Mountain Climbing With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Every day I peruse articles and journal abstracts, updates and tweets about Rheumatoid Arthritis. Maybe that is why I get so behind with emails or other blogs I’d like to read...
I think I am straining to see the future. What is next around the bend? From where will our cure come?
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I found this great article in the UK Mirror online. I am so happy to share with you this positive example of RA in the news. Kudos to Caroline Jones who wrote this is marvelous story of Wendy Dawley, a 33 year old RA-er.
According to the story, Wendy was the ripe old age of 30 when Rheumatoid Arthritis reared its ugly head. She just woke up one day and “Every joint in my body hurt – my neck, elbows, shoulders, even the balls of my feet. I couldn’t put my feet on the floor to stand up… It felt like severe bruising – or as if I’d been beaten up.” Sound familiar to any of you?
Why does it feel so good to see that in print? Maybe RA-ers have just had it with people acting like we are not very sick. I cannot tell you how many times people have thanked me for just voicing what they are experiencing. I know how they feel; I want to send flowers to Ms. Jones.
Miss Dawley was shocked by how suddenly the Rheumatoid Arthritis disabled her. She had thought that Rheumatoid Arthritis was what happens when you get old. Unfortunately, she learned otherwise. “There were times I couldn’t even get up, let alone go to work, meet friends or do any exercise. My social life ended. It was so bad I had to move back in with my parents, because I couldn’t look after myself. I felt like a child.”
Happily for Wendy, she was able to get into a trial for Mab Thera (called Rituxan in the US) three years ago. These are the brand names for rituximab. Rituximab was originally created to treat B cell lymphoma. It depletes B cells, a type of white blood cell (also called lymphocytes), by inhibiting the protein CD20. B cells are one link in the inflammation process of autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Rituximab is used in cases of refractory Rheumatoid Arthritis, meaning that the RA has not been brought under control by other treatments that usually work to reduce symptoms (like TNF blockers such as Humira and Enbrel). It is administered by intravenous infusion which can take several hours. After 2 doses, it is not given again until the patient’s RA flares. It is used in conjunction with methotrexate.
How does Wendy feel about living her life on chemotherapy? “Long-term I presume I’ll always be on some kind of treatment, but it’s a small price to pay for getting my life back.” She describes herself as “transformed.” In fact, on a recent vacation, she went mountain climbing! No wonder her story was uplifting!
The story of Wendy Dawley’s Rheumatoid Arthritis has lots of common themes. Let’s hope we can make her happy ending more common, too.