My RA Roller Coaster Life: Hoping Humira Helps

Vanessa Collins Health Guide
  • I used to love roller coasters. I guess I still would, if I could still ride them. The roller coaster I don't like is the one I have been on for the past three months. When I was “officially diagnosed” with RA in May of this year, I was relieved. I was ready for a diagnosis so that I could get started on my journey and get my life back.


    Well, it is three months later, and I have been through many ups and downs since my diagnosis. I understand that insurance requires we try methotrexate and other DMARDs before moving on to the “big guns” that we call biologics.


    So far in my journey, I have tried Plaquenil, Chloroquine, and Methotrexate. I had an adverse reaction to Plaquenil and Chloroquine, so those went by the wayside. I threw them off the roller coaster when we were at a low point so they didn't hurt my previous, somewhat backward, rheumy on the way down.

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    Methotrexate is a different story. It has indeed helped me. Before I started taking MTX, I had to crawl up the stairs to my bedroom. Now I can walk up the stairs,and that has been a huge blessing. It seems the MTX has calmed down the inflammation in my hips and knees, and that is a huge benefit. I missed taking it one week because of another illness, and I was acutely aware of my RA the next week.


    Unfortunately, the MTX is just not enough. Every morning I have the same routine. I wake up around 5:30 a.m. I take two Tramadol and lay back down for an hour. I get up and take a Zantac for my stomach and lay back down for a half an hour. I get up again and take 200 mg of Celebrex and 5 mg of Prednisone, and - you guessed it - I lay back down. Half an hour later I am finally able to move well enough to get in the shower and get ready for work. Before I leave, I throw some blood pressure pills down my throat and start my 30 minute commute to work. This is my daily routine.


    My days are usually “okay” with a few ups and downs throughout the day. My roller coaster never rests. Once about ever six weeks, I have a day I feel almost normal. Those are so remarkable for me now. It is such a good feeling to just not feel “bad”. Once or twice a week I have “icky” days. It is hard for me to move and my mind is “foggy”. I just don't feel like doing anything but resting. These are the days I have to struggle to stay awake on my drive home from work.


    For the last three months I have been sleeping and resting most of my weekend away. By the end of my work week, I am exhausted. That is when my roller coaster comes to a screeching halt, and you can find me sleeping on the couch in the living room with my Ohio State blanket and one of my black and white kitties on my chest. I have to say, the kitty love is comforting!


    What I find so curious about my RA Roller Coaster is how many dips and curves it has. They are never the same, but they are there every day. I wonder... how can I be feeling relatively okay and then dip into a couple of hours of feeling awful, only to come out on the other side and feel “okay” a while later. RA is definitely a mystery illness.


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    And so that brings me to my hope for Humira. You see, my wrists, knees and hands are still swollen. My fatigue is overwhelming at times. During my appointment earlier this month, my doctor took one of my swollen wrists in her hands, looked at me and said, “It is time for a serious talk.” Dr M seemed only mildly surprised when I broached the subject of biologics. She smiled and gave me two choices: Humira or Simponi. She explained that Humira would require two injections a month, and Simponi would require only one injection a month.


    I chose Humira for two reasons. First of all, it has been around longer than Simponi. That in itself does not mean it will work best for me, but I take some comfort from the fact that it has been on the market far longer than Simponi. The second reason I chose Humira is an illogical one. Lene Andersen, one of our experts at Health Central, takes Humira, and it has helped her tremendously. Lene is one of my heroes, so I decided I would see how it works for me. Makes absolutely no sense, but the idea of it gives me hope. So...Humira it will be!


    Before taking a biologic, one must get the prerequisite TB test. I had that done last week, and all is well on that front. My rheumatologist knows I am not afraid of giving myself a shot, so the Humira will be shipped to my home, and I will do my first shot on my own. I'm not in any way afraid of giving myself a shot. I am slightly concerned about an allergic reaction.


    When I was prescribed Prevacid for my chronic gastritis, I broke out in hives and my throat started swelling shut. Not a pleasant experience. With this in mind, I called my PCP's office and told them about my concern. They immediately called in a script for an Epi Pen. The nurse said, “The way you react to things, you should have an Epi Pen anyway.” And so I now have an EPI Pen in my purse. I am ready to try Humira.


    The last three months have indeed been a roller coaster for me. I am, by nature, an optimistic person, and I am also stubborn. My optimism has been sustained through interactions with the experts and the Health Central members on this site. Lene and the other experts here share invaluable information about their daily struggles. They also offer possible solutions, and therefore, they offer hope.


    My Humira should arrive some time next week, and I am ready to get started. I am ready for my roller coaster to morph into a passenger train. I am at the stage in my life where I'm just not that interested in roller coasters anymore.

Published On: September 06, 2011