My Journey With Pharmaceutical Medications For Rheumatoid Arthritis, So Far…

Every time I was sick before, I was just given a prescription and it went away. This one isn’t going away, not after 18 different prescriptions and counting. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a progressive and incurable illness.

Tylenol, Advil, nothing from the drug store was touching the pain I was experiencing or would help me sleep.

It’s been a bumpy road trying to find the right medication for my autoimmune disease seropositive Rheumatoid Arthritis since my diagnosis in 2015. The first few years were a pharmaceutical haze of side effect after side effect. The need for relief, prevention and hope kept me willing to try one after another. There is a lot of truth behind the statement, “The medications can be as bad as the illness.”

Diet isn’t going to cure my Arthritis. It will greatly help my Arthritis, but it is not a cure. I look at food now as a medicine to go along with my pharmaceutical medicine. There is also the physiological medicine of exercise. These are important to consider when living with Arthritis.

Is this a stab against any medications? No, absolutely not. Every case of RA is different, what may work for some may not work for others. I know people who have had great luck with methotrexate or humira and many who haven’t. I tend to have paradoxical reactions to some drugs.

My first experience was dicloflenac. I was on it for one week, before my diagnosis, prescribed by my family doctor when I went into her office complaining the chronic pain wouldn’t go away and requested to be tested for RA. Within days of taking it, I started to experience intense stomach cramps and vaginal bleeding. I immediately stopped taking it, here is also where I stopped working as an esthetician because the pain just got too bad. I was able to handle naproxen for a few years but I ended up an ulcer even though I always took it with food. Other medications get added in like antidepressants or anxiety meds. Something to fix my stomach lining after it’s been abused by previous meds.

In Canada, it takes 1 year and several medications, DMARDs (Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drug), before you can get onto biologics, the good stuff for treating RA. My Rheumatologist was able to quickly pick up I needed to be on biologics based off my disease activity, but it wasn’t easy because I was having so many reactions and the restrictions behind the medications.

The main drug I tried before biologics was the standard DMARD, methotrexate in both pill or injection form or paired with another drug. I had a hard time fighting off infections, I was nauseous, had diarrhea, then the hair loss because after all it is a small dose of chemotherapy.

We continued the road down the DMARD list with more side effects, more ineffectiveness. Some drugs I could only be on for a few weeks because they caused such severe depression and mood swings in me. By the time I was ready to start biologics, I was terrified of the drugs, I avoided them plus my Rheumatologist for about 6 months.

When I finally did have the guts to try biologics, I went on Humira first which I gave about 6 months to but the side effects of vertigo, stomach pains, nausea, depression just ended up too much for me. I struggled so hard to fight off colds. Even paired with methotrexate injections I was not finding any luck.

The next biologic we decided to try was orencia because it’s known to be milder with side effects. It pretty much did absolutely nothing for me. Around this time I developed issues with my Mirena IUD and began bleeding.

How do you continue to take something that makes you so awful or could potentially really harm or kill you?

Hope and faith that modern medicine will help me.

Knowing the facts that if I leave my disease untreated I can’t function. Knowing that I am a fighter and this is part of my fight. By educating myself on the disease. Also knowing I can’t just rely on the pharmaceutical medication to completely fix me, until there is a cure.

I kinda want to write the makers of Actemra a love letter. You’re not perfect, but you’ve helped me so much. Finding the right drug was kinda like finding a suitable relationship that works for you, going on a lot of bad dates until you finally found someone you can tolerate during your worst moments.