Makeup Artist Joy Fennell on How She Healed Rheumatoid Arthritis Naturally

Hi, my name is Joy Fennell,
and I’m a makeup artist here in New York City. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid
arthritis back in 2008. One day, I woke up and my left hand
was hurting, my wrist area was hurting. I was like, “OK, I’ve had carpal tunnel,
like a touch of carpal tunnel before.” I went and got one of
those carpal tunnel guards. But then, my right hand started hurting,
and I was like, “OK, that’s weird.” I went and got one
for that hand, too. I’m walking around with 2 carpal
tunnel wrist guards on my hands, and it still wasn’t working. I was just like,
“Well, maybe it just hasn’t worked yet.” Then, slowly, I started noticing that
I couldn’t lift my arms over my head. That’s when I really
started getting concerned, and really started thinking
that something was really wrong. That’s when I made an
appointment to see my doctor. Now, I’m really kind of scared. That’s when my GP was like, “Well, it sounds
like you have rheumatoid arthritis.” She sent me to a rheumatologist. Once I went to the rheumatologist, they ran some tests, and they confirmed that
I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Then that’s when,
it really got real, stuff got real. They started putting me on medication. First, I started taking prednisone,
then I started taking Plaquenil. They wanted to put me
on methotrexate, but then I went home
and started Googling it, and I was like,
“Hm-mmm, I don’t think so.” I really heard a lot about that
one, and that one really scared me. I just took those Plaquenil and prednisone,
and I took those drugs, and I was like, “OK,
I’ll take these for right now,” but I quietly became worse, and it started getting to the point
where I started becoming bedridden. But, because I’m so stubborn, I was like,
“I still don’t want to take these drugs.” I’ve always come from a place of, “OK, you want me to take these drugs,
but they’re just covering up what’s going on. They’re not actually
fixing the problem.” I wanted to know: How can
I actually solve what’s going on? Even though I know people always say
that rheumatoid arthritis is not curable, and it might not be, on paper, but I don’t believe in just this
putting something over the problem, masking the problem. Why can’t we fix it? Why can’t
I at least get to a point where I can live a different type of lifestyle,
and then work on it? By me being so stubborn, I know that
I was also scared, also getting worse. That’s when I started getting really scared and started thinking that I might
have to get a caretaker because I was almost bedridden from it. At this point, I was probably early 30s and I was just like,
“This can’t be right. What’s going on? I can’t be 30
and already needing a caretaker.” I started doing my own
independent research. I started realizing
that diet really had a significant effect
on what was going on. I was reading stories and looking for
other people who were diagnosed with it, who had somehow beat it, and I wanted to know,
“Well, if they could do it, I could do it,
but how did they do it?” And it always came back to diet. Growing up, I was…
I’m a sugar addict. I like sugar. I like cookies, I like cake,
I like all of that. I was also a lot more
overweight at the time. I was probably
100 pounds overweight. I just went on a quest to try
to fix myself with mind, and food, and started seeing a therapist because another thing that
I also read was that it’s also a lot of aggression and anger that’s
inside of you that you need to let out. I started being like, “Well, I need to
meditate, and I need to do these things.” I started doing so much better. I found a program called
The Paddison Program. It really helped me out a lot.
He was also diagnosed with RA. I moved from being bedridden to, now,
I could walk, but I needed the use of a cane. I’m like 30-something
with a cane, and of course, that messed with my mind a lot. It’s like a never-ending
battle with trying to find different ways to
work on this disease. Even though you
might have it OK on one end, it’s like the disease will keep trying to
find another way to infiltrate your body. What really helped me a lot was the food aspect.
When I ate well, that’s when my
symptoms would diminish. When I ate horribly, that’s when
they would come back full force. At one point,
I was doing really well. Then I had a tragedy in my family.
My brother was killed. Once that happened, that’s when
I started getting worse again, I relapsed because
I think I hold a lot of stuff in. After that happened,
I gained back the weight I lost, everything. It just kind
of spiraled out of control. I was like, “You know what?
Let me get it together.” That’s when a friend of mine,
named Charles Chen, really took interest
in my story because he also dealt with weight
issues and stuff like that. He really helped me reclaim my healthy lifestyle because he’s a health coach. I started researching again, and that’s when I came across
this program called mymee, ran by this lady named Mette. I met her at a panel where
her company was pitching. It just so happened that
there were autoimmune disorders, and that’s when my ears perked up,
and I was like, “Wait, what?” We got my food back on track
and my water back on track, and just trying to figure out what it
is that my body might be allergic to, to why I then have my flares. A lot of it is my dairy.
Eating dairy, I will always feel something like the next day,
or even within the hour that I eat it. Then, also, if I eat something
that has a lot of sugar in it. I’ve been working on trying
to get better and better. I’m not on any
medication any longer. I frustrate the hell out
of my rheumatologist because I think, sometimes, they don’t really
get that you can actually heal from things, and that you don’t
need to take medication. Even though, trust me,
I personally don’t judge anybody that does want to take medication
because this disease is so horrible, you’ll do anything to try to combat it.
I get it. But for me, I was always really
scared of the side effects. “Well, it might make me worse
than what I already am.” And that was a big deal to me. During this time, I was recommended to have knee
replacements for both knees. My thing is, I feel like
surgery should be the last option. It shouldn’t be your first option, always. I was just like, “Well, let me see
how I can avoid having the surgery.” One of the ways I avoided having
the surgery is by losing weight. That really helped
my knee situation. Then, further down the line, I had
a neck situation where they wanted to operate on my neck and fuse
my neck or something like that, and I was like, “Uh, let me see,”
because if I can’t have you do my knees, I was like,
“I’m really not going to have you do my neck.” You know, the doctor was like… not just the doctor, but the nurse was
kind of rude to me. I felt like they
were kind of bullying me, and making me feel like,
“No, you have to have this.” This is one thing that I have learned after going through this journey, is that this is my body and I determine what happens
in my body, no one else. I will take what they say, and I will,
of course, make an educated decision, but I’m not going to get pushed into
doing something that I don’t think I need to do. My thing is,
I want to try, on my own, to alleviate the problem or
fix the problem on my own. If that doesn’t work, then I’m totally
open to the suggestion of surgery. Until then, I don’t want
surgery as my first option. After I decided that losing weight
was probably my best bet for my knees, after losing 100 pounds, at least 100 pounds, because another
thing I did was, I stopped weighing myself. Once I decided
to let the scale go, that’s actually when
I started losing weight. That’s when I started realizing that
I didn’t need my cane any longer. If I do need that
surgery later, it’s put off for a while. In terms of my neck issue,
I started seeing a chiropractor. He was amazing. I love him. I also started seeing a Rolfer. That experience, of course,
is a little bit more challenging because they really
get into your fascia. But I swear,
it worked wonders on me. I actually don’t feel pain
in my neck any longer. I feel like I’ve
been doing the work, and I’m like,
“I will figure it out.” Like I said earlier, I really
frustrate my rheumatologist because I just don’t take
what they say as law. At this point in my life,
I am walking normally. I still have my difficulties because
I’m not perfect with my diet all the time. If I do eat something
that’s wrong, I do feel it. Even, sometimes, walking down stairs
is a little bit more challenging right now, but I’m determined
to get that, as well. I know that’s going to happen. I no longer feel the swelling and
the pain in my hands like I used to. When you deal with an autoimmune
disorder that attacks your joints, you start to get anxiety about
just getting up in the morning because you know that, once
you put your foot on the ground, you’re going to feel a lot of pain. Before, I felt really sad because I didn’t know
where my life was going to end. I didn’t know if I was
going to need a caretaker. I didn’t know if my career was over. I was just like,
“You know what? This is what’s going on.
I’ve got to find a way to handle it.” I feel like I’ve kind of worked on it
to where I might not be 100%, but I know I’m a lot
better than I was. Where I was like 30%,
I’m at least 80% now. That 50% is making me
actually have a life again. I appreciate that.

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