6-Month Rituxan Update

With 6 months since my loading dose of Rituxan, I’m absolutely thrilled to say that I’m physically the best I’ve been in a couple of years. Mentally, I may be the best I’ve ever been since getting sick when I was eleven. 

As I mentioned in my 3-month update post, the progress has been slow but steady. As it was when recovering from PANS, it often has been so slow that I didn’t really know it was happening at all. 

Six months ago, it was all I could do to work for forty or fifty minutes at a time at my desk. I used to feel an overwhelming need to go lie down and would need to rest for at least an hour or two at that point. The most I could manage on the best day without crashing would be two or three hours of work.

This past week, I have been working for 4–8 hours per day without noticing. And just as telling, when I feel I need to take a break, it is mainly a mental break I need. And I feel like I need to get up and walk around and stretch rather than lie down—a completely typical urge for any healthy person I would say.

Mentally, I have come down to the lowest dose of one of my meds in over five years. Another one is the lowest it’s been in two years. But even more notable is that I am so focused on my work and friendships that I often forget that I’m technically sick.

I think I’m getting close to a time when I reveal what I do for a living and maybe even who I am, because it’s getting to a point where only talking about dealing with my illnesses feels completely one-dimensional. But for now I’ll just say that the latest project from my job might be my best work to date. I feel passionate about raising visibility for chronic illness and disability in my field, but I’m trying to figure out how that ties in with this blog.

Recently, I started seeing another specialist, and in looking through my medical records again, I was struck with a sobering realization: I never make it more than a couple of years before some virus or infection completely upends my life. I’m about to be at that two-year mark. 

Having a neuroimmune relapse feels less like a question of if so much as when. And things are going so well that I sometimes feel like surely something bad is about to happen. 

I no longer live in fear of a PANS relapse, but the reality of living with mild-moderate ME and POTS means it feels there’s always a possibility that it could all get worse again. How would I take it if it happened again? Now that I’m establishing myself in my field, I fear it would be even worse if everything fell apart all over again.

But instead of living in fear and worry, I’ve decided to be proactive about doing everything I can to prevent a worsening of my condition. I know I’ll get some pushback for saying this, but for me that has included getting the COVID vaccine. It’s much better to risk a flare and become immune to COVID rather than to take the risk of catching COVID and living with long-term complications. The “1% death rate” some harp about doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story of what’s really at stake. Some are forgetting that even mild viruses can upend a life with a neuroimmune condition.

But you know what? I haven’t flared from the Moderna vaccine so far a month later. We’ll see how the second dose goes, but I feel confident this was the right decision.

I’m planning a longer post in the future about why I chose to get the vaccine, but I just wanted to jump on here and give everyone a quick update that things are going really well.

I’ll probably post more soon about all of this, so stick around…

A 3-Month Post-Rituxan Update

Three months since starting the new treatment, Rituxan, I can finally say that I’ve made obvious progress. It’s been anything but linear, and yet I’m more hopeful than I have been in a long time.

You may have noticed I’m not posting on here much, and my Facebook and Twitter profiles also haven’t been updated. But this is actually great news. It means I’m busy living my life and don’t really want to think or write about my illnesses. 

However, I know there are people out there wondering how I’m doing, and I don’t want to break my six-year streak of posting once every calendar month. So I’m finally logging back on to give an update.

Continue reading “A 3-Month Post-Rituxan Update”

Rituxan and the Waiting Game…

I’ve finished my first two rounds of Rituximab infusions and am happy to report that they went very well! 

To be honest, I was terrified of this IV medicine after reading about the potential side-effects of killing your immune system’s B cells. So let’s just say that after getting through the first five-hour infusion, I felt downright triumphant for facing my fear. Continue reading “Rituxan and the Waiting Game…”

Done Treading Water: Why I’m Really Doing Rituxan This Time

I’m starting a year of Rituximab infusions.

This is an IV biologic medication that kills your B cells. Yes, I’m wiping out a chunk of my immune system in the middle of a global pandemic. Yes, I’ve just signed on to do this every three months for at least a year. Rituxan is not a medicine you get prescribed unless you’re seriously ill—and apparently I am.

That last part is not exactly news to me, though it’s something I don’t like to admit. My baseline hasn’t met diagnostic criteria for PANS in over two years, meaning my mind is basically fine, some brain fog notwithstanding. Thus, I’m often able to work part-time and enjoy it, and I’m able to be social with my friends virtually—neither of which were so easy when I had classic PANS.

Continue reading “Done Treading Water: Why I’m Really Doing Rituxan This Time”

Self-Sabotage: Peeling Back the Onion of Baggage from Being Sick

Last week, I did something wild: I signed myself up for a multi-week professional development program.

I already have so much going on with finishing my book, but I’d applied a while ago to this selective program. So once they accepted me, how could I say no? Besides, I believe it will also indirectly help me with my book by making me structure my days better.

The fact I’m attempting this program is a big deal to me for a lot of reasons, but largely because of what it says about my mental state. For so many years while fighting PANS, I just didn’t have it in me to invest much in myself or my career. On the outside, my professors would praise my efforts because I was successful between flare-ups. On the inside, it was often half-hearted, and I constantly questioned if I even wanted to be in my field anymore or not.

Continue reading “Self-Sabotage: Peeling Back the Onion of Baggage from Being Sick”

My Disastrous Symptom Flare & How I Plan to Get Out of It

Before I’d even opened my eyes, I knew something was terribly wrong. Every muscle in my body hurt. I was drenched in sweat. My heart was racing. I had an 101º fever.

As I lay there trying to will myself out of bed, my heart-monitor watch went off, warning of a high heart rate. I didn’t think much of it because I had a fever, so of course my heart would be above 100.

But then it kept going off. Again. And again.

Not having it, I rolled over and slapped on my blood pressure cuff. My pulse was 166. Crap crap crap! This was really happening again.

Continue reading “My Disastrous Symptom Flare & How I Plan to Get Out of It”

Remember M.E.: Why I’m Missing Today

Today was Graduation Day for my master’s degree…

But I’m not graduating.

And I don’t mean that I’m not getting an in-person ceremony, the same as the rest of the class of 2020. I mean that I’m not graduating because my illness forced me to leave grad school halfway through a degree.

For years, I had planned on going to grad school, getting a PhD, and then becoming a professor. I liked school and liked the tutoring job I had in college, so I thought teaching and researching at a university was what I wanted. Continue reading “Remember M.E.: Why I’m Missing Today”

Why I’m Getting Better Even When I Think I’m Not

“Ups and downs are better than straight down.”

The other day, I found this cryptic message scrawled on a sticky note inside my desk. I had completely forgotten that this used to be one of my favorite sayings in the years when I was still fighting through the brain inflammation from PANS. But now, it’s taken on a whole other level of meaning with my new challenges…

I remember clearly the day I was diagnosed with PANS, and my neurologist said I needed IVIG treatment urgently. It would be an infusion of antibodies from thousands of human donors in an attempt to stop my own autoimmune antibodies from attacking my brain.

Continue reading “Why I’m Getting Better Even When I Think I’m Not”