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Money/Health/Lifting Decision

I’m 30 something and have a disabling joint disease. My condition has already cut me off from aggressive lifting, which is of great importance to me. Since age 11, exercise has been the love of my life, and this is the first time that I’m unable to engage in anything more than the most embarrassingly conservative forms of exercise. In another few years at this rate, my condition will cut me off from work, which means I will be forced to live off of long-term disability insurance benefits, which won’t be a whole lot, just enough to survive on.

There are two new treatments in existence, mesenchymal stem cells and platelet rich plasma, which can regenerate joints to a degree. Neither of them are covered by insurance, and both are extremely expensive. I’ve had them before, and know they can work, but they aren’t cures, they just help, and there is a potential to botch them by exposing the joints to too much force too soon after. The ultimate limiting factor is the intervertebral discs, which are harder to treat (riskier, more expensive, less evidence of efficacy) than the other joints like the knees, shoulders, etc.

I have already spent $60K+ on treatments with mixed results (first one was successful, second one failed for the reasons above).

I have a liquid net worth of $160K. Enough for a lot of treatment. But, when that money is gone, it’s gone, and I can’t earn it back if I’m disabled. If things stay consistent, I will save $25-$30K in the next 12 months and $40-45K in the 12 months after that.

Treatment option #1 is the most aggressive. This will treat both my synovial joints and discs with both stem cells and platelet rich plasma. It involves spending about $35,000-$40,000 on a stem cell treatment with a clinic that’s breaking federal law by providing the particular form of treatment I need in the US, and I expect the FDA to shut them down this year, so if I do it, I have to do it now. I really want to, but the total cost of this will be about $110,000. There is a chance that this treatment plan could allow me to regain my ability to lift, but it’s a huge unknown. It could extend my working life by an unknown length of time, but there’s no known likelihood that I’d be able to save as much in that time as I’d spend on the treatment. There is also a risk of treatment failure. If I spend that much money and it doesn’t work, I’m fucking heartbroken.

Treatment option #2 is less adventurous, but still goes pretty hard. Platelets in the peripheral joints, and stem cells in the spine. The stem cell treatment will be in the Cayman Islands with a company that does it there legally. It will cost $70K-$80K. I don’t know how much better or worse this will work than #1. Even in the best case scenario, I wouldn’t expect to resume aggressive lifting, because I’d be afraid to destroy the benefit of the procedure if I put too much force on the joints. My goal will be to keep working pain-free and engage in minimal exercise as long as possible.

Treatment option number #3 is to pursue treatment with platelet rich plasma only. I’ll spend about $15,000 to do a whole-body once over with PRP once a year and save/invest the rest. This position accepts the inevitability of disability, and that lifting is over, and the goal of it is to save money for when I’m disabled and have to rely on disability benefits.

This is proving to be an exceedingly hard decision. Thoughts?

These long term outlooks are terribly difficult.

I’ve become massively risk averse in the past couple of years due to a really bad heart attack and diagnosis of chronic heart failure, which has gotten measurably worse in the past year and a half. It has already affected my life pretty badly, made work and lifting much more difficult, and will very likely be the cause of my death.

Depending on how far down the rabbit hole you go, there is always somebody offering something that will fix or cure what ever ails you.

They are fucking lying criminals. They will leave you broke and baffled, and never think twice about you again.

Keep your money. You’re going to need it. I know it sucks looking down the barrel of a chronic degenerative disease and feeling desperate for hope, more time, or some miraculous treatment, but there actually are some things that money can’t buy.

So use it for things you can buy. Living expenses and whatnot. Make your life better in ways that you know work. You’re obviously a good earner, so use your time. Shore up investments so if/when you do have to take a knee it isn’t on cold concrete.

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As someone who just turned 30 and has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for 14 years now, I empathize with your situation completely. Although it honestly sounds like you are worse off than me. I haven’t been able to lift intensely since I was 14, but am now getting back into lifting at moderate intensities. I can only do light pressing, though. My wrists are really fucked up.

My career has been totally fucked as well and I’m looking at a future of menial work and living close to poverty. Future looks very bleak. I have given up on the expectation of working pain-free and expect every day to painful to some extent.

It sounds like these treatments can only buy you temporary relief in the best case scenario. Am I right on that? I would save that money you have for your living expenses when you’re disabled completely.

Can I ask what disease you have? Is it autoimmune related?

My joint condition is degenerative, not autoimmune. It isn’t really known how long the results of treatment last; I still have noticeable results from my 2017 treatment with stem cells, in the limited areas that were treated.

I would pay that kind of money you mentioned in your post if and only if the results were permanent and I could lift and work without any restrictions. But the fact there’s a possibility it won’t work or results will be temporary would make me very hesitant, especially with that kind of cash.

I was going to pay 10k a few years ago to treat debilitating tendonitis (had it for 15 years), but luckily PT healed it up for the most part. Still have a lot of problems related to RA, though.

I would save the money for disability. This really fucking sucks, and people like you and I have to come to terms with the fact that we are disabled and can’t do the things we want to do. At least that’s the conclusion I’ve come to after dealing with this shit for 14 years.

I feel your pain, brother. Not just the physical pain, but the psychological pain over not being able to live a full life doing the things that bring joy and purpose to your existence.

Have you checked other markets other than the US or Cayman Islands? The US health care system is great if you are wealthy. It kinda sucks if not though.

In your position, I would check around a bit more. It might be a lot cheaper in central or south America.

The problem is the skills don’t exist there.

I am not exactly sure what you need, but I just googled “stem cell joint therapy Mexico”, and tons of stuff came up. With 2-3 minutes of research, it appears it is about 1/4 the cost.

Now, again I am not sure if this is the correct treatment for you.

Is it possible to try the treatment on just one joint to see if it is going to work? It sounds like you want stem cell treatment in several places. Maybe just look to one spot first to evaluate?

I know of the clinic in Mexico (it’s run by a company based in TX) but they aren’t orthopedic experts and keep the cells in culture too long.

if you don’t mind me asking, what’s the name of the disease. My dad runs a medical devices company specializing in orthopedics and know a LOT of research doctors. Maybe they might have some suggestions

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I think you should adapt to an easy types of sport…


https://www.realcanadian.win/

I had a problem with my knee, I was told to do various exercises and take medications until my condition worsened and I had to undergo an operation, because before that I spent a lot of money on medications. After the operation everything seems to be fine. So I would choose the first option, but you decide.

Waste of money there is not real evidence any of those treatments work.