Zen and the art of Medication Management

I have been on one medication or another for most of my life.  When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. What followed were pills, pain killers, shots, and side effects.  And thus began my love/hate relationship with meds.  Medication has literally saved my life, but it has also made my life miserable at times.  Since my teenage years, I have been diagnosed with 2 very serious illnesses – Systemic Lupus and Breast Cancer.  I’m blessed to be able to say that I am cancer free now, but I will have to deal with Lupus for the rest of my (hopefully long) life. I could go on and on about other side effects I’ve experienced, but that would take up way too much space. So, here are just a few highlights: Taking pain killers post-surgery and for chronic pain gave me constipation, the steroids for chemo made me shake like a leaf, gave me insomnia and made my face as red as Rudolph’s shiny nose.  The anti-inflammatories and steroids for Lupus upset my stomach and made me gain weight.  Post-cancer medication made me cry all the time and made my legs swollen and too tender to walk.  And, probably the most “fun” side effect from chemo was becoming anemic.  That was horrible.  Some side effects I’ve had to just put up with, while others I was able to address with my doctors, who made adjustments and fixed the problems.  Now, after a long back and forth between my Rheumatologist and my Oncologist, I have added Methotrexate to my other Lupus medication.  Initially, I didn’t want to take it, because I was sick of being on so much medication and I couldn’t fathom adding another one. But I became desperate when the pain and fatigue became intolerable. I had a rough start with it, getting nauseous, headaches, and light-headed, but have since built up a tolerance.  It seems to be working, now that I am able to take the recommended therapeutic dose. But, it was a struggle to get there.  My doctors disagreed about putting me on it; my Oncologist was worried about adding a chemotherapy drug to my medicine regimen after just finishing chemo for cancer, while my Rheumatologist was concerned about my skyrocketing labs that indicated increasing disease activity.  Finally, after trying steroids for almost a year, my doctors came to an agreement and started me on the Methotrexate.  I feel the difference and am grateful to be taking it.  However, I take so many meds now, that sometimes I feel hung over.  I’m trying to find the right times of the day to take all that I need to so my little body doesn’t get hit with all the side effects at once.  Some make me drowsy, some make me achy, some make me cranky, some make me pudgy.  Still, I’ll have to be on medication for the rest of  my life and will have to continue to practice the fine art of medication management to be able to enjoy my life, side-effects and all.

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