Sick of Sickness!
I had really been looking forward to saying (shouting?) goodbye to 2018. Why? 2018 was a tough year, especially regarding my health. And don’t all things in life ultimately stem from one’s health? I think so. I’m not sure who originally said this, but we all know the quote: “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” How can you go to school or work or the grocery store or do anything if you’re always sick? It can feel impossible. And I have had a lot of personal experience with this during almost the entirety of 2018. Good riddance, 2018! I’m ready for a new year, a fresh start, a healthier mind and body, and so much more. I’m really sick of being sick.
RA causes a compromised immune system
One of RA’s several nasty “side effects” is that having the disease can make you more susceptible to coming down with other illnesses–particularly infections. RA compromises the immune system and the medications used to treat the disease especially weaken it. According to an article on the Arthritis Foundation’s website,
“There’s little question that suppressing the immune system with medicine – essential for controlling RA – is a significant cause of infections. For example, a 4-fold increased risk for serious infections is one of the downsides of corticosteroid use.”
The article goes on to mention the role DMARDs and biologic medications play in relation to the risk of RA patients developing infections:
“Disease-modifying drugs such as methotrexate make infections somewhat more likely, too, but “the risk substantially increases when you add a biologic to the equation,” says Ali Ajam, MD, an assistant professor in the division of rheumatology and immunology at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.”
When RA is less than well-controlled
Unfortunately, my RA has not been stable or well-controlled over the last few years and I’ve been forced to subject my poor immune system to all three of those immunosuppressants without a break: prednisone, methotrexate, and a biologic drug (Simponi, right now). It’s no wonder that I’m getting sick all the time. Well, I’m sure it also doesn’t help that my main job is working with kids as a K-12th-grade substitute teacher. Schools are germ factories! I should probably wear a mask whenever I teach, or a hazmat suit. A friend joked recently that I should just shower in hand sanitizer. That’s not very realistic, however, so I try hard to wash my hands as much as possible and hope none of those darling children wipe anything gross on me.
Right now, as I sit here typing this, I’m sick with a cough that just doesn’t want to go away. I’ve basically been sick with one upper respiratory infection after another since October–which is way too long! Oh, and a bout of severely painful, constant headaches that lasted for weeks and forced me into physical therapy again and seeing a specialist for TMJ pain. I’m pretty sure that my headaches and TMJ are also RA-related, thanks to the stress of dealing with RA pain on a daily basis.
Since October, somehow the weeks of sickness went by, with me either hacking up my lungs or lying on the couch with heat packs on my face and neck, or both. Probably needless to say, being sick like this has made me miss a lot of work. I couldn’t go teach with a doubling-over hacking cough or feeling as though a train were constantly running over my head. How could I handle being around loud, hyper (annoying) kids in that condition? I couldn’t. My RA also decided to flare-up at some point during all of this, too, of course.
So, what can I do about it? Not much, other than what I’ve already been doing: going to the doctor, harassing my doctor’s nurse, taking antibiotics and other needed medications, getting a flu shot, resting, and hoping to get better. In addition to being sick of feeling unwell, I’m getting pretty sick of being shut inside my house wearing my pajamas 24/7. It’s depressing.
Today I sent my primary doctor a message on “MyChart” updating her with the return of my cough and asking if I should get my latest antibiotic refilled. Taking antibiotics is also a source of stress and worry for me, due to the possibility of developing a resistance to them. And they have miserable G.I. side effects (hello diarrhea!). But what can I do? I can only Neti-Pot myself so much, and I can’t stand feeling as though my head is a 5oo lb ball of mucous. Sorry for that visual, but hopefully you get the point.
Living with the pain, fatigue, and stress of RA everyday is bad enough for a person, and I just want all of this other crap to go away and to get my life back. I keep trying to tell myself, you’ll get better, you’ll get better! But right now, I’ve got some coughing to do.