Would You Rather Be Sick or in Pain?
Last updated: May 2023
Every two weeks, I gather the cardboard box from the refrigerator, pull back the lid and read the warning printed on the box of my biologic.
"IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: CIMZIA can lower the ability of your immune system to fight infections."
The words like “important”, “safety”, and “infection” nag at something inside me as I alcohol a small patch of my stomach and pull off the silly-shaped syringe lid to inject. Is this treatment the right choice for me? (Coming from someone with small petri dish children and a constant baseline of chronic infection to begin with).
Choosing between pain and sickness
It has not been an easy transition to make. Ever since my first injection, all I have done is get sick over and over and over again. A few weeks into healing and one of the kids brings home another virus, and the cycle starts all over again.
What else am I to do? It’s similar to a terrible game of "Would You Rather?”. Would you rather be in serious pain or be super sick all the time? Each path is no way to live, but it seems to be my current reality.
How do biologics work?
Biologics are disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) that have helped many people manage symptoms and stop the progression of RA. These types of drugs contain man-made proteins that mimic various human genes or cells and their effect on the immune system1. There’s a variety of different biologics that act on different inflammatory pathways of the immune system. Common biologics include:1
Is it worth it?
As I come to the end of my second round of pneumonia and a bout of freak tonsillitis, I am asking myself, is this worth it? Is it worth putting myself at risk of catching every virus or bacteria that finds its way into my home? We have already reached triple threat status this season–RSV, COVID, and influenza.
I believe because I have cystic fibrosis and I am more vulnerable to the damaging effect of a minor cold or virus, I feel more uncertain about this medication. If I was healthy at baseline, I could live with the vulnerability, but that's just not the case.
But how do you choose? Pain or sickness?
Looking for a different RA treatment
On one hand, I don’t ever want to spend my days in relentless pain again. Truthfully, I cannot live in that particular desperate cycle either. However, I know considering my overall well-being, my lung health, and my family’s health, I need to ask my rheumatologist for another treatment option. I need to ask my doctor questions and make decisions about my treatment moving forward.
I’m hoping there’s a different medication, or maybe another less immunocompromising treatment in combination with something else, that helps me find a better balance. I hope there's an answer to this conundrum, allowing me not to choose sides. In the end, I’m too old, too busy, and too tired to play this annoying game of “Would You Rather?”
Have you struggled to afford your RA medications?