Remicade, Not Georgia, On My Mind

I anxiously shifted in my chair as I waited in the rheumatologist’s office. An elderly lady sitting in a wheelchair, caught my attention. Her fingers were curled and motionless. Anger rushed through my body as I screamed internally.

Why am I here? I'm young! Arthritis is an older person's disease!

I quickly realized anger masked my fear. The elderly lady could be me.

Dr. M. scheduled tests to confirm the diagnosis, but he noticed me wince when he tried to touch my wrist, so we both knew the test was a formality. Tests confirmed I have rheumatoid arthritis; an autoimmune disease that makes the body attack itself. In my case, my immune system focused on my joints, specifically my knees, wrists and ankles. Joints can be permanently damaged, so immediate treatment was needed. Treatment would include Plaquenil, Methotrexate, and Prednisone to manage the pain.

Over the next few months, my life shifted to pain management. The drug regimen lessened the pain, stiffness and swelling in my joints. I was able to walk my dog for short distances, work full-time and handle chores. I resigned to the realities of the disease, which meant accepting the physical limitations of my body.

I thought Dr. M would agree. He did not. As he examined my wrists while I stifled a grimace, he said,

"Danni, your joints are being destroyed. We need to try additional treatment or your wrists will lock in a year."

His words echoed as I imagined fused wrists attempting to type on a computer. If my wrists lock, how would I earn a living? What would I do?

I snapped back to reality when Dr. M mentioned a drug called Remicade. Remicade would be given to me intravenously over a 2-hour period, every 6 to 8 weeks. The drug could slow the progression of joint damage.

I distinctly remember asking,

"Are there any side effects?

Dr. M's response is forever etched in my mind.

"You are 27 and in good health. I give Remicade to much older patients and they’re fine."

Fused wrists or a new drug? Decision made.