It’s all in the meds

Medicines these days really seem to help one thing and screw up something else.

At my latest appointment with my rheumatologist, she suggested starting me on a new drug, Imuran (also known as azathioprine). I’m already on Plaquenil, which, with long-term use can cause blindness (great, right?), and this would be in addition to the Plaq. I’ve heard of it before (from my peaking in at Lupus support forums online) and knew it was some sort of immunosuppressant, which made sense. If my immune system is attacking itself (as it does in autoimmune disorders), then suppressing it will alleviate symptoms and make the disorder go away, even if temporarily.

I left the office feeling somewhat optimistic at the possibility of relief in sight. Though I’ve been feeling better since the summer begin, more so because, if I’m having a bad day, I can rest and nap, something I can’t do during a regular semester, I still have my bad days. This morning, for example, the pain in my hands and wrists woke me up early, and all day I’ve had the “inflammation pain” (as I like to call it) – that feeling your skin is about to burst because it has expanded so much and there’s no more elasticity left. More than uncomfortable, it hurts.

I was ready to fill the prescription for the Imuran along with my refill for the Plaq, when my husband suggested I research it before; that way, I don’t pay for a prescription I won’t use. Common sense, right? These days, I sometimes feel I lack that. I googled Imuran and this is what I got: the first article from a government website, saying this drug caused a rare and highly aggressive form of cancer. Really? Yes, the pain sucks. Yes, I want relief. But no, I don’t think I want to risk having a life-threatening disease to eliminate some non-life-threatening (though yes, sometimes debilitating) pain and inflammation. I just can’t make that decision.

Of course, I called my doctor up and told her I’d like to wait on that drug. See what happens. Tomorrow, I’m calling an acupuncturist. I don’t know why I’ve taken so long to call her. Tomorrow, though, I’m calling. And maybe I’ll enroll in some deep meditation/yoga classes. Or maybe I’ll just do yoga at home. I don’t know. There has to be something else, some other alternative to chemicals that help one thing and screw something else up!

I’m not knocking all medicine. I know some of it is needed. But I also know that lifestyle changes can go a long way. Maybe not a cure-all, but certainly a help, somewhere, somehow. I’ve started some of those lifestyle changes (mostly dietary changes); I’m eating better now (for about 6 months) than I’ve ever eaten before – though of course, I’m not perfect. I slip up every now and then, only to sorely regret it, literally. Hopefully, more changes will help, and I can avoid any other drugs, period.

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