Even before I left home to go to the Czech medical spa, I wanted to hear about people who’d had positive results. Gabriella, the person in sales had told me on the phone that her father returns to the medical spa as a patient every year, but didn‘t give specifics. I’ve already referenced the double-blind, placebo-controlled study of patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (R.A.), considered the gold standard in medicine, done in Austria in 1992 and 2000. They showed beyond a reasonable doubt that patients who were given radon treatments experienced benefits such as less pain, more flexibility and reduced use of medicines at 6 months post-treatment than those who did not receive radon. There are similar studies claiming that irradiation of the lower body with very low dose radiation twice a week is beneficial in treating non-Hodgekins lymphoma (1988). Earlier research shows that small doses of radon can prevent cancer in mice. These scientific studies published in international journals provided the information about radon for health which had convinced me to travel to the Czech Republic to try it for myself.
After I arrived, I asked Dr. Ludmilla Khaled at my second appointment with her, if I could see data or stories. She said that in the past they had collected such data, but because of new privacy policies, they could no longer ask patients about their results. She generously loaned me a stack of research papers about the use of radon for health, but only the papers which were written in either English or German were accessible to me. For weeks I pored over them, using a translation program on my phone, German to English, and took copious notes.
Here’s my summary of the data: Epidemiological studies, such as that done in Japan in 1992 relate that survivors of the nuclear explosions of World War II (acute exposure) showed decreased cancer rates compared to cancer rates in people further away from the nuclear bomb sites. Similar results are reported in studies done in 1985 and 1987 for U.S., British and Canadian observers of atmospheric nuclear explosions.
Additionally, studies done in 1990 and 1993 show, in the case of chronic exposure, that male nuclear power plant workers (exposed workers) in the U.S. have lower cancer mortality rates, as is true of workers in large radon clinics in Russia, compared to general populations (1988). Similar results were reported in Canada (1983) and U.K. (1992).
An American researcher (Luckey, 1990, 1993) noted that while there is a maximum amount of radon in enclosed spaces such as basements, above which it should be eradicated, that some radiation is essential. He wondered if whole populations should be supplemented with radiation. He argued that “the dose makes the poison,” and that many functions are improved in the body with the appropriate use of radon: “growth, neuromuscular development, hearing and visual fecundity, learning and memory, fecundity, immune competence, cancer mortality and average lifespan.”
Three possible mechanisms of action of radon on the body include: 1. Radon encourages DNA repair at the molecular level. 2. Radon causes free radical detoxification at the molecular level, and 3. Radon provides stimulation of the immune system at a cellular level. This is an area for further study and it is likely the actions are complicated.
But I also craved stories, and talked of this desire to Blanka, the concierge at my hotel, whose command of English was superb. She suggested that after she was finished with her work shift some day, we might interview a few patients together, maybe in a small group, and she could translate from Czech to English for me. I was very excited; the project gave me purpose. Honestly, I wanted to discover something which could potentially be helpful to many people in the future. I went downtown to buy cookies to serve at the meeting, and prepared a short version of my story and some basic questions for Blanka to translate to the patients she would invite.
Blanka had already told me her mother had worked in the radon area of this spa for many years, and that like many other former practitioners who celebrate their good health into old age, her mother had few incidents of sickness and is healthy. Blanka spoke of her own pain which sounded spookily like mine (heaviness and morning stiffness requiring a long hot bath and ibuprofen) and we talked of happy things, too. She would marry on a weekend during my three-week stay; her travel advice and attention for him had helped Glenn so much that he wanted to buy her a wedding gift. She was a charming, loving person with great sensitivity to energy. She and I discussed the inherent challenge in her job not to give away too much energy or become a rescuer who puts others’ needs before her own. I wished I could talk with her, but there was almost always a line of patients waiting to ask her about events, bus schedules and upcoming tours.
Other patients told her of their successes that had them return to Jachymov this time, for example, a seventy year old woman who had taught chemistry in Prague is here for the 10th time. This would indicate a high level of satisfaction with results. I also met a woman from Ukraine who is here for the second time after spinal surgery in which three discs were removed. Last year’s treatments reduced her pain, she said, and she now has returned hoping for similar results. A math teacher who spoke English told me she’s here for the first time. She recently had a blood clot and a stroke. Half of her body is disabled and, like me sometimes, she needs two hands to pick up a glass. I sincerely hoped all of us would find relief from pain and acquire more ability. I’d learned directly from each of them that Gertrude was here for the 20th time and Doris for the 7th time. They and others warned me that symptoms get worse before they get better.
Unfortunately, Blanka was unable to carry out the interview project because of privacy policies, but the first result I can personally report for myself is that after one week, just six radon treatments, the bottoms of my feet stopped hurting. It felt like a miracle! I had injured my feet by doing too many lunges, part of a recommended workout at the advanced yoga workshop I’d gone to in upstate New York. I couldn’t learn whether it was plantar fasciitis (per the podiatrist) or neuropathy (per the chiropractor). But for more than a year, I had been unable to stand or walk without burning pain. The pain kept me awake many nights and kept me home a lot, dependent on Glenn’s help. The laser therapy at my chiropractor’s office had helped my feet a lot, but it was easy to re-injure them with just a minimal amount of walking. During the first week at the medical spa, Glenn went out walking on the many beautiful hiking trails in these tree-covered Ore mountains while I went to scheduled treatments or stayed in the hotel room and looked online at wheel chairs for sale or the double canes which support the lower arm used by many people here. Then, after a week at the spa, I could suddenly walk without pain! I hiked a couple of miles and felt no pain, even at night. Now that I could walk the stairs up and down to my fifth floor room (sometimes from the floor -2B in the sub basement) I was free of needing to use the elevators, reminding me that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. I felt relief and unimaginable joy in the freedom of having no pain in my feet. Eventually I went on four mile hikes out of town to pick raspberries and even did a little dancing in the lobby some evenings.
During week two, I developed two very big sore pimples, one in my ear and one in my nose. My stomach was a little bit upset, probably from the change in food, and my digestion was slow. Then, after the first two weeks at the spa, my feet were still fine, but as the physician and patients had predicted, my joint pain got worse. Both shoulders hurt at the same time (this had never been true in the 12 years I’d had R.A.) and both my hands were less flexible, as painful as they’d ever been. The morning stiffness was worse and my wrists felt weak and fragile. Some people predicted it will stay bad for two weeks after finishing the treatments before feeling pain relief, others said it could take 6 weeks before one feels the benefits. It was beginning to feel like there was a carrot dangling out in front of my nose on an ever-lengthening stick, never really achievable. Some patients even reported to me that the best benefits don’t occur until after returning for the treatments for a few years in a row!
The same increased pain level continued after I returned home. After one week at the spa I wrote in my journal: “I hurt like a son of a bitch,” and reminded myself that Maria (the elderly woman who’d lived in Canada) had said to me as her pain increased while still at the spa, ‘I feel like somebody would hit me with a stick.” Back at the spa, other people had also spoken of their pain and hopes for change. Here at home, it seems my husband and friends have no idea about chronic pain, so in an odd way I feel lonelier here. The fingers on my left hand became so swollen that I had to go to a jeweler and have my wedding ring cut off. I decided to go back on the weekly injection of Orencia, a drug which is prescribed for auto-immune diseases to block the formation of inflammation. I hadn’t needed it for the past seven months. Looking at the notes I took while at the spa I read “some people feel results after 2 or 3 months.”
Then, wonderously, it really seemed to happen just as people at the spa had predicted. After three months at home, I noticed I have stronger, more flexible joints, no pain and do not need to take any medication. The best result from the radiation treatments, however, is the increased energy which infused my whole body. It was as though my body had been plugged into an electrical socket. My acupuncturist said my pulses have more vitality. The definition of panache is: self-assurance, confidence, energy, verve, zest, vivacity. I did real physical work helping our daughter move to another apartment! I was able to be a hostess for guests at our house and in Chicago in a way that had been impossible for years. Unfortunately, the pain in both feet returned because I injured them again by doing too much cooking, walking, and shopping. It ended up taking months and other alternative treatments such as cold laser therapy and castor oil packs for my feet to repair themselves. I feel hopeful knowing I can return to Eastern Europe for radon treatments again, after at least a year has passed.
As a result of having more energy, my thinking became clearer, again maybe as a result of lessening depression. My dreams were very vivid and I was able to imagine scenarios which kept me less locked into just one way of thinking. It took three months post-treatment to feel a significant decrease in pain, and I again stopped taking medication.
People want to hear about my experiences and results of attending a Czech medical spa where radon was administered as a treatment. I’ve enjoyed bringing back to mind the people I met and introducing them, through this writing, to family and friends. Taking on this challenge to communicate brings me a feeling of agency, of resiliency, of accomplishment. As a result of radon treatments, I have more energy and am truly grateful for the opportunity to benefit from unusual treatments in the mountains of a very beautiful eastern European country. It feels hopeful knowing I can return to Eastern Europe for radon treatments again if needed, after at least a year has passed. Thank you for “traveling” with me.
A friend emailed my favorite comment about this blog: “Such color and meaning in multicultural healing stories.” And on that theme, I’ll appreciate the international friends who visited me at the end of summer, just after I returned from the Czech medical spa. Their visits from Canada and Japan were heartwarming. One friend I hadn’t seen for 15 years flew from Japan and stayed only three days, bringing sweet heartfelt feelings and sharing healing hugs, then returned to her family in Kyoto. All of you, readers, commenters and visitors alike aided me in my journey, healing from Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am grateful.
P.S. I will be adding one additional post, that is, a post script post 🙂