Pierre-Auguste Renoir is one of my favorite artists, going all the way back to when I first saw his paintings in the “art” section of my family’s set of encyclopedias. “Two Sisters on the Terrace” is one of the screensavers on my Mac, as seen above. He finished it in 1881, same year as “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” which was the featured work of art in the encyclopedia from my childhood. Renoir was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in the 1890s. Here is footage of him working through that late in his life. Note his hands:
Renoir was not living in a time of biologics, or even Methotrexate or Prednisone or gold injections. His hands became clenched claws, untreated by anything resembling modern medicine today. (At best, he would’ve been given aspirin.) This is what rheumatoid arthritis can do to a person. And it happened to one of the greatest artists of all time.
Myself, no longer on the pharmaceutical path, I’ve had times of great awareness of the thin wire my rheumatologist talked about with me last summer. Watching Renoir paint is one of those moments. I don’t personally believe I face a future of claws for hands and disability, a la Renoir, but I am an outlier when it comes to how I’m handling my disease.
For me, it’s not a matter of being able to cheat on a dietary plan. If my body gets out of balance, I hurt. My knees make alarming snapping sounds, the elbows swell and my fingers refuse to work when I wake up. That’s after a day of high-dose caffeine and sugar and a heaping bowl of pasta just to see what would happen. Once I eliminated these things from my diet, there was really no turning back. Not all vegan diets are anti-inflammatory, and that’s something that every person on this path has to test to see what sets them off.
RA is a shape-shifter. What works for you one day may not work the next. The immune system, on hyperdrive, decides it has a problem with potatoes. Or wheat. Or rice. These things happen. Then maybe you try again and these things are OK. You have a day that passes with no reaction to anything, even the small bit of chocolate or a cookie at work.
I guess the reason I’m focusing on all of this is I’m coming close to marking one year without any prescribed medication to keep RA at bay. And, no ibuprofen. I can’t remember the last year I didn’t take ibuprofen or some over-the counter painkiller. I don’t think it’s ever happened. Going an entire year without it is an achievement in and of itself.
I’m happy that so far, the plant-based way of eating is working very well for me. If you are considering this, and you try it, give it a year, or at least a month. I’m here to tell you, I’ve went almost a year without any disease modifying drugs, and I am not turning into Renoir, much as I loved his work. My hands are fine, my knees work, and pain is not an issue.
It’s still hard for me to believe something so basic works.