Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Search for Medications - Confessions of a Wimp

I'm a little self conscious about writing about my aches and pains from rheumatoid arthritis. With the troops in Afghanistan taking heat for the Koran burnings, the tragedies from severe weather storms in the Midwest, and locally what seems like daily repetitions of senseless shootings in gas stations and neighborhood markets, my physical suffering really doesn't stack up too much on the Richter Scale of importance. But if you've ever had RA or known anybody that does, you surely understand how severe the pain can be. I've got it. At least my rheumatologist says I do. And I believe him because my upper body hurts like the devil. The good news is that the blood tests and xrays indicate there has been no joint or muscle damage.  So the search now is to try to find the right medication to reduce the pain to tolerable levels. The first three weeks of February were trial and error experiments with what are called NSAID drugs, which are nonsteroidal  anti-inflammatory drugs. Three weeks of torture. Some were immediately effective; the pain subsided dramatically in minutes after ingesting a tablet. But none lasted longer than a few hours. And none helped me get through the night with any sleep longer than 2 hrs in duration. Others were completely worthless. No affect at all other than to make me paranoid and suspect the doctor was slipping me placebos or something.  He's big into clinical trials which are supposed to be voluntary...there were moments when I thought he might have gotten me mixed up with his test subjects. But these suspicions only came up when I was hurting real bad.  Pain can mess with your mind, big time! 

In an office visit a week ago the doctor told me I had two choices. First to continue experimenting with NSAID drugs to find one that could relieve my pain. From what he sort of implied and from what I've read, this is the recommended course of treatment for first time RA patients. The second option was to go right into steroid based medications which he indicated would be low dose steroids with dramatic results. So what does dumb-ass yours truly choose?  You guessed it, "go ahead Doc, gimmee more of the NSAID's and I'll ride out this storm of agony until we reach the shores of milk and honey where there is no pain."
Why did I do that? I have no clue. Didn't want to be a wimp, I guess. Despite the fact that I AM I elected to go the standard recommended route. That was a Friday. By Saturday I couldn't dress myself, couldn't lift a sweat soaked pillow off the bed to replace with a fresh one, had to cut my scrambled eggs with a knife because it hurt too much to use a fork for anything but spearing the damn food. Getting socks off or on took a major league effort filled with grunts, groans, profanity, and accusations that God had abandoned me. 

Monday morning I was on the phone to the doctor's office telling them I changed my mind. Bring on the steroids, the more the better. They called my pharmacy to order and I picked up my first steroid drug that afternoon. Monday night was horrific but took the first dose Tuesday morning and relief was immediate. Problem is, like some of the NSAIDS it only lasted a few hours. Wednesday no better, Thursday I surrendered any pretensions of bravery and called again to ask them to beef the dosage up. OK, I'm a wimp but I'm 66 years old only weeks away from 67 and old men should not have to put up with this sort of thing. That's my philosophy. Started the increased dosage Friday afternoon, again this morning and now I can get through the day, not exactly pain free but pain more accurately described as aches and altogether tolerable. Nights not providing much sleep any better than before but pain has diminished and I'm grateful for that. At least I can brush my teeth in the morning without wishing I had traded them in for false teeth years ago.

We'll see how the rest of March goes before my next doctor visit. I got through typing this post without too much discomfort. Maybe I can get back to genealogy research again. That would be nice. And a much preferred category of searching than this quest for drugs has been. So, my searches go on.