Sadly, I had to put my dog of 15 years down and within a week of that, we also found out that our daughter has Polyarticular Juvenile Arthritis. While this diagnosis is of course still concerning to us, I am happy to report that it's completely under control at this time. It's just something we will have to continue to monitor.
At the beginning, Maya's treatment consisted of Naproxen and oral steroids. She also underwent a round of 5 joint injections last May. Currently, she is on Methotrexate and the amazing doctors at the Alberta Children's Hospital Rheumatology Department are very happy with the progress she has made to date. She has gone from appointments every month to appointments every 4 months (with the exception of blood and urine testing every couple months in order to ensure no negative side effects from the drug as well as eye exams every 3 months).
Not long after her diagnosis, I did consult with a pediatric naturopath in Calgary and did food allergy testing. Of course (as any naturopath would!!!) they recommended that Maya remove gluten and dairy from her diet even though she wasn't "allergic" to them (in addition to a few other things such as salami and "nightshade" vegetables). The naturopath also recommended that Maya drink these special "shakes" and that she eat a healthy amount of certain herbs and such in order to try to naturally decrease inflammation. Well if you've been reading this blog for a while - or if you know us at all - you know that Maya is a picky eater (SLOWLY getting better; but picky none the less). As you can imagine, this was so hard for us since that meant even more challenges for me in feeding her! For the period of about a month I tried what seemed like a million substitutions for Maya. For example, to replace cow's milk, I bough Rice Milk, Almond Milk, and Soy Milk. Each were met with an "Ewwww - what IS this? It tastes different!". Yep. It was fun times.
We spent about a month doing this, but our trip to Hawaii was just around the corner. It was hard enough (and expensive enough) to do all this special shopping and searching out alternatives in Calgary - where I knew where to go for the most part - and I worried about how this was all going to go down in Hawaii. We decided that we were going to 'take a break' from removing these foods from Maya's diet and instead just continue to eat well. We noticed no change - either good or bad. For the record, I fully realize that we may have noticed more significant changes if we had continued the diet for longer. But for the most part, I am a pretty firm believer in moderation, and since Maya's health was improving, we decided that removing all gluten and dairy from her diet was not something we were going to (currently) invest in. However, even today we definitely make a very conscious effort to reduce the amount of these items in her diet.
One thing that I will talk more about in future posts are some of the 'alternative' methods we have used to support Maya's body while on Methotrexate. My thinking was that the drugs were working for her, and I wanted to look into things we could do to assist her body in becoming stronger and healthier at the same time. Methotrexate is an immunosuppressant and while I wanted it to do it's job (basically "calm" her immune system which believed it was under attack) - I was of course worried about her being more susceptible to sickness. So I came up with a type of alternative side-by-side support system to ensure that her body was as healthy as it could be WHILE taking the drugs.
It's so scary to hear some of the stories from other parents about their children's struggles with this disease. It's really unfair that any child should have to suffer any sort of disease. I just pray that Maya continues to make progress and that the "worst" is over. It's hard to say what will happen, but of course we remain absolutely hopeful.