Lauren, 26, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Lauren Vaknine is 26 Lauren and suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Here she talks openly about her illness, homeopathy and her life.

I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) when I was two years old which initially affected my knees and ankles. At the time the only treatment available was large quantities of steroids, but my parents didn’t want me to be on these drugs at such a young age, which was fortunate for the long-term effects of treating such young children with high doses of steroids were later found to do more harm than good. Looking for other options my parents decided to try homeopathy.

When I was 17 I had a huge arthritic flare-up. In my right eye I had Uveitis, an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, a condition most children with JRA get at a young age. A cataract was forming rapidly but they couldn’t remove it as in normal cases, as there was too much inflammation in the eye. The cataract was growing more layers and getting dangerous, so I had to take a conventional medication for a short period of time in order to have the operation. I was prescribed a chemo-based drug which I shall call “M”. After a few months this drug made me so ill I couldn’t function any more. The arthritis started to spread – it was only in five joints for the first 18 years of my life. By the time I’d been taking M for a year, the arthritis had spread to every joint in my body – hips, fingers, jaw, neck, elbows, everywhere. I also lost half my hair and it damaged my liver. I was also wheelchair bound, so I swore never to take a conventional medication again.

I started seeing a homeopath when I was just four years old and it has kept me strong for so many years. During my childhood I attended group hydrotherapy sessions and always had more energy than the other children who were being slowed down by steroids. I was still not like most normal children and my arthritis affected me, but homeopathy kept my body strong and able to fight illnesses.

Homeopathic success
Homeopathic medicine is now the only medication I take. I attend the RLHIM every two months where I see a number of doctors including Dr Peter Fisher. I’m prescribed various medicines depending on what is going on with me at the time, but I do find Pulsatilla very helpful. This is why I love homeopathy: it treats the person not the disease.

I believe that the only reason I live a normal life is because of homeopathy. Most people who have had arthritis for 24 years have many deformities, and other secondary illnesses due to all the medications they have taken over the years. I am proud to say that I am strong, have great general health and a good immune system and I look like a normal 26 year old. I’m convinced this is only because I have been using homeopathy from a very young age. If I’d spent my childhood taking conventional medicine, I’m sure I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now. My rheumatologist, who is not a homeopath, says my bone density should be much worse than it is after 24 years of arthritis. But as I live a more active life than most people who have this illness, he agrees I should carry on doing what I’m doing.

Complementary medicine is now an important part of my life. The wonderful thing about the RLHIM is that it offers a whole range of integrated therapies. I see Dr Tariq Khan for podiatry and I use his excellent Marigold treatment which corrected the slight deformities that were starting to appear in my toes. I see Dr Raj Sharma for hypnotherapy and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). I have Craniosacral therapy with Dr Weissner and I’m now also being seen in the insomnia clinic to help with my sleep problems. I also meditate as I believe I need to keep mind clear and strong in order to stay healthy.

I know there are studies that suggest there is a link between food allergies and rheumatoid arthritis and some sufferers avoid certain foods, but I don’t. When my illness was very bad I cut out wheat, dairy and sugar, as well as some vegetables and fruits that are supposed to be bad for arthritis. However, I now believe that moderation is the best approach. You shouldn’t deprive your body of what it wants but you should limit everything. I don’t eat lots of bread, maybe once or twice a week, but I don’t cut it out. I have lactose free milk instead of full dairy milk. I eat a lot of fresh vegetables and not too much red meat, but like I said – a little of everything. I try to eat lots of fish and I make sure I drink plenty of water and herbal teas, such as fennel tea as it is good for cleansing.

Living a fulfilling life
When I left school I went to performing arts school as I had dreams about being an actress and director. This is when I got really sick and ended up in a wheelchair, so I was unable to go to university to study acting and directing. However, I have since had some small acting roles in films, TV shows and theatre. Six years ago I studied interior design and have worked in this field ever since, alongside working as a presenter for a west London radio station for two years.

I still have arthritic flare-ups a few times a year, so find it very difficult to work for someone else as some mornings I have a lot of difficulty getting up and moving around quickly, especially in the winter. I used to work for a great interior design company where I got to travel, but following a flare-up which stopped me going in to the office for three weeks, I lost my job. So I decided to start my own business, JayLa Enterprises, where I can work from home designing house interiors, although I sometimes get asked to do offices and showrooms too.

In April last year I published my autobiography “My Enemy, My Friend”, which tells the story of my life with arthritis: the low points I have reached; the trouble I’ve had with the hospital system; but how, ultimately, I came through it with the help of integrated medicine and a strong family.

If you would like to interview Lauren please call Cristal Sumner on 01582 408674 or