All her life, Vanessa has had issues with her knees. But, it never stopped her from being active, until one day her left knee swelled up like a balloon and Vanessa could barely walk. The swelling dissipated within a week and with no other symptoms, she didn’t worry that it was something more serious like an injury or fluke occurrence. However, when her right knee did the same thing two months later, she knew that this was not an accident. “I went to my Doctor and she told me that it was probably just a normal sports injury. The x-rays didn’t show anything out of the ordinary and after I completed a short physio-therapy program, the swelling went away”.
Vanessa’s life changed when shortly after her right knee got better, both knees became inflamed at the same time and she was confined to her bed. “My Mother had to come and live with me, because I physically could not get out of bed to feed myself, do laundry or walk to the washroom by myself. I was only 27 years old”.
Vanessa knew that this was something bigger than a sports injury and after persuading her doctor; she was referred to a Rheumatologist and was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). RA is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It typically occurs in hands and feet, although it can affect several joints in the body and as shown in Vanessa’s case, can “jump” from joint to joint, causing damage, pain and inflammation in several locations.
A month later, Vanessa decided to take matters into her own hands and researched what she could do naturally, to become pain free. Through a drastic change in her diet, easing off of certain drugs, and the inclusion of practices such as acupuncture, she began to regain her life. “I started to move again! I started doing little yoga stretches as much as I could, despite the pain and swelling. Slowly but surely I started improving, every day was a little bit better”.
Fast forward seven months and Vanessa is still experiencing some swelling in her knees, her collarbone and some other symptoms, but overall she is able to function normally and she has been able to get back to her yoga practice. “Yoga has been my life saver. On the days where I feel lousy and don’t want to move, I push myself even harder to go to practice. I always feel better after yoga. When things hurt, your first instinct is to curl up and not move, but the opposite is so true”.
We wish that we could tell you that Vanessa’s story is an anomaly, or that her case is “one in a million”, but sadly it is more common than we want it to be. More than 4.5 million Canadians are living with arthritis and autoimmune diseases, 58 % of them are women and 25% of those living with arthritis are between the ages of 25 and 44. Amazing advances in research have been made, however we are still searching for a cure. Vanessa will be participating in the Power of Movement on Sunday, March 4th, 2012. We hope you are inspired to join her and thousands of others. For a full listing of Power of Movement 2012 locations or to find out how you can support the life changing research at the Arthritis Research Foundation, please visit www.powerofmovement.ca.
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