Starting an immunosuppressant

This week I took my first dose of humira, a medication that will suppress my immune system in the hopes to lessen inflammation.  It’s been a long time coming and isn’t a decision a patient or doctor take lightly.  A lot of people are nervous to start this kind of medication, but a lot of people do really well on it.  The more info out there about it, the more confident someone can feel about choosing their therapy so I felt the need to put my experience out there.  (Although the drug company is amazing and provides you everything you need including a very competent nurse that can answer any questions you have.)

First off, why am I even taking this?  I’ve spent the last 3 years (ish) trying to sort out gut problems.  Ended up that I have crohns that is mainly in the higher part of my intestines, which is (according to my doctor) responds better to treatment.  After some time on Pentasa, things have really settled down.  Totally awesome, however in December I started having swelling in my knees and they’d get red and super hot.  We ruled out other causes with the rheumatologist and decided that it was most likely caused by my crohns.  We tried some other meds, one which led me to discover that I have a sulfa allergy and the other being one I can’t stay on for long periods of time.  Ultimately it was decided that humira was my best bet at getting back to normal.

Now you may be asking yourself why still, it doesn’t sound that bad.  I get it.  Other than the stupid amount of other issues I have going on, inflammation is bad.  Long periods of inflammation are not good for you.  It can cause damage and increase your risk of cancer.  (Although, I guess everything causes cancer so…)  The one thing I can always guarantee you is that my inflammatory markers are going to be high no matter what.

The process for getting the medication was confusing, but there was people that helped.  Humira is a special medication, my insurance required a prior authorization from my doctor, and it’s shipped directly to you from a specialty pharmacy.  The guy that I talked to at my insurance..  well, I’m pretty sure he didn’t really know anything that I was asking.  With the guidance of my humira nurse, we got it worked out and I had my medication by the end of the week.  A big plus is that humira gives you a card to help you pay for your copay, even if you have private insurance.  My starter box with 6 pens only cost me $5.  I thought I was going to have to pay $150 a month for my regular dose, so I’m a happy camper.

First injection was four shots.  That’s a bit intimidating, especially for people that aren’t okay with needles.  Thankfully, needles are the one thing I’m super comfortable with.  That sounds bad…  I’ve drawn blood, accessed IVs, and used syringes working in the hospital for over  5 years so it’s no big deal to me.  If the sight of a needle just freaks you out, you’re in luck!  You won’t even see the super small needle because it’s covered by a sheath the whole time.  Of course it’s going to burn, but shots tend to do that.  Give it a minute and you’ll be alright.  Some people even try to numb the area with an icecube prior to giving themselves the shot, so that might help with it.  The worst part about it, to me, is the gurgle noise it makes as it’s pushing the medicine in.  Super cringe-tastic, but I’ll take it if that’s the worst thing about it.

Hooray for me, no reactions at all!  Just bled a bunch on one of the four sites, which is no biggie, it happens.  It can take a while to notice any changes, so I’ll patiently wait.  I will say that I felt the most awake I’ve been in forever on day 3 and even made dinner without my knees flaring up.  Of course today (day 4) Aunt Flo decided to kick my ass, so we’ll have to wait and see if there’s a trend.

I’m excited to maybe get back to feeling a bit normal again, but I’m not going to hold my breath.  I’m just glad it’s going to be super easy to make a part of my routine.  I will have to hound myself at work to make sure I’m using all my PPE because we get a little relaxed about it back in the microbiology department.  Being that I work with things that make people sick all day, I was most nervous about work and getting sick and blah blah blah.  My humira nurse told me that she had many patients that work in the hospital, some in the lab, and they hadn’t had any more trouble than anyone else.  So that helped put my mind to ease.

Of course this medication isn’t for everyone and you have to take into consideration a lot of different factors.  If you are doing research and trying to making a decision, I hoped this helped some.  If you have any questions, reach out.

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The definition of chronic.

chron·ic

ˈkränik

adjective

  1. (of an illness) persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.

  2. So we all know this, painfully so.  In my constant struggle to accept what is happening to my body I’ve found that the very definition of chronic is one I will not accept more than anything.

  3. I’ve been getting excited at the prospects ahead these next few months.  I will more than likely be starting biologics after we get results back from my colonoscopy later this week.  In a couple months I’ll be seeing a doctor that is one of the top in his field to possibly have surgery.  On top of all of it, my back had been feel better.  Had being the key word.  The nerve pain hit hard this weekend and reminded me that even though things are better, they’re never gone for good.

  4. The flare up in my back is a bit of a reality check.  All my health issues are chronic and don’t have a cure.  The best you can hope for is that the pain subsides and doesn’t interfere with daily life.  I was building up hope thinking that once I got to the end of the summer that everything would be gone forever.  Things will be better, but I need to accept that I won’t be cured.

  5. This my sound like such a downer to people, but accepting that my chronic health problems means chronic is a big thing.  If I keep myself in a mindset that one day I’ll be normal and do normal things, I’ll never get there.  If I accept that I’m always going to have these problems then I can move on and find different way to do “normal” things and plan ahead for the inevitable pain that will result.

  6. I’m still learning that it’s not worth it to push through things because I’ll always end up in pain.  I’m still trying to learn what causes certain symptoms.  I still am trying to accept my chronic illnesses as chronic.

Disconnected.

I’ve generally always kept to myself and was absolutely fine with all the alone time in the world.  Now I think I’m going crazy.  I’m having a hard time coping with everything that’s going on and what the future might hold.  I only have my husband to talk with about it.  I don’t feel like anyone else I talk to (which is very few) will understand.  I know friends and family might take offense to that statement, but at this point I need someone who knows what I’m going through and can help me get to the next step.  I need more than the conversations that just consist of “Oh that sucks, I’m sorry,” although I do greatly appreciate it when someone cares enough to listen to me.

Since we’ve moved to a new state, I’ve isolated myself even more than normal.  I was already having worsening health at the time of the move and wasn’t looking forward to having to change jobs.  I’ve had a hard time coping with cutting my hours and changing my work to fit me better.  I have two jobs, a part time and a PRN.  I had to fight with the occupational medicine doctor for weeks to get them to clear me.  It’s all put me in a state of mind where I feel like I’m just going to be let go for my health at some point anyways.  Even at my last doctor appointment it was mentioned that there was a possibility of having a “medically-induced” career change.

This has made it that much harder for me to make any connections with people here.  The only time I leave the house other than the regular adult things is to go to work.  At my part time job, the group I work with is pretty close knit and a lot older than me.  My PRN job has some people my age with similar interests, but I want to quit that job so bad because I’m always in pain when I leave that I can’t get myself  to try to socialize.  This on top of being  complete ate up with my health situation at the moment makes me a real bore to talk to.

In all honesty, I’m probably depressed.  We already know my anxiety has been kicking in too.  Any chance I take to talk to people about things usually ends up with them either blowing over what I said or them telling me something ridiculous like I need to stop the doctors everything.  I’m afraid that my health is going to ruin my life.  I was doing really well…  I graduated college, got a well paying job, bought a new car and bought a house.  Now I’ve been dialing back on pay and hours to be able to work without killing myself, which makes it more difficult to keep our heads above water on the financial front and we may not move back to Indiana where our house is.

I really dislike uncertainty and that’s about all I have at this point.

I like having clear plans.  I like having executable lists.  Other than going to the grocery store, I can’t implement that in my life anymore.

I desperately wish an excel sheet could give me all the answers…  Or maybe I could find a peer that can understand me.

Anxiety set in.

I started writing in this blog as a way to blow off steam.  I may not have posted much, and to be honest, it’s not like I’ve had a super terrible journey.  Thus far, I’ve been pretty lucky and I’ve always kept that in the front of my mind when it comes to all my health stuff.

I sat down in the wee hours of the morning while everyone was asleep and compiled all that is currently happening in my journey right now.  It hit a little harder than I was prepared.  I’ve been so busy thinking about other things since we’ve moved that I hadn’t let myself really take in everything that I’m experiencing with my health and with my doctors.

This may all be thanks to part of my test results coming through yesterday from my last doctor visit.  Really just the fact that I don’t have all the results yet does not sit well with me.  And yes, I am that kind of person who signed up with LabCorp and Quest to receive all my test results after they’ve been sent to my doctors.  I’m an MLT and I need to know my results.

Anywho, I only got part of my results and that part was positive.  It’s pretty much a non-specific test but still has me on edge and got me focused on everything that’s going on.  Currently I have 5 specialists, am being evaluated for another autoimmune disease, possibly starting biologics soon, need to get setup to do physical therapy, and probably will have surgery this summer.  I can’t even imagine what else I would get myself into if I brought up any other concerns I have to my PCP.

If my body just gives up, I’m gonna be in a bad place.  And trying to get my health straight, not even counting trying to eat right or exercise, is damn expensive.  I’ve gotten to the point where I really can’t handle working full time in a core lab anymore, so I’ve had to lessen my hours (PRN in core lab and part time in Micro) which means less money.  I got on the best insurance I could (a.k.a. EXPENSIVE) and still want to puke to think about adding on all the other costs for treatments coming up.

Needless to say, I still struggle with my needs, wants, and identity…  In general and when it comes to my health. I never know what new and weird thing my body is going to do next and send my doctor on a witch hunt to find the culprit.  (But seriously thankful for this new PCP with an attitude like that.)  From muscle spasms, to hot and red knees, to my fifth bout of shingles on my damn face…

I guess I’ve always been kinda okay and laid back about these things because I hadn’t had a real concrete diagnosis and my symptoms didn’t stack up at the same time like they do now.  I’m getting diagnoses, I’m getting more abnormal lab results and I don’t know how to really cope.  I’ve been used to there being a sort of end point to things…  like, I got my xray and did my course of steroids so we’re done with that issue even though it’s not resolved.  I don’t think that’s going to be the case now with most things which maybe a good thing in the long term.

Who knows, maybe 2017 will be my healing year.  I’m just tired of waiting to get through it.

I have a thing! *confetti* (warning: there’s about to be some cursing)

Cursing in 3…

2…

1…

HOLYFUCKINGSHITBALLS I HAVE A REAL, MEDICALLY ACCEPTED AS FACT DIAGNOSIS!!!!!!
IT’S A MOTHERFUCKIN MIRACLE!!!

I’m literally so excited.
So I’ve been dealing with some gut related issues for 5 ish years now.  I shuffled some doctors around, tried a bunch of meds and waited and waited…   I finally found an amazing doctor.  Last October I had a scope that came with just some inflammation, nothing they’d pin as abnormal.  So things got worse and we did a capsule endoscopy. This time they must have found something because they said it was ‘indicative of inflammatory bowel disease.’  Obviously, I hear this and I’m like, ‘WHAT THE SHIT I ACTUALLY HAVE A REAL THING?!’
I’ve been trying to chase down causes for my constant discomforts and infections since I 13.  I turn 26 this weekend.  I’m so relieved.  Everything has always came back negative or normal…  finally, a thing!
So, new meds to try and 5 million more follow ups with my various doctors plus a fun procedure next month.  This little lady might end up feeling better…

And yea, I know….  this may not be something to be real happy about.  It’s an awful, painful disease that can make you real sick.  You know what though?  No one is gonna tell me that pain isn’t really.  Because everyone accepts that IBD is a real thing unlike Fibromyalgia. You can tell your friends that you can’t go out because your IBD is flared up and they’ll be fine with it.  Try the same but with fibromyalgia and people will think you’re faking and just being a shitty person.

I’ll take my new diagnosis, sir.  At least I can feel more confident  about what I feel.