Not Cured Yet
Last updated: March 2019
The first blood test result after starting my new medication, I actually didn’t believe it. I thought there was an error at the blood lab. But after a second test a month later confirmed a normal CRP (C-Reactive Protein) test for inflammation, I had to accept that my new treatment was actually working! Hurrah! At last!
Unbelievable test results: almost felt like a "cure"
When I received the first test results, I told no one outside discussing with my husband. It was too strange and unreal. I felt better. But did I really feel that much better? But after the second test, I called up my parents to share the exciting news. They had been with me through this whole journey since my diagnosis at age two—this was what they had always been hoping for!
A few weeks later we visited my parents in person and I had some champagne to celebrate. I joked that now I was cured and would soon be doing backflips like an Olympic gymnast and other impossible feats of strength and athleticism. It made me laugh to envision being suddenly “cured,” but only because I know the reality is far from it.
As happy as I am to be feeling better, to have an effective medication, and to hopefully be experiencing a stop to the progression of active disease—I have more than 40 years of significant joint damage. This is irreversible. Bone and cartilage is not going to regrow. Joints are not going to untwist from deformities. Collateral damage to muscles, tendons, and ligaments will not change.
My medication is a pause button, not a rewind. It will ideally not let the disease actively chew away at my body anymore. Even better, it’s alleviating fatigue and pain. It’s letting me have more time at my current state, instead of knowing that my rheumatoid arthritis is gradually worsening.
RA remission and not RA "cure"
In actuality, I do get mad at people who go around peddling a “cure” for rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases where no such thing exists. (Don’t argue with me. Current science is on my side and you won’t change my mind.) Yes, there’s lots people can do to improve their RA. But there is no magic cure for everyone. My medication is working for me, but it isn’t effective for everyone and it may not continue to work for me consistently into the future. And some treatments that are effective for others have not done a thing for me. Nothing with RA is that simple.
So I know that I’m not cured, but I’m terrifically happy to have found a drug that has put the kibosh on my RA (at least for the moment). I keep putting the “for now” caveat on things because every day my body changes, my disease changes, and I know that life can change. Better to appreciate the moment!
Cautiously celebrating my RA remission
So while I am feeling better and enjoying effective treatment, I’m going to do things to support my health like good diet and regular exercise. And I’m also going to have some fun, darnit! We are planning some fun trips, family visits, and other activities that we enjoy. I won’t overdo it, but if I can enjoy myself more comfortably then I’m excited to do it!
As RA patients, we’re on a constant quest to feel a little bit better, to put those symptoms and side effects at bay. I’m continuing this journey, but feel I have made a significant step that has been long in coming (41 years!). I often tell others to keep on trucking, one step at a time. And, finally, I have something to show for it.
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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