Tag Archive: injections

Shootin’ Up

I was nervous. But I can take a needle. I’ve been poked and prodded so much over the last five or six years, and I’ve even volunteered my blood to a couple of blood drives.

No, I wasn’t nervous about getting the shot. I was nervous about giving it to myself. Four times.

Allow me to explain.

In my last post, eons ago, I wrote about starting a drug called Cimzia, an injectable immunosuppressant used to treat Crohn’s disease. Unfortunately, I was denied the Cimzia by insurance on the grounds that I did not try another less-expensive treatment first. After months of phone calls attempting to coordinate between doctor’s offices, nurses, pharmacies and the insurance company, faxing various records back and forth and (politely) harassing medical staff, I was finally approved for Humira, a drug that works much the same as Cimzia.

And yesterday, I had to have four injections of it, right into my thighs.

It’s not like seeing a giant syringe, or using an epi pen, though it looks like a smaller version of the latter.  The needle is small (I didn’t even try to look at it because it’s shielded by a little rubber protector).  It’s so small, in fact, that I couldn’t actually feel the needle going into my skin—success!

I could, however, feel the medicine.  And for the 12 or so seconds I was required to hold that pen to my skin at a 90-degree angle while pinching my thigh, it stung and burned like nothing else.

So when the cheerful nurse gave me my first shot, I was none too excited to take a stab—pun clearly intended—myself. I wanted to cry. But I remained calm, took a deep breath, squeezed my eyes shut, counted, and it was over.

After two more injections.

I have to say, I’m braver than this blog would have most believe. Granted, like anyone else, I was nervous beforehand. The date of my training session was looming over me. But more than anything, I just wanted the wait to be over and to start feeling better.

I don’t know if I feel any better yet. I may be having a side effect of heartburn, and possibly somewhat itchy skin. Or those things might be happening just because. I may already be feeling like my stomach is more relaxed because the medicine is working—or it’s a placebo, or I’m just having a good day.

Regardless, the wait is over. The drug is in my system. And though I have plenty more to worry about—I’m going to be immunosuppressed now, for goodness sake—this one thing is off my plate, and the fear, the not knowing, it’s all gone.


New Year, New Fears

Forgive me, blogosphere, for I have sinned.  It has been 6 months since my last confession, and now it’s a new year.

To backtrack, in 2012 I lived through a go-kart race, a German roach infestation and plenty of slippery sneaky silverfish.  I climbed a rock wall on the top deck of a cruise ship and rang the bell.  I lived through a colonoscopy and an MRI, each of which made me face my fears of losing my lunch.

I took leaps to put myself out there as a professional writer, allowed people to read some of my short stories and even gained paying clients.  I got a new job and watched my husband do the same.  I hired a dog walker, something I was afraid to do because, well, it seems weird to have my key floating out there in the ether with someone I’ve only met once.  Okay, and because I’m a nervous dog mommy, but our dog walker is awesome about checking in.

It was a long year…a year in which I found it difficult to keep up with this blog while completing freelance work and fighting the frustration of long commutes compiled with the exhaustion of having an autoimmune disease.

Now, in 2013, I face another fear.

Last week my doctor informed me that the safest treatment option for my—emphasis on my personal plight since I know others have found success with other options—Crohn’s disease right now is to start a drug called Cimzia, which is an injectable immunosuppressant.  I know what you’re thinking.  Something that suppresses your immune system is safe?  Why an injection and not a pill?  You never seem stomach-sick—why do you need to be on medication at all?  And, can’t you treat it herbally?

For the first question, I’m up to date on my vaccinations—TDAP, flu shot, pneumonia, etc.  So I’m told that if I am feeling unwell I should see a doctor to make sure I don’t have any infections that my body might have trouble fighting.  Sure, I might become a hypochondriac at first if people are sniffling around me, but I’m hoping this won’t be an issue, and hundreds if not thousands of other Crohn’s patients have found success with immunosuppressants.

For the second question, my disease has not progressed to a point where I’m in constant pain, can’t work, or feel the need to complain.  I am fully functional and often find that overeating or certain foods at certain times of the day cause me distress.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments where I suffer that are inexplicable.  It’s just that I choose not to share the gory details, because the symptoms of Crohn’s disease are frankly pretty embarrassing.  When my colon is inflamed, noises occur.  Frequent trips to the bathroom happen.  There’s so much more, but it can be TMI, so if you have specific questions, feel free to ask me off the blog.

To address the third question, the injection is the best option for me right now because the drug is safest for someone who wants to become pregnant.  Am I trying to get pregnant right now?  No.  Am I going to tell you when I’m trying?  No.  So don’t ask.  Apparently the drug stops before going into the placenta.  With other immunosuppressants, the drugs reach the baby and the small risk is that the baby will be born immunosuppressed and need to wait on getting crucial vaccines.  I’d rather not worry about that…I’ll be worried enough about having a newborn as it is!

And lastly, sure, I could probably go see a homeopath and attempt a bunch of herbal remedies and diets—possibly with little to no success.  Unfortunately, I am running out of time to do something with trial and error.  My MRI showed that the Crohn’s is spreading to different areas in my system.  While I don’t necessarily FEEL worse, this can be dangerous.  Serious issues can include blockages, surgeries and colostomies.  I don’t want any of this.  So the Cimzia is preventative and may help me feel better in a way that I can’t imagine right now because I’ve lived with undiagnosed Crohn’s probably for at least a decade…I’m used to having a bloated belly, sores in my mouth, night sweats and a host of other symptoms that go along with my particular case of Crohn’s disease.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I’m not afraid of needles.  I often watch as the needle goes in for routine blood tests.  But there’s something about knowing that I have to put the needle in my own skin that is giving me the willies.  I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong.  That I’ll either waste this incredibly expensive medication somehow, or that I’ll give myself an infection.  That it will hurt.  That I’ll have terrible side effects.  Or, worst of all, that it won’t work.

On top of this, I’ll be taking a drug called 6mp, often given to leukemia patients, which is supposed to help me not become resistant to the Cimzia.  It’s got a host of side effects of its own.  Because it can cause liver damage and mess with your platelets, I have to have frequent blood tests too.  2013 is therefore looking like a whole lot more poking and prodding than I’m used to.

I am inspired by a lyric in the Broadway musical Newsies (those of you who know me well, please do not roll your eyes at my obsession with those adorably capped dancers!):  “Courage does not erase our fears, courage is when we face our fears.”

I think it’s important to keep this in mind.  If I ever go zip lining again, I’m still going to be nervous.  Even after holding giant insects and arthropods in the palm of my hand, I’m going to be terrified when I see grasshoppers in my house.  And I’m never just going to be okay with throwing up.

But while I was once a Cowardly Lion shamefully holding my tail, I have since earned my badge of courage.  Do I run and hide from my fears?  No, not unless someone’s threatening to tickle my feet, or I’m in any real danger.  I may pout, cry, whimper, and attempt to gain the sympathy of others when facing my fears, but I do just that, head-on, like the newsies.

In 2013, I dare you to do the same.