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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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Casmere
    5 months ago

    @Angelalundberg so very sorry to hear how you have been constantly sick this past year. I sure hope things turn around for you but so far, if you are still coughing and asking your Dr. If you should get another RX of antibiotics, it doesn’t sound like it so far. I pray this will be the end of your illnesses and no more for the rest of the year. I, myself just finished antibiotics on Monday for lung infection (pneumonia ) and Bronchitis, on inhaler too and continuing it. This is my first round and hope it is the end. I plan to see my Dr. tomorrow.

    I certainly understand your frustration with being constantly sick. Since end of October 2016 I had illnesses, surgery, more sickness that required testing, given medication th st I had a serious reaction to and ended up in hospital July 2017. From that point on my whole life changed as I could not fully look after myself, my home or my mother. From that summer on I had many different things show up, requiring many different test, bloodtest constant , ct’s, mri’s, exrays, colonoscopy, plus, plus. I am now settled with things and life is better but I now live with my daughter too, which helps. By the way I have had RA since I was 16, last year diagnosed with fibromyalgia and PMR, polymalgia rheumatica along with thyroid issues since I was 30, l am now 65. I currently am going through another change in thyroid meds which has been going on and off since 2017.

    My prayers and blessing go out to you
    Cashmere (Carol B)

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