- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

MENDOTA, Ill. (AP) - It was 14 years ago when Judy Schirz of Mendota noticed something was wrong - very wrong - when she suddenly couldn’t stand up.

She was enjoying an evening out when the joints in her body swelled up and sent her to the emergency room at Mendota Community Hospital.

It wasn’t long before she received the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, a progressive and degenerative disease that affects a body’s joints and other tissues. According to Mayo Clinic, it is an autoimmune disorder that turns a body against itself.

Schirz was referred to a rheumatologist in Morris and started taking a series of ever more powerful medications. Even with the medications, Schirz was not getting much relief. She also was worried about the serious side effects.

“There are going to be rheumatoid arthritis patients out there that are doing well on the drugs,” Schirz said. “I wasn’t doing well.

“This is my story. I am not a professional of any kind.”

Instead, she was getting worse, and by early 2006, she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, another chronic autoimmune disorder.

“That was my breaking point - I had two more strong drugs,” she said. “I remember sitting in the bedroom and (I) said, ‘That’s it, no more drugs.’”

Now diagnosed with the two devastating disorders, she made an appointment at Mayo Clinic.

It would be more than six months before they had an opening.

She had heard of an alternative therapy that would boost her immune system and might be able to offer some relief from the disorders and the side effects of the medications.

Without telling her rheumatologist, she started taking a nutritional supplement filled with immune-boosting vitamins and minerals.

The powder supplement, Reliv, does not use any synthetic vitamins or minerals. Schirz said that meant her body was able to process the supplement.

Schirz warns the supplements don’t work immediately; it took weeks before she started to feel even a minor improvement.

Her first sign was being able to sleep better. Then she started to slowly wean herself off some of the more dangerous medications that caused her to lose her hair.

She continued to see her rheumatologist and the test results were all positive. So, she continued taking the supplements and reducing the number of pills she took every day.

When Schirz went to Mayo Clinic later in the year, she told them she had been reducing her medications while taking the immune-boosting supplement. The staff there told her she still had rheumatoid arthritis and myasthenia gravis, but it was apparently in remission. She was told it likely wouldn’t last.

“That was 10 years ago,” she said. “By January 2007, I was off everything.”

She did tell her rheumatologist, and he was very supportive. Her check-ups became less frequent and eventually stopped altogether.

Schirz said her decision to take herself off drugs wasn’t an easy one, and she didn’t make it alone.

“I got closer to the Lord and I prayed,” she said.

Her decision was guided by faith, and that faith gave her the confidence to continue with the supplements. She had given up on going to a movie or living any kind of life. Her life revolved around doctor’s visits, and she had her knees drained nine times due to the swelling and fluid buildup.

Now she swims regularly, takes walks, drives whenever and wherever she wants.

“To me, the doctors are only taught to treat the symptoms,” she said.

She has switched to a different supplement under advice from her local physician and also takes probiotics and cod liver oil to maintain her health.

While it may not be the right move for others, she still smiles when she recalls when the medical professionals predicted her symptoms would return.

A decade later, they still haven’t.

“We just have to listen to our bodies and follow our instincts,” she said. “You have to be your own advocate.”

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Source: (LaSalle) News-Tribune,

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Information from: News-Tribune, https://www.newstrib.com

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