Stem Cell Therapy for Arthritis
Another sick person with sad story asking for handouts, you've seen this a million times.
Yes, I am sick. And I'm also asking for money.
But my story is far from sad.
My condition has influenced my life in so many positive ways that I have no right to complain. I wouldn't be who I am today had I not pushed through pain and emerged stronger on the other side.
True strength is also knowing when to ask for help.
I'm here asking for help in funding stem cell therapy to alleviate my rheumatoid arthritis.
Even if you can't donate, I hope my story inspires you to overcome whatever obstacle stands between you and that one thing you most desire, and that you gain a sense of urgency to pursue it no matter what.
This is my story....
AN IMPORTANT CHILDHOOD LESSON
As a kid, I had a sneaking suspicion that time was the most valuable thing in the world.
I couldn't explain it, I just felt it.
In my small town of Wayne, Nebraska I'd thumb through my dad's National Geographic magazines taking the warnings of melting ice caps and sinking islands as personal deadlines.
I promised myself I'd travel to exotic places the way some kids vow to become astronauts or firemen. In my kid brain, I felt a real urgency to visit these places before they disappeared. Time was ticking.
This 'feeling' would later become the most important lesson of my adult life....
SLEEPLESS NIGHTS AND MY SUDDEN DIAGNOSIS
During my high school senior year and with college football scholarship offers on the table, I started waking up at night with completely numb hands.
Five or six times per night, I'd stretch my wrists back until a tingly sensation crept back into my fingers. The doctor said my weightlifting routine had constricted blood flow to my hands (damn you, biceps!).
Diagnosis? Carpel tunnel.
With absolute faith in modern medicine, I let them strap me to an operating table and cut new, wider passageways into both wrists. I spent the summer between high school and college in removable casts.
But the numbness continued.
"Uh, yeah, I guess you had rheumatoid arthritis," said the same doctor who casually scalpeled my tendons.
Per his instructions, I began taking anti-inflammation meds and didn't stop until only recently when their negative side effects---namely, depression---made me seek more sustainable alternatives.
For better or worse, 18 years of inflammation, pain, self-reflection, and, at times, despair, have made me the person I am today.
I repeat: this is not a sad story, at least not yet....
DISEASE DOESN'T DEFINE ME
Refusing to let arthritis control me, I've purposefully lived as if I was healthy.
I became an Eagle Scout, graduated from university (with student loans), traveled the world (self-funded), and have supported myself financially via online businesses (self-started).
And you know what?
All the long hours at crappy jobs to save money, all the uncertainty and stress of being my own boss...all that struggle was worth it for the views alone....
I've visited 138 countries and helped 1,000s also see the world, first while working as a recruiter and program director for a study abroad company then later as a consultant with my own travel businesses.
I'm grateful and don't take my privilege for granted.
Few people knew that I fight with my body daily, that I've been waging a physical and mental battle for more than half my life now.
I've preferred to struggle in private because I wanted people to judge me for who I was and how I treated others, not based on some disease I never asked for....
ASKING FOR HELP AND WHY GOFUNDME
Yet, no man is an island.
At age 35, my joints have deteriorated to the point that I can't complete basic functions like doing push-ups, opening jars, making a fist, or raising my arms above my head without pain shooting through my shoulders. I can't run anymore, and most mornings I shuffle to the shower with a limp.
Though I've dealt with chronic pain since I was a teenager, now my hips, knees, and feet are starting to mimic the symptoms of my shoulders and hands. As my doctor might say, "That's bad, very bad."
The simple act of typing---necessary to run my online businesses and contribute to modern society in general---has become more difficult due to decreasing mobility in my wrists and fingers.
Since being diagnosed I've tried to stay optimistic about the future, but it's become obvious that my condition is worsening at an accelerated rate. Little by little I'm becoming one of the achy, slow-moving patients I've seen so many times in rheumatologist waiting rooms.
Without drastic change my body is on a path to disability.
That's no exaggeration, just the hard truth.
Thankfully, there is hope in stem cell therapy....
STEM CELL THERAPY, A BRIGHTER FUTURE
"I'm very comfortable with the safety profile of it, but I have to tell you it's super expensive, it will likely not be reimbursed by insurance, and it may not work..." - Dr. Roberta Shapiro during her TedTalk presentation.
Stem cell therapy is controversial in the medical field. Any opinion on the subject, both good and bad, can be validated with a quick Google search.
With that said, the supporting clinical studies and testimonials of actual stem cell therapy patients are nothing short of amazing.
Am I in a mindset where I want to believe this therapy can improve my condition? Yes.
Am I so naive as to believe all marketing without doing my own due diligence? No.
After months of research, I believe stem cell therapy has potential to heal my rheumatoid arthritis because it changes the root cause of inflammation at a cellular level (as opposed to other meds that don’t stop the progression of the disease).
Stem cell therapy might free me from a life-long dependency on meds with harmful side effects.
The upsides of regaining my health and positive outlook far outweigh any downsides.
Plus, they'll inject me with the juice from inside this fancy building....
HOW WILL DONATIONS BE SPENT?
Every penny donated will pay for stem cell therapy at The Stem Cell Institute in Panama City, Panama.
Yes, that same tiny tropical country with the famous canal and iconic hats (long story short: this type of treatment is not available in the United States).
Here is the price quote I received from the clinic:
Once the funding goal is met and treatment begins, I'll post screenshot proof of paid bills as well as real-time photos of my therapy in Panama City.
NOTE: Donations will NOT be used for airfare to and from clinics. I'll use my own airline miles and hotel points for all travel-related expenses.
CHILDHOOD LESSON REVISITED
Remember those National Geographic magazines I used to read as a kid?
They changed me forever.
They instilled in me the idea that life is bigger and more mysterious than our immediate surroundings, that we need to pursue what we want with urgency because tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Kid Me: "Time is the most valuable thing in the world."
Adult Me: "True, true, but it’s the QUALITY of that time that matters most."
I was right to travel early and often, far and wide because there never was and isn’t now any guarantee that my body will be able to move so freely in the years ahead.
All the things I love---family, friends, travel---will become more difficult to enjoy if my rheumatoid arthritis continues to progress unchecked.
Stem cell therapy is an opportunity to reclaim my life, and that makes me very, very excited for the future.
I hope you'll consider donating to this campaign, to the new, stronger, more elastic me who has much left to live and much more to give.
PLEASE, PLEASE share on social media and with friends and family! Even small donations help.
I truly appreciate the support and generosity.
GOOD NEWS ONE: I've been approved for medical insurance and have already begun a 2x yearly arthritis treatment called Rituzin. It's a chemotherapy treatment that was also discovered to fight against rheumatoid inflammation.
I've received one infusion already, will get another in about two weeks, then regularly will get infusions about every six months. According to my rheumatologist, this treatment has greatly improved the well-being of her patients.
GOOD NEW TWO: I was approved for stem cell treatment in Panama. Now I'm working though financial and scheduling issues to make it happen. I'll of course keep you updated as I know more.
BAD NEWS: It's my goal to stay positive about my condition, no matter what. I continue to feel that my health is simply something to deal with, not something to dwell on. This attitude helped me absorb some shocking news when my rheumatologist and I examined my x-ray results.
Apparently, I have several joints that have developed osteoarthritis, a late stage form of bone on bone erosion. There's nothing that can be done other than pain-relieving medication...and eventual surgery.
The rheumatologist also casually mentioned that the clicking in my groin is actually osteoarthritis in my left hip. Hip replacement surgery is inevitable, she said.
That was shocking news, to say the least.
I'll focus on these new infusions and stem cell treatment, while simultaneously learning about preventative medicine, exercises, and even locally-administered stem cell hip injections.
Getting older is fun!
As always, your support is much appreciated and thanks for following along on this weird rollercoaster ride of life. I genuinely hope you're well, happy, and healthy.
It's been awhile. This update will be a mash up of different happenings, including good news on the health front.
BUSINESS: I recently attended a business conference in Las Vegas for people who run or want to run online businesses. Besides experiencing the craziness of Vegas for the first time (100% free thanks to miles/points), I learned many new ways to become more profitable with my own online businesses.
I'll remind readers here that I'm self-employed and self-funding this stem cell treatment.
Besides donations, you can support this stem cell treatment (and benefit yourself) by becoming a client for my travel service that earns you enough airline miles and hotel points for several high-end, almost free luxury vacations. My method is how I've averaged $25 per flight and stayed in some of the world's best hotels for free.
In short, I can save you tons of money while dramatically upgrading your travels. It's against GoFundMe rules to link to my business but you can easily find more info about it.
HEALTH: For several months here in Colorado I've been working on securing health insurance, a primary care physician, and a regular rheumatologist.
On Monday, September 10 I finally secured an appointment with a rheumatologist. I'm very happy with her. She's the first doctor ever who has taken a genuine interest in my health (mind you, I've been seeing doctors since I was 17). She believes stem cell treatment can offer benefits but is also pushing me to take a new medication at the same time.
During my follow-up appointment on Monday, September 17th I'll have more details after she has evaluated my x-rays and blood tests.
STEM CELL TREATMENT: After next Monday's rheumatologist appointment I'll contact the stem clinic in Panama for available dates.
That's all for now. Thank you everyone for your support. This treatment is happening. I wound't be able to do it without your help.
One, $1,735 and climbing! You all are amazing.
Two, this campaign was temporarily suspended for violating GoFundMe's terms and conditions regarding raffles, sweepstakes, and giveaways. To comply, I removed all references to my earlier raffle. On a separate platform I'm still running a raffle alongside this GoFundMe campaign. If interested in that raffle I suggest you search around using my name.
Three, I've been too busy to write personal thank yous to all donors. I've seen every donation come through and every time I get so excited...but I haven't had time to follow-up. Personal thank yous coming soon.
Four, many people are getting in touch with very specific nutrition advice and stem cell clinic recommendations. I've started compiling the best info in one place in order to share it publicly later if I verify it to be worthwhile. People have been so helpful that I want to also be a resource for others going through my same situation.
That's all. Goodnight from Denver.
First, thank youuuuuuu! Honestly, I'm at a loss for words. You could have spent this money a million different ways but instead you invested in my health. That's the definition of selflessness and I'm beyond grateful. Thank you, truly.
Second, I removed the Las Vegas clinic from this campaign. It didn't make sense to fundraise for treatment six months into the future and the huge $34K goal might have intimidated new donors. I'll now focus solely on fundraising to cover treatment at The Stem Cell Institute in Panama (new total: $23,821).
Please continue to share this campaign with anyone and everyone you can. Every bit of exposure helps!
Everyone, thank you again!