Tag Archives: rheumatologist

Methotrexate madness

Wow, so my last post was almost a year ago… How has time gone so quickly?!

I’ve been seen in my Rheumatology clinic twice since last September and a lot has changed! I feel like it is time for an update.

Back in February I saw the rheumatology registrar who confirmed that I have a type of inflammatory arthritis, but was unable to determine the exact type of arthritis. Back then my arthritis was causing me a lot of problems. My SI joints had really started kicking off at the end of 2015, and I actually spent New Year’s Day unable to walk because I had gone on a night out for New Year’s Eve and over did it. Since then, my back hasn’t improved. By the time I saw the Rheumy reg, in Feb, my SI joints, costochondritis, fingers, toes, ankle, knee and my ligaments and tendons were all flaring. I wasn’t in a great way, thats for sure. We decided to step up my treatment plan by adding in Methotrexate (MTX) – an immunosuppressant.

As I had a chest infection and was on antibiotics at the time of my appointment meaning I couldn’t start MTX until I had been off antibiotics for at least a week. I didn’t start MTX until the start of March. I started on a really low dose of 7.5mg which equated to 3 tablets once a week. After 2 weeks I increased my dose to 10mg once a week, or 4 tablets. With MTX you always have to take folic acid to counteract some of the side effect of MTX so I was started on these too… But even with the folic acid the side effects were horrendous. I had nausea 4-5 days a week, I could only eat one meal a day and on top of that, I still had loads of joint pain, stiffness and inflammation.

MTX requires quite close monitoring as it can affect a lot of different organs, especially the liver and lungs. I have been having bloods about every 2-3 weeks since February to ensure my liver was functioning okay but also to check my kidney function and full blood count to make sure my white blood count did not drop too low and so far so good! Everything is just about in range, but there is nothing too out of range to worry about. A rare side effect of MTX is pulmonary fibrosis, which tends to present with a dry cough and shortness of breath. As a precaution, the reg decided it would be best to send me for a chest x-ray and pulmonary function tests to establish my baseline lung function for if there were any issues – but again everything looked fine!!

MTX can take about 12 weeks to kick in, and by week 14 or 15 on 10mg it was clear that my joints weren’t responding enough. I phoned the rheumatology helpline and explained what was happening to the nurses. They spoke to my consultant who increased my MTX to 15mg (6 tablets) but kept my folic acid the same as before. The nausea was way worse on 15mg: I dreaded MTX day, I dreaded eating, I lost more weight. Things were just not fun.

After being on 15mg tablets for about 8 weeks I made the decision to switch to injections. With injections you can sometimes reduce your dose by 30-40% because that is equivalent to how much absorb with the tablets so I switched to 10mg injections via the Metoject pen and so far things are a lot better in terms of side effects. I’ve had 2 doses of the injections so far and although I still have hardly any appetite, I can eat without nausea. I also got an intramuscular steroid injection because my SI joints and hip were making walking without an aid difficult, my costochondritis meant that taking a deep breath was virtually impossible and my shoulder (a new joint that kicked up a fuss from March onwards) was pure agony. The steroids took the edge off everything but my back and chest are still sore, just less sore.

I think that brings us up to speed to this week! Yesterday I saw my consultant rheumatologist who was amazing. My nurses had briefed my consultant on what had been going on before my appointment.When I was called in, before I had even said anything my consultant said this:

“Your arthritis is not controlled. We need to treat this more aggressively, but not over-treat at the same time. It’s a balance, but I would prefer to be more aggressive now because it’s easier to reduce meds than never get full control”

I am so glad that we are taking a more proactive approach, it’s scary that there are medications out there that I wouldn’t be able to access unless my rheumatologist was taking a more aggressive approach.

Once I had updated my consultant on things from my point of view, she suggested 3 options:

  1. Increase MTX
  2. Keep MTX the same but add a third DMARD
  3. Do both

We decided to just increase MTX since I had just had a steroid injection and we had’t given the last increase enough time to become effective, but at the same time we couldn’t do nothing. Starting tomorrow I will be on 15mg MTX injections and I will also be learning to self-inject. I also have open access to my consultant for the next 6 months when my next follow-up appointment will be, so if things don’t settle I can go back and see her with an emergency appointment.

My consultant also confirmed that my arthritis is seronegative because my rheumatoid factor is negative, and that spinal involvement is common with seronegative arthritis. We are now treating my condition aggressively rather than watchful waiting to see if lower doses will help. I feel like this is the turning point, where we will hopefully manage to get full control over my arthritis, or at least it gives us the best shot of getting full control!

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#RABlog Week Day 3 – How my condition affects me

The third prompt for #RABlog Week is “Explain your RA”. Technically I do not have RA, I have another joint condition caused by my immune system attacking my joints that hasn’t yet been identified. I can’t explain what exactly is going on because I don’t know that myself but I can explain to you how my condition affects me, and how it makes me feel.

When I was diagnosed back in November I wasn’t ready for a diagnosis. I had gone for 7 and a half years with everyone telling me that they believed my pain but no one could tell me what was going on. I remember asking my Rheumatologist in despiration if she has ANY idea what was going on… her answer was “It might be autoimmune, it might not be. I do not know what is going on with you”. That was what I was told when I was 14. I wanted to cry, I was so frustrated at my body, at being sore all the time. I found it hard to explain what was going on to people because I didn’t have a diagnosis so I felt as if I was a fraud. Other people would go to the physiotherapist because of a sports injury and they knew how to treat it, I would go and they would say that they would try a treatment… but when it didn’t work I would get passed to a different physiotherapist. I saw 6 different physiotherapists in the space of 5 years. That is a lot of physiotherapy, and it is a lot of specialists who couldn’t help me, even though they truly believed I was telling the truth. They would all look at me with really sad eyes and tell me that they were sorry they couldn’t help, and that I should see my rheumatologist again. And every time that happened, any hope that I had built up was gone again and I felt really alone.

I felt that people would stop believing me because I didn’t have an answer for what was going on, and apparently no one else did either. So when my Rheumatologist turned around to me and said “I think you have an autoimmune condition, I want to start on you Hydroxychloroquine” I didn’t know whether to cry with happiness because I finally had an answer or to cry because I had found out that what I was hoping wasn’t true, was true.

As I said before, we haven’t quite narrowed down what condition I have. There is speculation that I could have Lupus or Mixed Connective Tissue Disease… or I could have Psoriatic Arthritis or Seronegative RA. We haven’t worked it out yet. I personally believe that I could have something similar to Psoriatic Arthritis or Seronegative RA due to my negative test results and the inflammation in my ligaments and tendons… and more recently, the whole finger that swelled up for 5/6 days for no reason [AKA dactylitis, although I need to get that confirmed by my rheumatologist]. I am lucky that I am studying physiotherapy so my lecturers understand what sort of problems I may have at uni but the problem with not having a name for my condition means that I can’t tell them straight out what I have and then have to explain the whole “I’ve been diagnosed but they haven’t said what it is yet… because I am a mystery to my rheumatologist”.

Of course all that emotional stuff stems from how my condition affects me physically, and also partly on how other people treat me because of my condition. If you look at me you cannot tell that I have a joint condition. If you had a line up and you had to choose someone who you thought was chronically ill, I very much doubt you would choose me. I look healthy… and to some extent I class myself as healthy but if you read my medical file you would probably picture someone who is unhealthy. I want to quote some things that my rheumatologist has written about our meeting and I want you to try to think about what a person with these ailments would look like.

“Lumbar sacral spine movements were grossly restricted”

“… restriction of plantar flexion subtalar movements and mid foot movements” [AKA restricted movements in my feet and ankles]

Morning stiffness remains a significant problem and can last between 1 and 3 hours”

“…feels extremely tired”

“… grossly restricted movements in neck and back”

If I saw a description of this written down I would expect to see someone who probably wouldn’t be very active, and probably wouldn’t be able to move very well because of all the stiffness. However, that is not the case. I am active, I can run, I can jump… Some of the time that is. And this is the thing with chronic invisible illnesses of an autoimmune nature, sometimes you can feel really good and the next day, or even the next hour, you can feel absolutely horrendous.

There have been times that I have used a disabled toilet because of the fear that I wouldn’t be able to get up off of a normal toilet without handrails. There have been times where I have sat in the disabled seat on buses because my joints couldn’t cope with me standing any longer. There have been times where I have been physically sick from pain. There are days where I can’t write, or when I find it hard to type. What I want people to learn from this is that living with an illness is very unpredictable and you have little control over which days you feel great and which days you don’t. I deal with pain, swelling, stiffness and inflammation every single day and yet some days I can still be “normal” whatever normal is. The point is that you cannot see my suffering so just because I don’t tell you that I am sore doesn’t mean that I am pain-free. Please remember that your sister, brother, parent, friend, relative, colleague… who ever you know with RA/Autoimmine arthritis, will most likely be sore every day and have symptoms every day. Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean that they aren’t having problems. If they are doing things slightly differently to normal then this is probably them compensating for said symptoms in a functional way… they might even ask you for help. Don’t make a big deal of it, just help them. Don’t treat them any different to normal, they are the same person they have always been. They do not need to feel more isolated by their illness because you feel the need to make a big song and dance about what they can/can’t do or what they may/may not need help with.

My condition, my decision… or so it should be

I think on this blog I tend to brush over just how much my joints affect me. I am not one to make a big deal out of things, and I don’t tend to complain that much… unless I am really struggling. However, even when my joints are relatively quiet they still cause problems in my daily life. I am constantly worried about doing too much, for fear of causing a flare. I now automatically analyse every task that I have to do in a day and prioritise what I needs done, and what I can do if I have the energy.

It’s been 10 months exactly since months exactly since my diagnosis, and I have just experienced something which is probably the most heartbreaking encounter since my diagnosis. One thing that I am not, is a quitter. I try not to let my joints get in the way of things. I push through, sometimes a little too far, but I do everything I set out to do. So when my lecturer tells me that I can’t take part in a module of my course because of my joints, I literally felt like crying. As part of the physiotherapy course you learn about manual therapies and manipulations which are aimed mainly at mechanical problems… AKA injuries and Osteoarthritis etc. so they aren’t supposed to be used in inflammatory joint conditions. Since I have notified the Uni about my condition, the lecturer for this particular module informed me that I will not be allowed to be used as a model in this module, although I can practice on other people. This means I am a barrier to my fellow peers. I am a problem. And I really don’t want to be a problem. Even though me being a barrier is protecting my joints, I still feel like I should be contributing in some way to the class, but the fact people can’t touch me during this module means that it is going to be incredibly hard to give people advice on whether they are doing things right or wrong, and it is harder for me to be able to perform things correctly since I don’t know what it should feel like.

I asked the lecturer if it would be possible to participate in sessions on joints that aren’t affected but he is scared that it could cause joint involvement in other joints, so I can’t. Even though I am absolutely devastated that I can’t join in… when it comes to my knees, I am really glad that I can’t participate. Even the thought of someone touching my knees makes me cringe. My ligaments have been sore continuously for 2.5 years now and I still can’t bare it when someone touches the ligaments. It’s just so painful… But having said that, I want to be able to participate in the other joints. I want to be able to show my enthusiasm for my course, I want to show that my joints don’t hold me back, I don’t want people asking questions about why I can or cannot participate. Even though this is for my own safety, it makes me feel like an outsider.

My illness is invisible, and even those who know about it don’t know the extent to which it affects me, both mentally and physically. Things like this really make me question how confident I am in my abilities. The choice I usually have on whether I can participate has been taken away, and I really don’t like it. To my knowledge, my lecturers have never dealt with a chronic, inflammatory joint condition so it must be hard to fully understand how much of an impact not having a decision causes. There have been times that my joints have dictated what I can or can’t do, and now I have people telling me what I can or can’t do because of my joints. It feels like I have less freedom than I had. And it makes me hate my joints. I had grown to accept my condition, and now I feel like I am at a point where I cannot accept it any more, and I am tired of it.

I am scared of the future now too. My joints have only caused me to be scared of the future once before, during a flare, but now I feel quite ill when I think about it. I don’t know what is going to happen, I don’t want my joints to dictate what I do, and I don’t want people to dictate what I do based on my joints. The only real control I have over this condition is deciding what I can and can’t do so the fact that it can be taken away is scary.

I have 2 mottos in life… the first is to appreciate everything and enjoy everything you get, because you don’t know when it is going to be taken away… and once it’s gone, it might not come back. Right now, I am really appreciating the control I had… and I’m not sure whether I am going to get as much of it back as I want. And my second one is to experience as much as I can in life… I guess this would be classed as one of the more negative experiences but I am going to try and grow from it. I need to learn to let go of the negative things and focus on the positive things, and this is one negative thing that I am letting go of by writing this post.

Time for a new Rheumatologist

A while back someone posted on one of the support groups I am a member of asked for people to take pictures of themselves holding a sign with a message they would like to give doctors so that they know how we feel. My sign had a message which said that just because my problem may seem small to you [i.e. the doctors], doesn’t mean it is small for me. When I wrote that I was thinking about my experience with my rheumatologist. She sees people who are really really sick and she also sees me. I am not that sick at all. My condition is not life threatening nor has it caused huge problems for me in the past. But the problems it does cause me feel like a big deal to me and when doctors do not take these things seriously it feels like you are being ignored. It feels like the problems you’ve come to them for are invalidated.

As a future medical professional myself I never compare people’s conditions. Just because one patient is sicker than another doesn’t mean that they can be made to feel that their condition isn’t a big deal. I also try to put myself in the patient’s position and think to myself, “if I was this patient, with this problem, what might I be feeling?” and based on that I try my best to treat them accordingly.

Yesterday I had my 3rd review since starting Plaquenil/Hydroxychloroquine in November 2014. I expected my rheumatologist to be engaged, to ask questions and to do a physical exam but instead I found her to be disinterested, unwilling to ask questions and unable and/or unwilling to answer my questions. The only examination that she did was on my ankles as these have been causing the most problems. I explained that my wrists were sore. Her response was to say “okay”, she didn’t look at my wrists or ask any more about them. I asked her about my hair falling out and all she could tell me was that it might be my autoimmune condition but she didn’t look at my hair. I came out of that appointment feeling totally invalidated, she knows I have pain and she doesn’t doubt that but by not examining me and not letting me know what she is thinking she makes me feel as if she doesn’t care.

I felt as if I couldn’t tell her everything that was going on because she didn’t care. I felt as if I was bugging her more than being her patient so I didn’t ask about things I was intending to ask about which was daft because I had waited four months for this appointment but when you are facing someone who you feel doesn’t care what you are saying or seems completely uninterested, it is hard to go into the things that you want to discuss. It’s easier to just leave them.

This appointment has had a few outcomes:

  1. My ANA is now negative where it was positive before… but we don’t know what this means or what has caused it [although I believe it was the Hydroxychloroquine]
  2. The MRI of my ankle came back clear but it is going to get reviewed by a specialist to double check, and if it is clear I will get referred to physiotherapy [which is what I requested]
  3. My Rheumatologist didn’t say anything about the Hydroxychloroquine so I am going to continue it at 400mg as I was prescribed until someone tells me otherwise
  4. I can try OTC topical NSAID gel to see if that helps on top of the Naproxen and paracetamol – I have since bought Voltarol
  5. I need to get a new Rheumatologist – as suggested by many, many people throughout social media

It has been a day since my appointment and I still feel quite upset about all of this. I have been with this rheumatologist since I was 14 or 15 and she has always believed me, though is never able to give me many answers. She doesn’t seem to care that much about my case and makes me feel invalidated. But if I go to another Rheumatologist [who will be an adult Rheumatologist, not an adolescent Rheumatologist] they might not take me seriously either or even worse, might not believe me. I have so many emotions flying around, my head feels like a bit of a mess but I have decided that it would be best to ask for a referral to another Rheumatologist. Hopefully this new Rheumatologist will be closer to my University than this one was.

Achilles tendonitis and podiatry 

People who have been following this blog for a while may remember that back in December I was diagnosed with Bilateral Achilles Tendonitis (a fancy way to say inflammation of both tendons at the back of the ankles). I got my Achilles Tendonitis diagnosis just 3 weeks after I had been diagnosed with an Autoimmune disease so the thought was that it could be my autoimmune disease causing the inflammation. Makes sense huh? Well it isn’t quite that simple. Achilles Tendonitis can be caused by an autoimmune disease BUT it can also be caused by mechanical problems such as flat feet etc. And I do have flat feet. So my Tendonitis could be caused by my flat feet or by my autoimmune disease or both. 

My Rheumatologist referred me to a podiatrist that specialises in Rheumatology for some exercises/insoles that in theory should help strengthen position my feet in a way that reduces the strain on my tendons therefore preventing them from becoming inflamed because of my flat feet. But a podiatrist can not do much for inflammation caused by my autoimmune disease. The first podiatrist I saw believed that my autoimmune condition was the cause of the Tendonitis and it had nothing to do with the fact that I have flat feet because I already had insoles. I have given exercises to do and told to come back in a few months.

Those few months passed quite slowly. Although the Tendonitis was resolving, it was taking a long time and so by the time I saw the second podiatrist, I was better but not 100%. This time they decided to have a look at my insoles. It turns out that the hard plastic material my insoles were made out of couldn’t even support the weight of my podiatrists hand and would flatten out. Meaning that my insoles were pretty much useless as they couldn’t hold their shape when I stood on them. The plan from there was to get molds of my feet (involing me standing in a shoe box full of foam) and to get custom insoles which I should be getting tomorrow.

It took over 6 months for my Achilles Tendonitis to resolve, or almost resolve because I still had a few days where they were sore. But since the start of this month my heels have been getting progressively more sore. Not a good sign. As a physiotherapy student I am able to do a mini assessment (I can’t do everything because it’s actually surprisingly hard to assess your own feet) which is telling me that it’s quite likely my Achilles Tendonitis is back, and based on the area of my tendon that hurts (the insertion site) it’s quite likely that it is because of my immune system rather than if a different area of my tendon hurt which would be more likely a result of strain or injury.

Something that we also found with my tendons is that one is thicker than the other. This is usually a result of inflammation, so the 6+ months of inflammation I had earlier this year have caused scarring at my Achilles tendon causing it to become thickened. There isn’t an awful lot I can do about that unless it becomes so bad that surgical intervention is needed, which is not necessary right now. But hopefully with the help of these insoles we can reduce any inflammation caused by my flat feet and that won’t become any worse. 

I see my rheumatologist next week, on the 29th, and this will be another thing we have to discuss. I am getting worried now that the combination of me having more inflammation at my tendons and already having one ankle that has lost a significant amount of movement is going to cause problems for me. Walking is hard mainly because of the pain so I am back to taking Naproxen 500mg twice a day and topping up on Paracetamol as needed but that is only doing so much. Walking is also hard because of the lack of movement in my right ankle which means that walking on uneven ground or up steps that aren’t level is quite difficult because of the lost flexibility. I don’t think I wrote about the problems my ankle has been causing me when I was on placement (part of the physiotherapy course is called placement, where you go out into a hospital and learn how to apply the skills learnt at Uni in a hospital setting with real patients). With most patients I was okay to treat them while I was standing up which is perfectly fine for me, but for a few patients their treatment involved me kneeling. My ankle is not flexible enough for me to kneel, and at one point the pain caused by my needing to kneel resulted in me nearly passing out and almost being physically sick. This is a major problem because if I can not kneel, working is going to be difficult. I am terrified that I won’t be able to work in the future because I won’t be able to sit in the positions that I need to, to treat patients. I’m terrified that the Plaquenil/Hydroxychloroquine medication I am on is not helping me sufficiently so that I know I will be able to work when I qualify, and I know I will be able to finish my course. And I am really angry that my joints have got this bad that I am terrified about my future. This should never have happened, I should have started physiotherapy as soon as it was apparent I was loosing range of movement instead of being in the position that I have lost the range of movement and I don’t know how easy it is going to be to get back. Physiotherapy is definitely one thing that I am going to ask my Rheumatologist for. Along with discussing whether the Plaquenil is working sufficiently to help reduce the inflammation in my joints even though I am still swelling and sore and stiff.

A late night update

It’s quite late here so I am only going to write a quick update… At this rate I am only going to get 5 hours of sleep.

So the other week I had my review with my asthma nurse to see whether Singulair has worked for me… It had not, and in my opinion it was a waste of money. The only effect it had was to give me wacky dreams and to keep me awake, and was generally something that I didn’t feel comfortable taking anymore. My peak flow was in the green zone and I felt well controlled, but yet exercise was still an issue. My asthma nurse decided to grab another nurse in to help with the consultation and her advice was to see the chest consultants up at the hospital. I was not too keen on this idea though. I’m not going to go into details but unless you know me well, you probably wouldn’t know that I have quite a lot of stuff going on in my personal life right now and I do not need another consultant, that I don’t feel I need, complicating that right now. I managed to convince the two nurses to let me have a trial of Seretide again. For those of you who are new to my blog, I tried Seretide as a DPI for about 2 months back in 2012/2013 and found that it actually exacerbated my asthma, so this time we have decided to try the MDI [aerosol version] of Seretide and see what happens. The problem with Seretide is that you don’t get the dosage flexibility that you do with combination inhalers containing formoterol as the LABA component [AKA Symbicort, Flutiform, etc]. I used to take Flutiform 125/5 2 puffs twice a day on a normal day and 3-4 puffs on a day that my asthma was bad or on days I was exercising. However, I was prescribed Seretide 125/25 2 puffs twice a day so there is some mismatch in dosage that I was worried would mess with the control that I already had. But my breathing has been really good since starting it (with the exception of one attack which was due to me completely ignoring my triggers on a night out… so basically I caused myself to have an attack, not something I would advise!). I am still worried about what might happen if I get a cold, which is when I would normally increase my dose of Flutiform but right now things are looking up!

I also wanted to update you all on my joints, they have actually been feeling pretty good recently. Not much pain or morning stiffness at all. I am still getting swelling in my ankle, but we are now querying whether that is due to this autoimmune condition or whether it is due to a mechanical problem… I have a MRI in May to try and work out what is causing the pain and swelling there. However, this past week I have seen a massive increase in pain, and stiffness, and fatigue. In fact my joint pain was so bad at one point that I as seriously considering going to A&E… while you are sitting on the floor in your bathroom, trying not to vomit your anti-inflammatories up from the pain, A&E seems really, really inviting. But I got through it, the meds kicked in and I was mobile again surprisingly. I honestly thought that day was going to be a day from hell, completely spent in bed but I actually managed to go out for a run that evening. I spoke to Britt [AKA The Hurt Blogger] about this as I have read about similar experiences she has had, and she has found that exercise can reduce her symptoms, of course without meds exercise wouldn’t really be a viable option but together… they help. And that is what I have found too, the meds [and heat packs, and hot showers, and ice packs] help to get me moving, and once I am moving comfortably enough to do exercise, that helps to reduce my pain and reduce any stiffness that I still have. Don’t get me wrong I am still sore, I do still struggle but exercise helps to make my struggles easier…

I have also been experiencing some newer symptoms… or maybe they aren’t that new and I am only just recognising them as symptoms now. I have been having experiencing hair loss, literally I loose a handful of hair every time I wash my hair. I am so thankful that I have thick hair, I don’t know how I would look otherwise. I am pretty sure it’s not the meds because I don’t really take anything that can cause hair loss, and I have been on all of my meds [except from Seretide] for long enough now to discount that as a symptom. A friend of mine [who deals with autoimmune arthritis, among other autoimmune conditions] has suggested that it could be the inflammation from my condition causing the hair loss, which is a distinct possibility. I have also been getting nose ulcers… for those who don’t know what these are they are essentially the same as mouth ulcers but in your nose, and mine are incredibly painful! I asked a pharmacist about them and she suggested trying vaseline on them to try and soothe them a bit, and it helps to a certain extent. Since the end of February I have had about 5 or 6 and they are definitely not pleasant. These are two symptoms that suggest that my condition is not as controlled as I had thought and will definitely be brought up to my rheumatologist when I see her next… These may also help with narrowing down my actual diagnosis rather than just being labelled with an autoimmune disease.

A review of today’s appointments

I have a lot to update you guys on! Today has been hectic!

It started off with a rheumatology appointment at 9.30. I was super nervous about this appointment because I didn’t feel that my joints were as controlled as I would have liked even though my morning stiffness had improved and I am able to exercise now [I am training for a 5K 3 times a week, and I swim twice a week] as my joints still hurt and swell, I still have bilateral achilles tendonitis, both my MCL and LCL in my knees are still playing up and I am absolutely knackered. I was worried that my Rheumy would suggest an immunosuppressant [AKA methotrexate or azathioprine] and I was worried about the implications of this on my course and placement as I will be on an infectious disease ward on placement… but thankfully things have turned out for the better and right now I do not need to go on any sort of immunosuppressive therapies [although I was warned that this could change]. I don’t even need to change medications! I had struggled with fluid in my left knee throughout February but thankfully taking Naproxen twice a day [rather than as needed] every day has sorted that and I am happy to report that my rheumatologist found no inflammation or fluid in any of my joints!!! *Cue the happy dance* I also found out that I don’t have any inflammatory markers or auto-antibodies in my blood! First time in 5 years I haven’t had antibodies in my blood guys! This is big!!!

However, we did find that I have lost a significant amount of movement in my right ankle and I have experiences catching/locking in that ankle so the plan for now is to stay on Naproxen and Plaquenil/Hydroxychloroquine at the same dose [400mg a day] for another 4 months, get an MRI on my ankle to see if it is a mechanical or inflammatory issue, continue with my achilles tendonitis exercises, get bloods done and follow up in 4 months.

The nurse I had today was absolutely brilliant, I only had 5 tubes of blood taken today and the nurse remembered me as the girl who usually gets 8 taken… I feel that I must have a bit of a reputation. We had some great banter together, and swapped some funny patient stories about what we experienced on placement, or in her case, in work. I feel that people like her really make your day. My rheumatology clinic can be really depressing, no one wants to be there and you can feel the dread hanging in the air as you sit there surrounded by [mainly] elderly people, or worried parents of younger children/teenagers, but as soon as this nurse walks into the room it really lifts the atmosphere and lets everyone have a little chuckle… Things like that are important.

Me and mum then had to rush up to my university accommodation [about 50 miles from the hospital] so that she could get back down to go to work… and the road was full of lorry’s so that delayed our progress because a lot of them thought they were powerful enough to overtake each other, when they really weren’t. But I got up here in plenty of time to make my asthma annual review.

This was my 3rd asthma annual review… that’s crazy right? I got diagnosed nearly 3 years ago, it really doesn’t seem that long. This is my first asthma review since I moved to university and it was my first asthma review with my new asthma nurse, in fact it was the first time I have met my new asthma nurse so I was quite nervous. But I shouldn’t have been, the appointment went very well. I explained that I felt that I am well controlled [with the exception of a little episode the other week, as a result of having a drink with ice in it] but my big problem is exercise. I find that exercise sets my asthma off quite a lot and I feel that it is preventing me from getting to my full potential during exercise. So we discussed my treatment options, I am already on a combination inhaler so I am to increase that on days that I exercise [although she didn’t tell me how much to increase it by… I’ll probably take an extra puff on the morning and night], I can also pre-medicate with more Ventolin than I do already… She also phoned the GP in my practice who specialises in asthma who advised that I should have a trial of Singulair [AKA Montelukast], so I have to pick up my prescription tomorrow and try it for a month. And then I have to see my asthma nurse in April to see how I am getting on. My asthma nurse prescribed the brand of Singulair rather than the generic, Montelukast, which turns out has to be ordered in [I checked at 3 pharmacies] because it is 14 times more expensive than the generic… If this works I hope she will start prescribing the generic because it is crazy expensive! We aren’t sure if Singulair will help me because I do not have allergic asthma but we decided that if we don’t try it then we will never know, and if it does help, then it was an easy fix.

Every asthma review I’ve had has resulted in a load of follow-up appointments and changes to treatment plans so I am hoping that this won’t end up getting too complicated. I just want to be able to exercise when I want without worrying about having to plan it out with increases in meds on certain days and not on others… Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is… although if it works then I will take it. I have a feeling that we may end up increasing my Flutiform to the 250/10 inhaler in the future if this doesn’t work because I am exercising about 5 days a week now so I will have an increased inhaler dosage for 5 out of 7 days every week… It might just be easier, and cheaper, to have an inhaler with a higher dosage, but we shall cross that bridge when, and if, we come to it.

Right now I am super aware of how many prescriptions I have, I am currently up to 5 [or 6 if you include paracetamol] because it isn’t only going to cost me a lot as soon as I turn 19 [even with a pre-payment certificate] but it is costing the NHS a huge amount too… It’s a shame there isn’t an easy fix out there right now. Of course, I can exercise inside when it is cold but that only helps so much, I still get symptoms… and it probably won’t be any easier in the summer since humidity sets me off too. It’s annoying that the point I get to a point where my joints will allow me to exercise, my asthma kicks up a fuss!