Today was the big day, injection training! For those of you who have read my blog before you know that I was recently diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS). Since my diagnosis I have had a lot to wrap my mind around. As someone who suffers from some pretty intense anxiety to begin with, it has been…challenging to put it kindly. But one thing that I have been working up the courage for was beginning a disease modifying drug.
Disease modifying drugs work to slow down the progression of MS. There are various drugs (I think 15? currently on the market in the US) that can be used to slow the progression of this disease. These drugs range in effectiveness, risks, and the methods in which they are administered/how they work in the body.
There is no cure for Multiple Sclerosis. There is no way to undo the damage, if permanent nerve damage has already occurred. One of the biggest misunderstandings I had (and I think many people would have) about the treatment I am starting is that it does not make you feel better. It doesn’t really alleviate any symptoms, rather it gives your immune system something different to attack rather than your own myelin (protective covering of the nerves. Think of someone with MS as having a cellphone charger with the wires exposed). The hope of this treatment is that it will slow the progression of my disease and delay my next relapse or attack of symptoms, maybe by months…maybe by years!
The treatment I chose to start with is Glatiramer Acetate (the generic form of Copaxone). Glatiramer Acetate has minimal side effects, mostly confined to the injection site and does not cause long-term damage/risks to the reproductive organs. This was really important to me. I have already lost so much to this disease, I didn’t want to risk losing my future family too. So I wanted to try this less aggressive, albeit sometimes less effective, treatment option first. This drug is injected into the fatty layer under the skin either daily or three times a week, depending on dosage.
I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around giving myself shots for a while now (pretty much since I started researching treatment options last fall) and have been rather nervous about it. All it would take was the image of myself pushing a needle into my own tummy and my vision would go dark, hands and feet go numb and the room starts to spin (funny, those are all MS symptoms too! Yay anxiety, double the fun for me!) I tried to comfort myself by reminding myself that I would be thoroughly trained on how to safely inject, I would have my husband to help me if I really was that squeamish at the end of the day, and that when it comes down to it I could just inject in other body parts that made me feel less freaked out.
But all the self soothing in the world couldn’t keep that bossy voice of anxiety from running her mouth in the back of my mind.
But this morning came, and so did the nurse to show me how to tackle my newest MS challenge.
I just have to give a shout out to my nurse, who did an absolutely amazing job teaching me everything I needed to know and making sure I felt comfortable and ready to give my self my first ever injection. And that is just what I did, and in my tummy no less! I decided that if I am going to face this fear I am going to face it head on!
It wasn’t too bad! The injection itself just felt like any shot does. There was some pretty strong stinging and burning for a few minutes after, while the injection spread, but it passed within a few minutes. As I write this, the only indication that I had such a life changing morning is a slight ache in my abdomen and a tiny dot where the needle went in. That’s it.
It’s funny. There are many moments when our lives change forever, and they pass without us even realizing them. Moments when we fall in love, take a stand or face a challenge. Sometimes they’re big, sometimes they are small. As small as pushing a button and a tiny needle injecting you with not just a medicine, but hope.
Hope that this disease won’t progress. Hope that I’ll have many years of health ahead of me. Hope that I’ll grow nice and old and have a family of my own to watch grow up too. Hope that one day I can look back at this time of my life and be proud of the bravery I showed, even when I felt like hiding. Hope that one day we won’t be on here talking about a treatment, we will be talking about the cure.
Until then, I will continue to learn each day, to cherish the peaceful moments and to fill my heart and the hearts of those around me with as much love and positivity as I can muster.
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – Albus Dumbledore