I have a love/hate relationship with Methotrexate (MTX). When I first got diagnosed with RA, and was told to start taking MTX, I did what I always do about anything health related, and googled it. This freaked me the HELL out. Supressed immunity, increased risk of infections, increased risk of tumours, to name but a few of the many things that came up when I did an internet search.
So I went to see a Chinese medicine doctor who vehemently told me that I shouldn’t be putting something like MTX in my body. That there were natural ways to heal myself. High doses of curcumin, for example (curcumin is contained in a root called turmeric, and is awesome at fighting inflammation). So after these appointments, I came home, fully resolved to stay OFF the MTX, and to heal myself naturally, through diet and herbs. You can read about that here.
Following this, I had an appointment with my rheumatologist. When I informed him about my decision to not take MTX, he showed me my nuclear body scan, where the inflammation through my body lit it up like a Christmas tree. He pointed to my swollen knuckles and the fingers that I couldn’t close into a fist. He told me that if I don’t get the RA under control, then I will have joint deformity, and a lot of other serious health issues. Being only 29 years old, and wanting to have a long life with joints that worked, I decided that he was the expert in such things, and agreed to start.
The first time I tried to take the tablets, I spent the entire next day with my head in the toilet. I persevered, and tried again the next week, to experience more of the same. It was like the world’s worst hangover, without the fun night beforehand. So back to the rheumatologist, where he told me that injections would likely work better for me, and my boyfriend got a crash course in learning how to inject me. We started off with a low dose, building up slowly over weeks and months, and finally, at 20mg per week, I found myself in sweet, wonderful remission! At this point I was managing to ski, and work full time, and work out – life was good, and that weekly injection was part of my routine that I barely noticed anymore.
Then, as many of you would have read about in my rather depressed blog a couple of weeks back, the bubble burst and I got the flu. After taking a month off the injections to try and let my immune system pick up and fight this pretty awful influenza, it was time to get back onto the trusty MTX. My boyfriend injected me with the usual 20mg on the usual Tuesday injection night…
I woke up the next morning feeling like I had spent the previous 3 days and nights downing non-stop tequila shots, in between mixing every other type of alcohol known to man. I barely managed to get to the bathroom in time. My stomach was churning for two days, and my eyes were so heavy that I felt like someone had slipped me a rohypnol during my fantasy 3 day drinking session. What the hell was going on?!
Back to my rheumy I went. He told me that the full dose of MTX must have been a shock to my system after a month off, and I needed to start off on half the dose, and build up slowly. So the next week, I went down to 10mg. The next morning, while I didn’t have the urge to projectile-vomit, I was still absolutely exhausted, to the point I had to literally sleep all day. My acceptance and love of MTX was all but gone, and I was seriously beside myself. We had to move my injection day to a Friday night, so I would stop missing work every Wednesday, and could instead spent my whole weekend feeling like death warmed up instead. I was feeling pretty sad about this, as well as totally confused as to why my body wasn’t dealing with the smaller dose of MTX very well, when it didn’t bother me when I started it last year.
This week, I woke up with the fingers of my right hand swollen and stiff. I am trying not to freak out about it, to be calm and present and focus on healing, following my healing session the other day. I have been battling Fibro symptoms lately, but the swollen fingers is the first major sign of the RA coming out of hiding, and I’m guessing it’s because I’m still on half a dose of MTX.
So now, dear readers, I am in quite the predicament. Do I; a) Increase my dose of MTX despite the fact I will feel like I have had some horrible cocktail of drugs slipped in my tea by a not-very-nice-person while I wasn’t looking? or b) Stay on the lower dose of MTX, possibly salvage at least a small portion of my weekend that isn’t spent in bed or kneeling over the toilet, and let my fingers keep growing into cocktail sausages? What a choice!! :(
To be honest, whilst I definitely was in a ‘love’ phase with MTX when it helped me get into remission, the nausea, fatigue, and general feeling of being poisoned the last few months as I have tried to get back onto it has soured my feelings. In the post I wrote the other day, I felt hopeful, that through time, patience, dietary changes and the removal of stress, I could slowly heal myself of this disease. I have been using positive mantras (“I am healthy!” “I am energised” etc. etc.), and meditating. I would LOVE to get off the MTX permanently, as it just feels so wrong to be putting something into my body, week in and week out, that is making me feel so ill. That has so many health risks, the longer you are on it.
But then my joints in my hand swell up, and I am terrified. I reach straight back for the injection, hoping that it will help me. I promise the MTX that if it sorts my hand out, and gets rid of the pain, I will love it, once more.
Then tomorrow, I will curl up in bed, feeling sick, and fatigued, and shitty, and I’ll wonder if there is a better way.