Med Changes

Chemotherapy. One of those words with plenty of weight. Plenty of assumptions attached to it. For example, only Cancer patients receive it, this is a  myth. It is only a word. Only a medication designed to assist an individual in some way. Autoimmune diseases are treated with low dose chemotherapy. Chemo suppresses the immune system and helps inflammation.

Personally, I have encountered three chemos to date to attempt to control my illnesses. First I did methotrexate self-injection. Than Mercaptopurine was added. (This combination is not advised.) I couldn’t handle that for long so we made the switch to  just Mercaptopurine.

I stopped Mercaptopurine the end of last month. Medication changes are challenging. Needless to say, it can increase pain and symptoms. It is a difficult medication to start and to stop. Though I am not a fan it did suppress my immune system some, therefore, stopping it increased pain. However, it was worth it because I have begun my journey with Remicade.

Remicade is a biologic which is received through an infusion. It can be used to treat Chrons, Ulcerative Colitis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, and Plaque Psoriasis. Remicade suppresses the immune system, similar to other medications used to treat autoimmune disorders. Most times, to qualify for a biologic an individual must fail other treatments or have difficulties getting off steroids. The Remicade web page provides additional helpful information.

The first three infusions are loading doses and are given every two weeks. I had my first Remicade infusion November 8th (but I have been on another biologic and received other medications via an infusion). Personally, I pre-medicate in the car on my way to the infusion center. An hour before I take Prednisone, Benadryl, and Tylenol. The infusion lasts a total of three hours. I had nurses and a PA adjusting the speed of the Remicade every few minutes. In addition, they monitored my vitals.I felt beyond wiped out afterward as if the life was sucked out of me.

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That evening I was extremely achy. In addition, I had high pain in the lower right side of my abdomen. I was in bed by nine pm. However, that is the extent of the side effects I experienced. The joint pain was slightly better for a few days. I get my second loading dose soon. Eight weeks is the time frame that an individual should start to encounter improvement.

My next infusion is in a few days. I am extremely tired. The pain levels have returned to preinfusion. The weather isn’t helping any. The pressure is dropping. Additionally, we are expecting a mix of rain and snow. All in all, I am ready for my second infusion. Things feel much more hopeful on Remicade.

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A New World

I have just stepped into the world of Methotrexate. Though I am a foreigner, I must admit I am excited to be on this journey. Let me back up. I am sure someone is thinking, “What is Methotrexate?” Methotrexate is a medication which falls into the following classifications: Disease Modifying Anti Rheumatic Drug, Immunosuppressants; Antineoplastics, Antimetabolite, Immunomodulators, and Chemotherapy. I’m sure the majority of this list looks Greek to you, just a bunch of medical mumble jumbo.

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Methotrexate slows down the reproduction of various cells. It also decreases inflammation. It is used to treat diverse illnesses, however it is not completely understood why it improves some illnesses. It is also said to decrease pain and stiffness due to athirst. Methotrexate is used to treat Cancer, RA, Lupus, Psoriasis, IBD, and a handful of additional chronic illnesses. Though many people go on this medication only half of patients improve.

As with any medication, Methotrexate can come with a variety of side effects. Some include: dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, swollen, tender gums, decreased appetite, and hair loss. It is essential to weigh the pros and the cons before beginning any medication. It is also vital to be extremely education this way you know what to expect.

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When my doctor mentioned Methotrexate, my anxieties about seeing a new doctor melted away. Excitement ran through my veins. I had researched and discussed the possibly of going on this medication a while ago though it seemed unlikely anyone would put me on it. The doctor offered give me information on it and allow me to think about beginning the medication. Consumed with disappointment I informed her that I was educated about this medication. That’s when she decided to begin me on a low dose of Methotrexate. I do believe this is a positive move for me. I feel like this medication will work well with my body. I am hopeful that I will be able to function more the longer I am on it.

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Currently I take Methotrexate orally, pill form. It also comes in a self-injection, which sounds ideal to me because it gets into your system quicker and there are less side effects. I only take it once a week. I took my first dose Friday night, around 8 pm. I chose to do it on the weekend this way, once school begins again I have time to recover. Most people say it is best to take it at night this way you can ‘sleep off’ the side effects. I agree 110%.

I did have slight anxiety about beginning a new medication, due to the reaction I had to Reclast (https://chronicallyhopeful2014.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/reclast/). I think it is normal to have some anxiety when altering your treatment plan.

I ate dinner around 6 pm then completed my evening routine. I had a few crackers 15 minutes before taking it. I made sure I was comfortable, had anything I could possible need, and relaxed before taking it. . I felt completely fine, until I stood up. Then I began getting dizzy and some nausea began to set in. Fatigue and nausea slowly but steadily increased. An hour and a half after I began getting a head ace, but it was mild. I had peppermint tea to help settle my stomach. Before I went to sleep I was experiencing mild dizziness, headache (6), slight increase in upper abdominal pain, extreme fatigue, nausea (7), and feeling a bit foggy. Two hours after taking Methotrexate I went to bed.

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The ‘side effects’ I experienced were not out of the norm for me. Honestly I had expected it to be a lot worse. I have heard that the first two doses are the worse. I think my first dose went very well.

I did not sleep well that night, which is most likely due to the fact that I had my Benlysta treatment that day as well. The following day I experienced a lot of nausea. I did have fatigue however I cannot blame it on the medication because that has been an ongoing issue.

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I hope if you are considering beginning this medication that you found this blog post helpful. Please feel free to ask questions. I will be doing a Methotrexate survival guide in the future. Sending spoons, prayers, and hugs. ❤