I took my first shot of Humera Monday. I’ve been off of it since August 2008. It’s been a long wait as I went off of it due to a simple cold. [It lowers my immune system so much, if I continue to take it while ill, I get very sick.]
The cold, however, was followed by cellulitis & edema in my leg, which led to an abscessed ankle wound, a staph infection, & then in November 2008, the flesh eating bacteria.
My rheumatologist “cleared to me” to go back on Humera last week, but a pin-drop size of scab was weeping on my h& wound, where I recently had four joints/knuckles replaced, & that made me nervous.
Before I had the flesh eating bacteria last year, I had known of the risks of infection on an intellectual level in taking these medications. But I did not experience the emotional level of fear of an out-of-control infection. The infection did not get into my open wound, but rather I likely touched something that had the bacteria on it, wiped my eye or nose, & the bacteria headed straight for my “weakest link”–a hole on my ankle where they had punctured it to rid it of the staph infection.
When I asked the doctor who treated my ankle wound how long it would take for a “healthy person” to recover (so I could double that time frame for myself) he said “Healthy people do not get this. And you are lucky you lived. If you have been diabetic, we would not have been able to stop the infection.”
For weeks after my 7-day hospital stay last year, I did not fully allow myself to think about what might have been. When I came home from the hospital & was finally able to look up the web site of the what is commonly known as the flesh eating bacteria, necrotizing fasciitis: The National Necrotizing Fasciitis Foundation. Thankfully there was not internet access at the hospital or I would have been much more worried!
The front page of the foundation’s web site was full of stories. . . & a list of memorials. I read a couple of stories & quickly clicked away. I have not been back.
Earlier this year I heard Dr. Oz on Oprah say that 75 percent of people who are infected with this rare bacteria don’t survive to tell their stories.
I am extremely blessed to still be alive & to still have my foot. God worked it out so the cellulitis, a cold, a staph infection, etc. prevented me from being on this immuno-suppressant drug when I actually came into contact with the flesh eating bacteria.
I will never fully know how God placed certain events & even inconveniences in my path so that I would still be alive today. It sounds dramatic –but I continue to hear stories of adults, both young &, who did not make it from this kind of infection.
So, my rheumatologist told me three weeks ago I could go back on Humera. It took a week for the pharmacy to get it & then it sat in my refrigerator for a week until my wound healed & closed completely. The day I had planned to take it, my general practitioner physician called & said I was now eligible for the swine flu vaccination. So I went & got that instead & did not take the Humera that day.
I waited a few days… nervous… about it “it all.” My wound still was not completely healed from the joint replacements. This day that I had looked forward to for months was finally here. It’s a good thing, because, now that I have begun taking it, hopefully in January I can decrease the prednisone, lose more weight, & slow down the progression of my cataracts. (I’m having cataract surgery in the new year.)
Going back on my medication has many benefits. Yet when I told my mom this weekend I had not yet taken it, my voice quivered. I’m simply. . . scared.
As with any illness the risk of not taking the medication is high. My h&, for example, was very deformed in 2008, but it became even more “diseased” in 2009, according to the surgeon. Part of the reason was that I have been off of my main medication over a year while fighting one infection or cough after another.
But the risks of taking the drugs are high too. Every doctor & surgeon dislikes hearing that I am on prednisone. I heal slowly. Infections are sometimes hidden due to the steroids & only discovered when I have my lab work done.
My point here is not to encourage anyone to take a particular medication. I was on Enbrel for many years & switched to Humera in 2008. If you have a chronic illness, you know that there are many factors for why you & your medical team choose the medications to take that you do. You may also believe in using alternative treatments & want to share with me how there are fewer risks involved in them than there are in the pharmaceuticals. Regardless of what to treatment route you or I take, there is always risk involved & that is my hope in sharing this with you.
In this world of insecurities, we learn nothing is guaranteed. And so I cling to the fact that I don’t have to depend on the world, but rather on The Rock.
Medications, surgeries, therapies, etc. may all be necessary, but they are still shifting s&s. One vote from congress & we may no longer be eligible for the medication that keeps us functioning. The contamination at a factory that produces one of our medications can make it possible to get for two years (this happened to me if years ago).
Matthew 7:24-27 says,
‘Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine & puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, & the winds blew & beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine & does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on s&. The rain came down, the streams rose, & the winds blew & beat against that house, & it fell with a great crash.”
There is always risk. But the fortunately there is also hope.
The rain will come down, the winds will bloat, & sometimes the will come close to destroying us. But we always have the choice to accept Christ as our one true hope that we can always put our faith in.
So, I’ve taken it. And now I pray. And use a lot of h& sanitizer. And then throw those h&s up in surrender. Thy will be done.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis & fibromyalgia since 1993 & makes her home in San Diego with her husb& & six-year-old son. She is the author of “Why Can’t I Make People Underst&: Discovering the Validation Those with Chronic Illness Seek & Why.”