Figuring out a routine for my treatment was not as easy as I thought. For a start I couldn’t get my head round taking medication every day at specific times, sometimes with food, sometimes without, and then at the same time each day. It was so confusing, and since I couldn’t even remember to take paracetamol regularly, how was I ever going to cope with this, especially with a new baby? I couldn’t figure it out; some days I would take it how I should the next I wouldn’t, then I'd forget and other times I couldn’t take it because I hadn’t eaten properly. I could barely find time to shower let alone remember to eat and take medication! Also, at this point I didn’t know how important it was for me to take all the medication in the way I was advised. I didn’t fully understand what could happen if I didn’t.
The drugs and what they doThe specific medications I take are called Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs). These medicines ease the symptoms of the condition and slow down its progression. DMARDs work by blocking the effects of the chemicals released when your immune system attacks your joints, which could otherwise cause further damage to adjacent bones, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. The two DMARDs I take are Methotrexate and Hydroxychloroquine. Methotrexate is a type of medicine called an immunosuppressant. It slows down your body's immune system and helps reduce inflammation. It comes either as tablets, a liquid that you drink, or pre-filled injection pens or syringes that you inject into your skin. Hydroxychloroquine regulates the activity of the immune system, which may be overactive in some conditions. Hydroxychloroquine modifies the underlying disease process, rather than simply treating the symptoms.
Routine and regular flare-upsWeeks went by and I was so all over the place with my medication I didn’t know what to do. As a result of not taking it as advised, my arthritis was flaring up all the time. By not getting a grip on the routine I hadn’t done myself any favours whatsoever. I used to just sit and cry because I got so frustrated with myself. Googling over and over what my condition was and what it would do to me only made it worse. I had another appointment in the coming weeks, and I was asked how I was getting on. I’d tell them things were OK and that I was struggling some days with the routine, but I didn’t tell them how much it was affecting me mentally. They did give me ideas on what I could do, such as buying a pill pot and setting reminders on my phone, but those things never really helped me either. Was I just in denial that this was really happening?
Side effects and a different approachIn thinking I would get better without regular medication, I realise how silly I was. Soon enough I was taking it as advised. At this point I was taking Methotrexate tablets. However, I was feeling very nauseous, having chronic tummy pains and I was so weak and tired. I was also having blood tests done every two weeks so my care team could monitor how effective the medication was and make sure I wasn’t suffering any bad side effects. Which obviously I was.
I called my consultant and explained how I was feeling. She arranged an appointment for me to go in and discuss my options. The day soon came, and I was anxious again. I was thinking about how long it had taken to get into a rhythm of taking my medication and now potentially having to start again. My consultant decided the best option would be to start taking Methotrexate by injection, because that method usually doesn’t cause side effects. Although this wasn’t the greatest news, I felt it was better than dealing with the sickness and stomach pains every day, so I decided to give it a go. I would need to attend training for the injections so this is what I did. Well, it was easy enough, surprisingly so. When administered correctly it is a more or less painless procedure. However,…