Doug’s Health: Hoping Humira Works

People often ask about how my health has been.

My rheumatologist and the one I saw at Brigham & Women’s Hospital agree that I have symmetric psoriatic arthritis, finally answering the question of psoriatic versus poststreptococcal reactive arthritis, although it must be pointed out that this is not a definitive diagnosis, but rather a differential one based on the presence of psoriatic skin lesions and the lack of reactivity to methotrexate alone.

I haven’t written much because, frankly, there hasn’t been much to say. While continuing treatment with methotrexate, the inflammation which has made it painful to move in certain ways (and at time nearly impossible) has stayed almost the same for months; the psoriasis—apparently the start of the whole mess—has actually gotten worse. After several months when the arthritis symptoms were quite severe, most of the duration of this has been more mildly debilitating.

I’m now able to move well enough to use our elliptical machine at home nearly every day. I was only really “down” about this illness once, when I realized there was no way I could participate in a planned outing to The Strategy Zone that I’d been anticipating for nearly a year. (I actually cried about that one.) It is very hard to lose weight (although I’ve taken off 4 pounds since Thanksgiving), even with Nichelle monitoring and prescribing my diet. It hurts to do things like put on and take off shoes, and exercises like Tao-Bo and running are out of the question. Until this became bad in early June, I was running about two miles every day—something I had worked since the previous November to be able to do. I’ve been able to help compensate for the psoriasis by spending the drive to work and back brushing my hair, which helps keep me—mostly—from looking like a Head and Shoulders commercial. (Finding a brush that was stiff enough was amusingly difficult.)

To be honest, it was much harder to see Nichelle suffering all that time under her vitamin D deficiency and being unable to do anything to truly help her. Being the “sick one” is sometimes very mildly discouraging, and somewhat painful, but it hasn’t been that bad. I also have much more sympathy to those with movement disabilities or rheumatoid arthritis.

Yesterday I took my first dose of Humira, a band name form of adalimumab, which is a tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitor. TNF is part of the inflammatory process, and inhibiting it reduces inflammation.

However, in addition to some other potential side effects, Humira is an immunosupressant, and can leave one open to infections and other illnesses. (For this reason I had to be very carefully screened for tuberculosis.) It also has to be injected, although only twice a month, and it’s only subcutaneous, and nearly painless. (I’ve had blood draws that hurt more.) It’s also very expensive—I believe about $20,000 per year—but insurance covers that, and the manufacturer even pays my co-payments.

On the bright side, in 4–8 weeks, I might start to see some reduction of symptoms, although the full treatment often lasts a year.

Thanks to all of you who are praying, and for all your kindnesses along the way.

5 Replies to “Doug’s Health: Hoping Humira Works”

  1. Doug, I am glad that you are able to have a diagnosis (even if it is not a definitive one). I am also VERY glad that your insurance covers your medication.

    Don’t be foolish, of course it’s hard to lose weight, every thing that Nichelle prepares is delicious.

    I have to admit that we are quite guilty of praying for your health, so I will just keep it up for the time being.

    Que el Señor te bendiga.

  2. Definitely praying for you. I should have done this sooner, but I’ll add you to the “people we pray for every day” list with my family.

    WE LOVE YOU!!!!

  3. I’m not sure how I missed your health problem. I’m sorry to hear you’re suffering. I’ll be praying. Keep us informed.

  4. Doug,

    Take heart, when I was having my Remicade infusions there was an older gentleman who would come in to have his HUMIRA injections. He said it had worked wonders.

    Will be praying that this TNF blocker will help you as much as the one I take (full remission for 2 years).

  5. Humira seems to be working well.

    Twice now in the past two weeks I have been out running. Other than discovering (painfully, over the next week) how much by quads had atrophied, I was fine.

    I’m going to limit it to help mitigate risk (I still have some swelling), but keep pushing. I still can’t quite do a mile. I get about 0.6 miles and have to walk for a short way before running again.

    I can run up stairs again, too!

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