PsO & PsA Success Story - Jen Fischby Julie Cerrone Croner Patient Advocate
Jen Fisch is a successful woman. In business, in her personal life and when it comes to dealing with her health. Believing “it’s more powerful and healing to focus on the positives”, she hasn’t let her psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis hold her back from enjoying the life she wants to live.
Sharing your patient story can be scary. This can mostly be due to the fact there's no way to tell what others will think, or even how your story will be received. But there are so many amazing benefits to sharing your story. Each of us has our own journey towards sharing, and we have to honor that.
Reading through her story, Jen exudes such strength and positivity. She credits her conditions and becoming a single mom with helping drive her forward. Sure, there have been days where she hasn’t felt great. Where the pain of psoriatic arthritis was so intense that Jen struggled to get out of her car. Sure, there have been challenges, but during those times she’s refocused, taken charge and continued to soldier on.
So how has Jen taken control of her conditions and continued to live a thriving, successful life? A combination of medication and lifestyle changes have helped this young woman create a story worth sharing.
Psoriasis And psoriatic arthritis diagnosis
Jen was no stranger to psoriasis growing up, with her father battling the condition for many years. That’s why when Jen was diagnosed, and subsequently had to start medications, she wasn’t averse to taking them. She remembers noticing a small spot on her forehead, and knowing she wanted to stop if from getting worse. Experiencing first-hand what psoriasis can do to a person, Jen wanted to get ahead of it as quickly as she could.
“The anticipation of knowing that it was going to get much worse was scary.”
About 6 months after her psoriasis diagnosis, Jen woke up completely blindsided. She recalls not being able to move any muscles and felt “stiff as a board.” The arthritis came on so dramatically that it had a greater effect on her than the actual psoriasis diagnosis. Adding to the topicals that she had started on for her psoriasis, she began methotrexate, prednisone and a biologic early on.
A competitive athlete, in high school and college Jen played soccer at a high level. In her last 2 years of playing, she suffered multiple injuries including two broken feet, a separated shoulder and a broken collarbone. Despite the severity of the injuries, looking back, Jen wondered if the aches and pains were mistaken for athletic injuries, instead of her psoriatic arthritis.
What was Jen’s biggest struggle when it came to medication? Consistency. Being young and on her own when starting the medications, she wasn’t diligent about consistently taking her medication - especially during periods where she’d start to feel well. It was in those times where she’d stop taking the meds, thinking that she was all better. But once she’d get off the meds, the cycle would start over again beginning with a bad flare.
Mental barriers to taking medication were also a problem for Jen. One medication in particular is not one of her favorites. Hating your medication can avert a person from staying diligent about dosages. This is a sentiment which I’m sure can be reiterated by many in the autoimmune community, myself included!
But the biggest struggle Jen currently grapples with is the fact that there are no long term studies. When she started on her first biologic, it was right when the drug hit the market. Starting on these drugs at 19 makes her wonder what the long term effects will be - a concern Jen shares with many patients out there.
Biologics and pregnancy
Many young women are especially worried about starting on these medications when they’re around child bearing age. Jen wasn’t planning on getting pregnant when she did, but it was during a period where she was taking a biologic. Because the medications were so new, she stopped taking the injection while she was pregnant.
During her pregnancy, her psoriasis flared, but her arthritis seemed to calm down a bit. She continued to use topicals, but they didn’t seem to help much. Upon arrival of her little bundle of joy, her joints started to “freak out”. Toughing it out, Jen tried to stay off of biologics so she could breast feed. But, about a month and a half into it, she couldn’t take it any more and started on remicade. Having spent 11 months off of medication, Jen now has permanent damage to her left ring finger. She’s undergone two surgeries to try to remedy the damage, but unfortunately they’ve both been unsuccessful.
Finding what worked for her
Many patients may choose to keep a medical record on themselves, but this Advertising/Marketing girl at heart has kept a detailed powerpoint! She’s documented her symptoms and the changes to show her doctors. Bringing a flash drive into her doctors appointments, she’d say “I could fill out these papers for days, but if you read through this you’ll get a real sense of what the last 3-4 months have been like.” With this, Jen continued to seek out the best possible course of treatment for her.
Following her pregnancy, Jen tried acupuncture, which, although didn’t help physically, helped change her lifestyle. Jen was advised to stop eating sugar, which can be a huge trigger for inflammation.
Through the years, Jen has also experimented with different diets, which she says plays a huge part in helping her manage her psoriatic disease. At the time, the Atkins diet was all the rage, so she tried it, noting, “It helped immensely. My skin was less angry and my joints felt better.” After learning which foods were trigger foods for her, Jen has settled on a ketogenic lifestyle. Eating organic, grass fed, high quality fats, low carbs and moderate protein, she finds that she feels insurmountably better.
Believing you do need medicine, Jen also believes that what you put in your body, and how you treat it, plays just as an important role.
Today, Jen strives to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. Although Jen says, “it has been hard to keep a positive attitude at times,” she adds,
“I know the journey is never over, but I try to live in the moment and not worrying about what health challenges might lie ahead. It’s not worth the stress.”
Jen has been on a few different biologic treatments, but has found consistent success with remicade, citing it as her favorite. Besides helping her condition, she likes that she doesn’t have to give herself the injection. Jen still uses topicals and remicade today to help manage her psoriatic disease, but along the way has tried many other things that have influenced her journey. Jen even started a ketogenic instagram account to detail her journey!