Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Life As a Dinosaur: Methotrexate

September-December 2008 - We had high hopes for this drug. When I first started taking it, it seemed to help, and a coworker who was also taking it (for rheumatoid arthritis) had given it two thumbs up. After a few weeks on it though, its effectiveness diminished and the rhuemie upped the dose.

Darn me and my stupid body for its ability to build up tolerance so quickly! Good thing, sort of, I learned this about myself early on in life. It's part of the reason I could never do "drugs" (you know the "recreational" ones?). Dude, first it would have been one hit, then two, then rehab. Heck, who am I kidding? I probably would have skipped right over rehab and done the big OD. Oh yeah, sounds like fun.

ANY way, back to the here and now (or really the there & then since I'm writing this a couple years later). First, let me tell you a little bit about this drug. It is not something to be taken lightly or without serious thought. TheHusband and I had serious reservations about me taking this drug, but after doing our research and taking my health situation (and the doctor's opinion) into consideration we decided to give it a try.

Now to explain why we didn't take this decision lightly, I will tell you that this is a drug used to treat certain types of cancers by interfering with the growth of certain cells, especially fast growing ones (like cancer cells), in the body. In my case it was prescribed to interfere with the cells causing the inflammation, and like I said, it worked great for a few weeks, then we had to up the dosage from 4 pills to 5, then 6, then 7, and then 8.

No big deal as long as it works, and the side effects aren't too bad. But it wasn't working and I got the pleasure of:

  • joint pain & swelling in my feet (which is what we were supposed to be getting rid of)
  • sores in my mouth (had to take folic acid supplements for that), 
  • drowsiness
  • headaches (but that could have just been my regular migraines)
  • unusual tiredness & weakness. (Oh my goodness can we talk tired!)
  • go on birth control (like you wanted to know that) to REALLY avoid pregnancy ('cause this stuff practically guarantees birth defects or miscarriage - even if the person taking it is male)
  • basically stay out of the sun (good thing it was already Fall/Winter so this was easier)
  • avoid any activity where there was a high likelihood of bruising or injury
  • avoid anyone who is sick (the drug suppresses the immune system)
  • couldn't get vaccines like the flu shot (not that I get the flu shot)
  • couldn't give blood (my doctors still recommend against this)

Sounds like fun, right? Those are just some of the side effects and things to avoid while taking this drug. For me, the worst of it was being tired ALL.THE.TIME. I was constantly exhausted and just getting through the work week was a monumental effort. When Saturday rolled around I'd get up to see TheHusband off to work, sleep on the couch for a couple hours, grab a bite to eat, sleep on the couch for a few more hours, then get up to make dinner. On Sundays I was only slightly more active, I would get up to go to church and have lunch but would generally nap for a couple hours in the afternoon. Any housework that didn't get done during the week didn't get done on the weekend.

Don't get me wrong, I understand that this drug can work wonders for some people. I am just not one of those people. By the time Christmas rolled around, I was completely wiped out and oh so over the moon thrilled when the rhumie said we could try a different medication. What she didn't say at the time, was that I had to also stay on the methotrexate.

Author's note: This is the fifth post in a series of posts regarding my experience(s) with an autoimmune disease. My experience is unique to me and does not speak for all patients with autoimmune diseases. 
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