Monday, October 29, 2012

Yeah, I'm plagiarizing myself!

On Inspire today someone asked for people to post their journeys into P and PsA.  I did it and realized that I had never actually written it all out.  SO you all get to benefit from my novel warm up posting.  Here ya go, the journey into Hell...

I was diagnosed with Psoriasis in 1998 after having a bad reaction to a Anthrax Vaccine. Soon after I started experiencing severe bursitis in both my hips. In hindsight this was probably the beginning of PsA. Swelling of the bursa in your large joints is a common start to the damage of the actual joints that happens in PsA. I was discharged from the Army because the swelling and pain in my hips from the bursitis had gotten to the point I couldn't do "soldiering" such as qualifying with my weapon in the prone position, run the 2 miles for my PT test, pass the sit up portion of my PT test because my hip flexors were already starting to be compromised, among others. When I had my VA appointment the Army decided that my P was service connected. I moved forward with life, found a job in my military trained career field, and got the typical creams, steroids and muck that was available for p at the time. Around 2000 I started having many more symptoms that again in hindsight were probably PsA. Pain deep in my hip joints, stiffness of my hands, lower back pain for no apparent reason, fatigue. I went to several Drs and was generally referred to a Orthopedic Surgeon. Of course there was no sign of actual arthritis and was again denoted as Bursitis and given a steroid shot to my hip since it was the most usual place for regular pain and sent on my way. In 2004 I was having a particularly bad P flare and was sent to see a dermatologist. He said it was time to discuss DMARDS and Biologicals, and suspected because of my other symptoms I was very likely actively into PsA as well. He prescribed me Methotrexate and it was like magic! My skin cleared up alot, my joint pain was SO much better, but with that magic came some side effects which were not so pleasant. I was taking the pill form and would be so nauseated for 24 hours after taking my MTX that I would actually have a migraine induced from it. I was also very fatigued, more so than usual. The Dermatologist switched me over to the shot form of MTX and suggested I take it at night before going to bed and have some toast and milk before going to bed as well on MTX nights. This seemed to take care of the nausea. The fatigue was something I decided was a necessary evil to have my beautiful skin back and finally have some joint relief. The magic of course was short lived. About 6 months before the joints started really screaming again. The Dermatologist suggested I go to see a Rheumatologist. The Dermatologist had noted in my records that he suspected that I had PsA already, but I needed a Rheumatologist to make it official. Of course I got one of those Doctors who won't make a call officially until they have hard proof of it. She agreed I did have an immuno based arthritis, and I did have psoriasis, but she wouldn't designate it as Psoriatic Arthritis in my records. Just Psoriasis with presentation of multiple joint Arthritis. This was all fine for me at the moment as long as I was getting the treatment I needed which was biologicals and at this point pain meds. She put me on Enbrel and gave me a script for Vicodin and sent me on my way with check ins every quarter to check blood work and see how Enbrel was helping. Again it was MAGIC! My skin was totally clear in a matter of weeks. I was back to working 60+ hours a week, traveling for work, going out with friends. I was in heaven. Then slam on the breaks! I returned from a few days in Houston and had a fever of 104. I went from fine to pneumonia in less than 24 hours. I have been fortunate with my medical professionals that they are pretty open to inter discussion about my issues so when I went to my PCP for the pneumonia she immediately called my Rheumatologist. The decision was made to stop Enbrel and once I was recovered from the pneumonia to come in to see what to do next. It took me over 2 weeks to actually be functional again. Not only do biologicals make you more susceptible to infection and illness,but it also makes recovery a longer process. I was then started on Remicade with a low dose of MTX. My body has a long history of becoming immune to meds quickly and the Rheumatologist decided we'd use MTX to slow down my bodies natural defense of becoming immune to everything. Remicade wasn't the magic that MTX and Enbrel were in the beginning. I did feel less flared most of the time, but it took about 2 months to really kick in. Slowly but surely my skin cleared, and my joint swelling lessened. I was back to wearing shorts and tank tops. I even wore a swimsuit again! I was dancing, traveling to India for work. Life was looking pretty good. I did eventually get to the point I couldn't tolerate MTX so about year 2 of Remicade I stopped MTX. My body started doing its thing pretty quickly and my Remicade infusions were becoming less and less effective. My Rheumatologist started upping my dosage and frequency, and went back to vicodin for pain as needed. By year 3 I was at max frequency and max dosage of Remicade. I was also needing vicodin at night to be able to sleep because I was in enough pain that I couldn't find a comfortable position to sleep in. Many nights I found the only position that was comfortable even with vicodin was in my recliner. I had my friend move my recliner into my bedroom so at least I could sleep in my room and not be taking over the common living areas of my home with my disease. I also started noticing that my minimal dosage of vicodin wasn't working and approached my dr about changing medicines. I have been using pain meds for bursitis for years and have always stayed on the lowest dose by changing chemicals every few years. The Rheumatologist had a strict policy of no triple script meds. Meaning no narcotics that required hand written scripts in triplicate. I understood her issues with triple script narcotics, but I didn't agree with it so I decided to look for a new Rheumatologist. In the midst of this I had had filed a VA claim for my PsA. Since I was already rated as service connected for P it would be common sense that my PsA was a continuation of that. Right? Uh no, since my Rheumatologist had not put my condition as PsA, but Psoriasis with immuno related arthritis the VA decided that I had Osteoarthritis in my shoulder since that was the only place I had listed on my list of most affected joints that had actual arthritic damage at that point. This is the journey that has lead me to my current Rheum. He is awesome. He kept me on Remicade for about another year, tried several other DMARDS which had never even been discussed with me before, switched up my pain meds for 6 months and then switched me back to vicodin once my body had forgotten about it just as I predicted it would, explored naturistic and homeopathic options with me, suggested dietary supplements for me to try, and has been the best dr I have ever been to. It was finally decided that Remicade wasn't helping my joints and it was time to consider other options. My skin was still pretty clear but my joints were not doing well. He supported my decision to try a natural route for a while as I considered my options and hoped for some other meds to come on the market. I was biological and DMARD free for a little over a year. Again hindsight is a bitch and it was probably a mistake. In that year my P and PsA became very aggressive. The decision eventually made to try Humira. I had a glimmer of hope because my big toe, which was covered with P and cracking, was almost completely clear at the end of week 1. Then came the bad. Right before I was to take my 2nd shot I started losing my hair, I developed sores in my mouth so it felt like I was gargling glass, and I started getting hives. Yep you guessed it, stop the Humira. Now we are up to date. I am currently on Simponi. I have been taking it for about 3 months and it is doing zero, zip, nada. Since starting it I have developed Pustular Psoriasis on my feet, my P has been in constant flare, and my joints are no worse or no better. I have a bottle full of Arava I can start taking, and when I spoke to the Dr's office this morning they said my Hepatitis screening was clear so I could start taking it, BUT it was pointed out that I have been gasping. Apparently I have been doing it for a few months. The boyfriend noticed it was pretty bad this weekend and asked how long I had been having "shortness of breath". He said he had noticed it occasionally for a few months, but Friday it had started to get very noticeable and worrying. He wanted to take me to the ER. I of course said "I just need a deep breath every once in awhile! I'm fine! I used to be an athlete, I know what shortness of breath is! This isn't shortness of breath! You're stressing me out (deep gasping breath)" Ok called the Dr this morning and have an appointment on Thursday to see him and get poked prodded x rayed and scanned.