On Pills and Needles

Lately I’m going through a phase of feeling resentful of my medication regimen. Most days it’s easy for me to take my pills without really thinking about what the process means, but sometimes I look at my pills and think about how much it sucks that staying even moderately healthy means a consistent medication regimen that includes a plethora of pills and, on Saturday, an injection. This week is one of the latter.

Now, I’m not here to debate the benefits of a medicated vs a non-medicated existence. I love it that there are people who can manage their illnesses with diet and vitamins, but I am unfortunately not one of those people. Last year, before I spent four days in the hospital, I was doing all the things that one is supposed to do to stay healthy: I was exercising regularly, drinking the appropriate amount of water, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and staying away from processed foods and refined sugars. It didn’t keep me from betting sick, and even though I’m gradually returning to what we all consider a healthy lifestyle, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be completely medication free.

Trust me, the temptation to test it is there on a day that I’m feeling healthy and upbeat. I start going into a denial spiral, thinking that maybe I’m really not going to have to deal with this forever, but then I have a recurrence of symptoms and I’m smacked back to reality. Reality is day pills, night pills, and weekly injections.

My friends and I joke that I’m like an old lady, with my two pill sorters, but the truth is that neither of my grandmothers, nor my husband’s (she’s getting close to 90 and has heart troubles!) take as many pills as I do.

Yesterday was Saturday, aka Pill and Needle day. Every Saturday I bring my basket of pill bottles into the living room and fill up my pill sorters for the week. I set aside empty pill bottles for when I’m done so I can call in my refills to the pharmacy–the pharmacy that is one of the top five most recently contacted phone numbers in my phone.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, here are my pill sorters:

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Exactly one pill in these sorters is a high dose vitamin D supplement–this is the only supplement I put in the sorters. (EDIT: oops, I misspoke! One pill in each day is a folic acid supplement!). Thankfully my iron levels have been stable so I have eliminated those for now an any other supplements are added to my smoothie in the morning (when I get up in time to make it, that is).

Then there is this:

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That’s right, it says cytotoxic, as in kills cells.

Any fans of the show “House, M.D. ” will recognize the drug Methotrexate, as it was mentioned in practically every episode for the first several seasons. This is the medication I take to keep my arthritis flares at bay, and I take the maximum amount allowed for my condition–though very large doses are used as a chemotherapy drug, what I take is the non-chemo maximum dose. One of the biggest potential issues for methotrexate is liver problems, so liver function is carefully monitored through regular bloodwork.

Though I’ve been on methotrexate for about six months, I’ve only been injecting it for the last two, and even though I was nervous about it at first, I’m really glad I switched. The side effects aren’t as bad as they were with the pill form, and I seem to be deriving more benefit from it. This is what I try to focus on when I’m having my own personal pity party: I never want to go back to where I was six months ago. If I have the option of making my life even a little less painful, that’s my choice, and I’m ok with it–even if I don’t always like the idea of it, the outcome is worth it.

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