, I think I was a mess by the time I got into the office I was just sobbing. You think is this is what’s going to happen? I was only 40 or 39 when I was diagnosed. I mean, do you think that should be for someone who’s 70 or 80? I just walked away just feeling so hopeless. But I’ve always been searching the Internet, I’ve always been Googling, I’ve been trying to just look for health and natural alternatives. I tried everything, every oil, every supplement, every tablet, anything that people say is rub sesame oil on. I was rubbing sesame oil on or whatever they told me to do, I just needed to find something else. And then what actually happened was in May 2021, I watched a few documentaries on the connection between diet and health, and the penny just dropped. You know, I looked at these people and I listened to what they were saying and it just made so much sense.
Melissa – So in May, I just went plant-based cold turkey. That was the 1st of May, I just cut everything. And I said to my husband, What have I got to lose? It’s three months before I see the rheumatologist again taking one of these tablets, I’m in so much pain. Because even with all of the medication, there’s always this level of pain. It never disappears, it just becomes a bit more manageable but it’s always there. Every day you wake up and, you know, you’ve got RA. So I said, I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m just going to give it a go. My family was really supportive and I think it was within about 2 months I started noticing there was I really felt a difference in my body and I was able to cut down on my prednisone, I started feeling like I don’t need it anymore. Which was huge because I couldn’t even that one tablet, I couldn’t get off that one tablet of prednisone without just feeling like I was cramping up. So I went to see her in June again. My CRP levels hadn’t come down but she said the fact that I felt that I didn’t need prednisone was a win. And obviously, she said she’s so glad the medication is working and I just knew it’s my diet. There’s something about being plant-based that has really made a difference. Then she said that the medication wasn’t working. Well, not the way she wanted it to. Sorry, so when I went to see her in three months, I’m jumping, I’ve got so much going on in my head. She said that because my CRP levels hadn’t gone down that apparent it feels like we need to try something else. And so she stopped me over to remalif, which I think has got a different name that we looked at.
Clint – I think it’s Arava or leflunomide.
Melissa – Yes. So she took away the others and she left me on methotrexate and Remalif, and she gave me a prescription for prednisone just in case.
Clint – The Sulfasalazine got taken away, did it?
Melissa – Yes, that also got taken away. Yeah. I was so glad, I was so scared of those medications. Everything that I read about it just. Yeah. So then she said I had to see it in 3 months again, but I just kept going plant-based in that time and I just felt better every day. I know it wasn’t those medications because I started feeling a difference before, and even the medications take about 3 or 4 months before you feel anything. When I saw her again in 3 months, my CRP levels had dropped to 3 from 25. I was off prednisone and that’s when she said she was glad the meds are doing their thing and I’m like, no, not really. And I tried to tell her about my diet, but she just kind of brushed it aside and told me to just carry on with the medication. So I said, Please, can we just lower the methotrexate? Because my hair was falling out and I just wanted to be off the methotrexate. So she did reduce it very reluctantly to about four tablets. So that’s 10 milligrams. Thank God. Yeah. Then I also started running in September 2021 because I wasn’t limping anymore. You know, I could put my takies on. I first started walking and I didn’t just go out running. I first noticed I could walk to town, I would put it in the pram and go for walks because I couldn’t push the pram before it was too painful, the way of folding it, so I started just walking first. And then they had this challenge in our town for spring, it was just short runs. So I thought let me start with that, it’s just once a week I’m sure I could do it. Yeah. So I nearly died the first one. Not from any pain anywhere, apart from my lungs, just feeling I was so unfit. But I did have a needle in my hip.
Clint – This is really interesting. We don’t know how unfit we are until we try and do something that we watch people do on a Sunday morning at 7 -30 who don’t have any health problems, which is just going for a jog, whether it be a couple of kilometers or if you’re in the US like a mile or two. This should be very, very achievable for an adult human. This is not something that’s, is something that like I’m 46, early forties. Right. This is something that we should be comfortably able to do, but we don’t know that we’re that unfit and we don’t realize the potential resources of inflammation reduction that we’re not tapping into because of our lack of fitness. You saw that when you started to do something physical, a little bit cardiovascular, and you said you almost died like you felt like it was so hard. Your lungs were burning, you got that feeling. Well, that’s an indication of where most people are playing at, myself included, I don’t do a lot of really intense cardio stuff. And where we could be is so much higher in terms of our cardiovascular fitness. Now, what does that translate to? That translates to a reduction of oxidative stress, and reduction of inflammation, basically, it’s anti-inflammatory. So everyone who says, oh, you know, like if I say, how’s your fitness levels or do you exercise? Oh, well, I go for a walk every day, I walk the dog or I walk down here. That’s nothing, that’s just barely maintenance level. There’s a whole resource of anti-inflammatory that’s like a mine that we’re sitting on that we’re not tapping into. We need to train.
Melissa – You will never know if no one tells you about it. You think because you can’t because you’re physically in so much pain that all you should do is just sit and not move around. And it wasn’t until I discovered your program and understood a bit more about what I can do to help my body, that it’s just started making sense and I could feel it.
Clint – So the run became a reality after doing a little bit of these. So these smaller samples size of runs, the evolution to the eight-kilometer. How much time period was between the little first run and the 8K.
Melissa – Okay, so as I started in September, I only ran once a week. I just physically as a mom with three kids, lots of schedules, just didn’t have any more time. So it was a 4K run every Tuesday, and my middle son has been doing it with me, but he just goes ahead like I can’t even keep up with him, but he waits for me at the finish line every Tuesday. So I started with that and then after in January. So now I had some pain because this is quite important. I had pain in my hip every time I ran, and then for a few days afterward, every time you get up, you just feel, you know, something’s not right. And I thought it was because I’d been limping for so long that I had affected my hip for some reason. I was guided to your program by Dr. McDougall because I just wasn’t going to give up and give over to the medication. Found your program just it just looked so inspiring, I felt like, there’s hope again. There is something I can do, I don’t just have to give over to the medication, the biologics, and do this thing that was just kind of taking over my body. Because even though I’d be feeling better on the plant base, there was still that level of pain. And I remember typing an email to you and saying in the email, my fingers are hurting so much as I’m typing this. So I carried on with the with the running, there was a break in December because it was the holidays we don’t run so much. But I started with your program in January, then took up running and also started doing some other exercises twice a week.
Melissa – More like strength, not strength training, like body workouts at the gym, which I thought was attainable for me. They knew about my wrist, so they always gave me something else that I could do. So I wanted to start getting my legs strong again and just moving. And when I ran again in February, I’d been on your program for four weeks, I started running again. I had never had such a good run, I did a personal best that day. I felt so strong, and that was on the limited, very limited diets. In the beginning, when you feel like you’re eating nothing and everyone thinks you’re how are you looking after yourself? You’re living off buckwheat and sweet potato. I was running, I felt so amazing, I felt so strong, and I had no pain in my hip at all, I’ve never had that pain again. And I remember getting to my son. He was like, What? How did you do it so fast? Like, I just finished and you would just behind me. And I said, My boy, I felt so amazing. Like, this was such a good run. I said Mommy told you what I’m eating is working. So I can’t remember the 8K was now in March, so it was from September. I ran for a few months, stopped in December, January, and then at beginning of March I did the 8K and which I hadn’t done. I’ve only been doing 4K, so I was quite nervous to push myself. But I took it easy if I had to walk, I walked, but I was going to finish it. And I did.
Clint – What did it feel like crossing the finish line?
Melissa – Man, it was, it felt like I did the two oceans marathon, it could have been that. It felt so amazing, I didn’t have any pain, No pain at all. Anyway, my feet weren’t hurting and my hips were fine, my knees didn’t hurt. It just felt amazing to finish it and know that I’d done it. You know, it was, take that RA. I can run again. You can only understand it like yourself when you’ve been so riddled with pain. I don’t think I think people take it for granted, I took my health for granted a lot before when I was running and doing stuff and when you suddenly can’t do it, you just start to appreciate the fact that you are able to run and pick up your children and sit on the floor and open a jar. You know the small things.
Clint – Yeah. I still check my fingers every like, woke up in the morning, clench my fingers like that, and I’m like, wow, they just closed normally. And to this day.
Melissa – I would sit every morning, I wake up, I just do this. And when I wake up doing the night to my turn, I would just because normally it would be so painful. So many of the people in the podcast would say, yeah, I couldn’t grab the duvet and pull it over me, which is such a simple thing. And just being I remember, like I couldn’t lift, if I had to turn, I couldn’t lift the duvet because it’s so sore, when you just try and put a little bit of pressure on. So still I would just sit to do this, it’s just so amazing. Like, they’re not hurting.
Clint – Yeah, it’s lovely. It’s the things that we appreciate so deeply that everyone else just takes for granted, it’s extraordinary.
Melissa – Yeah. So just standing on my toes. Sorry.
Clint – Oh, yeah. Go ahead. Talk about that.
Melissa – I took a picture once and I just sent it to all of my family and I said, what you eat really makes a difference. I hadn’t been able to stand on my toes, lift myself up just in a normal because of the pain that was under my feet, specifically my left one. And I think they probably thought I was insane. I mean we all can stand on our toes. But the fact that I was able to do that again, for me it was just a milestone. It was small that you need to celebrate each milestone, doesn’t matter how small it is.
Clint – Amen. So you’ve recently gone back to the rheumatologist again and what’s the latest sort of plan with the medications?
Melissa – She was really happy with all of my results and CRP levels, they’re basically undetectable by less than one. But I have to say that coffee, I skipped over your chapter on the coffee in the beginning. I think that was the one thing I thought that I kind of made me feel a little bit normal. You know, after everything you do become a bit of a RidicuList or a freak the way you eat. I just held onto the coffee, even though I was feeling so much better. Even on your program, I would wake up in the mornings and still have stiffness in my hands, which I didn’t need to take anything for it just took a long while to go away. And then I said to my husband, I think I need to go read that chapter on the coffee. And he’s like, So I read the first line that said, if you’re doing I’m paraphrasing, but if you’re doing everything you should be doing in this program and you have not given up coffee, you can just stop. And I was like. So I did, I dropped it, and by the fourth morning, I started waking up with no pain in my joints. And I think for me that’s been, like you said, with the oil where you also felt so much better, but there was just something that wasn’t working. And when you drop the oil, it’s like a veil. That was the coffee for me since I’ve cut back on coffee completely. I have an occasional, occasional cup, that’s been the veil for me. That has taken me from feeling 90% better to pain-free.
So anyway, sorry. So yes my levels have dropped to nearly undetectable. She has agreed that I can lower my methotrexate to 3 tablets sorry, she said that’s the lowest from 3 we’ll just go to zero. She says no point going to 1, whatever. And then I still have to take Remalif, and she basically just said, whatever you are doing, it’s working, just carry on. But I also spent some time I asked her about some of the tests we’ve been doing and she was showing me the alt test, which is for your liver. And she’d been keeping an eye on it because it had progressively been going up each month. Was jumping 14 and it was 30 and then it was 50. And as she explained it to me, that means your liver is irritated or inflamed because of the medication. Both the remalif and the methotrexate work on your kind of work on your liver.
Clint – They call it oxidative stress of the liver. And so markers for Enzymes that say, hey, I’m struggling.
Melissa – She said that if my tests now had shown that it had jumped up more, then we would have had to do something, don’t know what. But she said it’s dropped down to 9, which is the lowest it had been since I started with her and since I’ve started getting tested for my liver with the medication. And I believe it is because of my diet, because that’s been the change from the last time, because I was on the same medication. All the time exactly the same amount of tablets in the last three months. The change has been, the program and the diet and exercise. And I even told her about the coffee and she was quite surprised. She said, I’ve never heard about that. You know, that coffee could had have an effect on you. And I’m like, Yeah, well, it did. No.
Clint – If you’re only listening to the audio, I’m doing the world’s greatest eye roll right now. Well, isn’t it fantastic? In terms of this moment in time, in this recording, sometimes we record these episodes with guests and they’re there maybe a year down the path from where are in your story right now. And whilst it’s sometimes really satisfying to listen to the end result and like someone saying and it’s been six months or a year since I’ve taken no drugs and I’ve got no symptoms and it’s so sensational. It’s also sometimes for some of my audience, they email me and say, actually, it saddens them a little bit for some of those guests when they listen to them because they feel that they’re just so far from that, that it’s just beyond where they’re at the moment. And it just feels like such an enormously long bridge from where they’re at to where that guest is at. And they actually feel a little bit sad that like, how come I’m not in that position or I wish I was. Your position is a great one for a lot of people that feels potentially, you know, within reach for some people who haven’t started the program yet, who can’t exercise like we talked about, they’re in a lot of pain. And so I think that it’s really valuable that we’re having this conversation now, seeing the direction that you’re going. It’s almost like there’s still so much more to squeeze out of this situation.
Melissa – Yeah.
Clint – It’s like an arm wrestle and we’ve just watched you almost get defeated, and you just gotten past vertical and you are now starting to apply that downward force to your opposition. That’s where we’re at. And you, that look in your eye, you look so healthy. You just have that sort of that knowing that you’re on to it, you are on this. It’s exciting to see what will come next. But I just want people to appreciate that you were diagnosed with aggressive rheumatoid arthritis. This was a moving all around your body that you started on a very aggressive treatment. You couldn’t get off the prednisone until you went plant-based. Then your first attempt to run your chest was on fire. You dug yourself out of a very deep hole.
Melissa – I just want people to know that you mustn’t give up, there’s no reason why we need to sit back. I’ve spoken to so many people around me who will listen. I think South Africa is not so big on the whole plant-based thing yet. I’m quite in the minority, you know. You don’t eat meat. What? You know, I’m from African culture, Braai is a salad. Doing a barbecue, you know, your meat to the salad or chicken is a salad. And I come there with my mushroom and they go, Oh, shame. Well, I feel great. You know, it’s my mushroom.
Clint – Shame?
Melissa – That’s what they say. Honestly, someone looked at my mushroom and said, shame.
Clint – That’s awesome. Was it one of those portobello mushrooms?
Melissa – It was, it was huge, like it made this steak look small. But anyway, I just decided I wasn’t going to give up, I wasn’t going to give in to this thing, this is not going to be my fate. I’m not going to be 50 and just be unable to do anything. I’ve spoken to so many people around me, who has RA and I tell them about what I’ve been doing and how amazing I feel. They’re so scared, they kind of want to keep on having the medication so they don’t have to change their lifestyle. And they say, Well, I’ve got my RA under control, even though I’ve got X, Y and Z side effects, I’m okay. But you could be so much more, you know, there’s just so much more you could be. And even if you have to be on some medication like my hope is to be med free at some stage, but I’m happy where I am now. You know, my hair stopped falling out, so I know the methotrexate is not affecting me as bad as it did. My liver function is fine, I feel great. The doctor said you look amazing, there’s a spark back in your eyes, just carry on with what you’re doing. Just listen to what I’m doing. And to get support, I think meeting you sort of and kind of becoming part of a community that made a big difference because you do feel very alone when you get diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. It’s just, that there’s not much support or people don’t know how you feel.
Clint – I often draw a parallel to cancer when you get diagnosed with cancer. There are community groups with balloons showing up and parties held and everyone gathers together. I’m not overlooking the diagnosis of cancer often, can be terminal, I’m not overlooking that. It’s just that the differences in the diagnosis is extraordinary. As you say, one is just a silent digestion of misery and lack of hope, and the other is community support, even fundraising and all sorts of things and rallying behind that person, so it is vastly different. These autoimmune diseases are, they’re a beast. So, yes, we have got a great community, we’ve got a community building on Instagram. I’d like to thank you for helping because your contributions I’m able to share and we’ve got Lara and we’ve got a lot of people. I’m going to not think of them at the moment, but everyone’s contributing and posting recipes, and helps to be able to tag and share those. We also have our rheumatoid support and I don’t think you joined rheumatoid support.
Melissa – No, not yet. But hopefully in the future.
Clint – Right. So people can join our community, which is online and interactive, and we have coaches and myself constantly helping each other and that’s just over at www.rheumatoidsupport.com. It’s priced affordably and people can come and go. So there’s opportunities for our community, people like you and me who believe that it’s about optimal health and then let’s deal with whatever’s leftover after that, right? But let’s get as healthy as possible, and if we need a little bit of meds or if we need a little bit of, I don’t know, whatever X, Y, Z, supplements or whatever, fine. But let’s aim for optimal health first rather than making that almost the forgotten thing or a dirty little cousin. You’ve done so well, are there any tips, things that you could share before we go that you would say, look, you’ve got to do this? Or that was the game changer for me. Anything off the top of your head just shoot a matters?
Melissa – Yeah, it probably won’t be new, but the first thing is to first get support, that’s the main thing. You need to have a support system, step in on Instagram, Facebook, wherever you can. Make sure you stop drinking coffee from the beginning, and do everything the program says. It’s a program that says stop drinking coffee, stop it, and exercise. Exercise, do what you can. I started with doing so little, but I was there at the gym and now I can do the don’t have to. Do as many alternative things for me anymore because my wrists have started strengthening, so I can do push-ups, I can do the mountain climbers. They don’t have to adapt everything for me anymore. But I tried it, I kept on doing it every time. If it hurts, stop, and be kind to yourself. Some days you get really anxious because your body, you get a flare-up, you can do all the right things and you can still get a flare-up. And then it’s easy to feel depressed and think, What have I done wrong? And you just be kind to yourself. Take it as it comes, I just go back to my green juice, then go back to simple meals. And just take it easy I don’t exercise that day if I’m feeling down, just be kind to yourself as well. Always make sure that you’ve got stuff that you can eat in the freezer, that’s the biggest thing. It’s so easy to just grab the wrong thing if you’re hungry and you just don’t have it because it takes time to make the stuff. But I always make sure I’ve got soup in the freezer or anything. Anything that is Paddison Program friendly or RA friendly, as I would say. Always have something cooked in the fridge or cooked in the freezer ready.
Clint – Emergency supplies.
Melissa – Yes.
Clint – Yes. Because our fuel is different than everyone else’s fuel. So we can’t rely on the local fuel stations of KFC and McDonald’s and all of the cafes and takeaways that other people can. When our body is running out of fuel, we have to have our own fuel, don’t we, stored in the fridge or the freezer, as you put it. I like this metaphor, so I might use this one again. Yes, we have to store our fuel as a backup. We need bunker fuel.
Melissa – Yes, we do.
Clint – Any other thoughts? You mentioned your green juice, is that celery and cucumber?
Melissa – Celery, cucumber, and then I tend to add ginger. I just love it with the ginger. Even this weekend when I came to visit my mom, I’m fortunate that she’s got a juicer. When I went to Jo’burg, my brother had a juicer so I can play with my celery and my cucumber and you know, I’ve got it there. I even travel with my pre-mixed grain mix so I can just make it wherever I go if I need to. Always have sweet potatoes on hand. You have to listen to your body, if I feel I start getting a bit achy, I just go back to the basics. And that’s what I’ve loved about your program it’s really taught me, It’s empowered me with knowledge of what to do. And I just go back to the basics, go back to having lots of green stuff, lots of juice, salads, just the plain buckwheat or quinoa or basmati and sweet potato. And I do that until I feel okay. I’m feeling better again and then then I carry on.
Clint – That makes me feel a little bit emotional because that is literally my personal sort of little formula that I created like 12 years ago to get myself out of. I would run into trouble, I would go back to baseline and I would get myself reset and take two, three, sometimes four days. And then I would get back into the reintroductions again and then I would hit a problem straight back to baseline. And I found that this rhythm just I was just going through this dance, this dietary dance for probably a year, year and a half. And that was after years of not knowing what on earth to do and making all the mistakes. But that dance of sort of stretching and then contracting, stretching, contracting, where each time I would stretch, I’d maybe get a little further, a few more foods I could eat. And also when I was dropping back to baseline, I found the baseline foods didn’t need to be as baseline as well as I got more advanced. So I could, like you mentioned, I could fall back onto basmati rice and at later times basmati rice and some potatoes with some curry powder. So I was having like a potato curry became a baseline food, whereas at the start that was a stretch food or stretch meal for me. So it slowly gets better, it slowly gets easier and it is slow. It is slow.
Melissa – One last thing I want to share and it’s I connected with one of I think her name is Laura. So we’ve been chatting because her story was very similar to mine, but she’s five years down the line or six years down the line. And she said to me, Even when it feels like it’s not working, just stick with it. Because and it was like there were phases where your pain just goes up and down and you think, is this going to help? And I just stuck it out, then you just wake up one morning and you realize I feel so much better. That would be my little nugget of wisdom is just trust the program, stick with it. If it feels like it’s not working inside your body, you can’t see it. But it is working.
Clint – Beautiful words. Well, congratulations again. It’s been a pleasure to chat, and I’m glad that we’ve been able to set this up. And we also did the right thing, we postponed this until you’d spoken to the rheumatologist and got the update and got that reduction recommendation. we did we made this happen, I’m really, really pleased to meet you on video.
Melissa – Likewise.
Clint – Stay in touch on our Instagram. If you’re not on Instagram, come join us. We got Instagram.com/PaddisonProgram. Melissa, what’s your Instagram hashtag?
Melissa – It’s Melissa.Bridenstine.five.
Clint – Okay. Well, I’ll have to put that in the show notes so that people can click through on it. Head over to rheumatoidsolutions.com and you’ll be able to find this episode. It’ll be the top one in the podcast listing. Thank you so much, Melissa. I know you’re visiting family and I’ll let you get back to your family. And I’m sure that they’re all thrilled with how you’re doing now. And I certainly am, it’s just a joy to see a fellow pioneer in this world doing such great things.
Melissa – Thank you very much to you and Melissa as well for everything you’ve done for us, really appreciate it. It really feels like you care about every person that joins your program. And. Yeah, thank you. I’ve enjoyed doing the checks.
Clint – Wonderful. Thank you.
Melissa – Thank you very much. Okay, bye.