Mary's Story of RA and two cancers

In February of 2013 I was diagnosed with a severe Rheumatoid Arthritis.

It had started as excruciating, immobilizing pain. It was so bad that I ended up in the Emergency Room. I was sent to a rheumatologist who saved my life. I'll get to that later. I was started on prednisone and meloxicam. Then with the confirmation of the RA diagnosis, I was started on methotrexate.

The medications helped but my body was still badly inflamed. Plaquenil was added. Tramadol came next. I thought I was having lung issues. My thorough rheumatologist ordered lung tests including a chest CT scan. April 2013 the CT scan showed lumps in my thyroid. A biopsy proved the lumps to be thyroid cancer. After surgery I was labeled stage three. The cancer was advanced. I am so lucky to have my rheumatologist.

RA still out of control. Sulfazolodine was added, but not tolerated. Two weeks after the thyroid surgery, I had a followup chest CT scan. Following a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Five weeks after the thyroid surgery, I had surgery for breast cancer.

If my rheumatologist hadn't ordered the chest CT scans. My cancers would not have been found and I would have been diagnosed very late. I probable would have died.

I was not allowed to have any of the biologics because of my cancers and my risk of more cancer. I see how well they worked for others, but I understood my situation.

The next year was filled with radiation treatments and attempts to find solutions for the RA. It was tough.

Leflunomide was tried but didn't work. Methotrexate injections help. Rituxan Infusions were tried and didn't work.

I became desperate. My rheumatologist decides that in spite of the risks, we would try Orencia Infusions. She felt and I agreed quality of life trumps the risk of cancer recurrence. The infusions are easy. Time to wait and see and hope.

I have learned many coping strategies including pain management.

I recently went to a physical therapy hand clinic for arthritis. I have a set of exercises I do daily to help prevent hand deformities.

Presently, I am in physical therapy for my degenerating spine. Again helpful.

Yes, I do get discouraged. Waking up to pain every day does get old. However, I have found that accepting and managing my situation does work for me.

When I was diagnosed with RA, I read a book, My First Year: Rheumatoid Arthritis. The author said to journal daily. I do. It helps me keep track of what is going on with me and is a good release. She also said you need to take charge of your Rheumatoid Arthritis. All those who help you are part of your team. Take charge. It works.

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