at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

A Double-Edged Sword: Sick, but Feeling Well

Having some fun in the photo booth at
Brandon & Tracy's wedding!
I don't ever get sick. I mean, really, hardly ever. I have allergies, but those are different. Growing up, my mom always claims that the whole family would get wiped out with the flu, and I'd just get the sniffles. I always took my strong immune system for granted -- that is, until it got a little too strong and started attacking me.  I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Disease (RD) when I was 19 -- which I joke (kind of) as my immune system getting bored: since germs didn't appear to be a challenge, it started also going after healthy tissues, as well.  

After being diagnosed with RD, I was immediately placed on disease-modifying drugs that work by altering (and lowering) the immune system. I've been on several different disease treatments over the years, but they all warn that they may lower the body's ability to fight infection. Flu shots are always recommended to RD patients on these drugs, and often patients are told to suspend treatment while sick. Well, my trend continued, and only with extreme rarity would I ever get sick.  Until recently.

In December of 2011, after a several month long flare, I switched my RD medication from Enbrel to Humira. Since then, I've gotten sick several times. I finally broke down last year and agreed to get a flu shot (I had previously resisted since I never get sick, let alone get the flu), and I do remember being sick in 2012 at least once.  Earlier this year, I took a half-day sick day from work -- probably my first sick time I'd taken in ~4 years. A couple of weeks ago, I got sick again. Nothing too terrible, but a bad cold, which left me feeling completely run down and achey, with a sore throat for several days. Of course, it had to be when we had family over, too, and I was definitely poor company during that time. By day five or so, I began to feel better energy-wise, but the cold symptoms lingered. I'm now on day 15 and can't seem to shake this cough. I had gone to the doctor previously to be sure there wasn't an infection, but it appears to just be viral. 

However, I think I made a mistake: I kept taking my Humira. Never noticing a difference with illness or infection on other medications, I thought I'd recover okay even if I continued my RD drugs. I may have been proven wrong. I'm also gearing up for a big trip in a few weeks, as I'll be heading to San Diego to attend the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting with the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation. It will be a physically challenging week, so I want to be in peak condition before I leave. I wanted to stay on track with the Humira for that reason -- though, being sick on the trip won't be good, either! Whether or not I'll take my Humira dose this week is still up for debate. We'll see how I feel on Friday.

When I originally switched medications to Humira, I called it my shield. I'm going to change metaphors now and call it my sword -- a doubld-edged sword. Since switching to Humira (and adding Plaquenil), I have felt better than I have felt in years! My RD symptoms are all but gone many days, with just some minor pain here and there and the consequences of my wrist damage. On the one edge, Humira works so well that I feel great. On the other edge, Humira works so well that my immune system is lowered, allowing me to get sick like normal people -- and making these bugs a little harder to fight off!  The fact that I can actually get sick now is evidence to me that Humira is working better than the other drugs I have tried. And, susceptibility to germs is a hit I am more than willing to take in exchange for the benefit I've received from this treatment. ::Cough::

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!