When your meds don’t play fair

I’m very grateful for the drugs I am able to take. Living in the UK, all these chemical helpers are free of charge for me – I know that’s not the case around the world, so I need to make sure I remember how lucky I am.

Small (now 5) loves a bit of science so we spent a happy hour on YouTube last week looking at how insulin works and how they manufacture it for diabetics to use – truly mind-blowing stuff!

But the last couple of weeks have reminded me that life with these medications can be a tricky balancing act.

I got a chest infection. The usual drill of antibiotics – and having to stop my RA meds – followed. I take methotrexate and etanercept which both suppress the immune system, so I think the logic in stopping them is to give your body a better chance of fighting the infection (I’m aware there’s some debate around whether you should or shouldn’t stop taking DMARDS and biologics while on antibiotics, but I’ve always been told to stop).

Thankfully, the antibiotics worked and I quickly stopped sounding so much like Darth Vader. But then I noticed I was uncomfortable and struggling to sleep at night. Walking my son to school seemed to take just a bit more effort. And I found myself lying on the sofa wishing it was bedtime so I didn’t have to do anything else. Unfortunately, missing just one week of meds results in what I’d call a ‘mini flare’ – feeling a bit rough, but able to survive. It’s not very pleasant.

You need to take some of these meds for literally months before you start to feel any better – but miss just one week and I feel it instantly. That doesn’t seem fair!

Another factor for my is my Type 1 Diabetes – I can’t take oral steroids as they play havoc with blood sugars. When I occasionally have an injection, I have to decide whether the pain relief is worth putting my diabetes control out of kilter. These aren’t nice decisions, but they come with the territory. Life with these complicating factors means that most of the time, I feel much better.

I have had some people advise me not to take the drugs that I do as they are ‘poison’. They can have really nasty side-effects and many people are quite fearful of them. But it is these poisons that keep me alive and able to function, so I am eternally grateful for them. Even if they don’t always play fair.


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