I’ve been in an on/off relationship with Methotrexate for over 16 years. It’s a real love/hate relationship: Methotrexate loves kicking JIA’s ass, but I can’t help but hate it.
Methotrexate is a DMARD – a disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug. It targets the cause of arthritis, rather than the symptoms, which means that it reduces the immune system of the person taking it.
It causes nausea, vomiting, hair loss and skin rashes, and can also affect your liver. In most cases people would be prescribed folic acid tablets to take alongside it, as this can help counteract some of the side effects.
Because it suppresses the immune system, you can’t have live vaccines (vaccinations that contain a part of the disease in order to train your body to fight it), and if you get chickenpox or shingles you have to come off it all together. I’ve had both of those things. Of course, I’m forgetting that Methotrexate does more good than bad.
It’s sad really, because Meth (not Crystal, I should point out) should be the love of my life, but alas my heart belongs to Ibuprofen. Methotrexate isn’t the love of my life, because while it makes my arthritis better, it makes me feel pretty ill, but that’s not the main barrier to our loving relationship. I am fully aware that my main beef with Methy babes is purely psychological, so just be prepared for the following load of unscientific waffle. In fact, be prepared for a shameful secret about me which may surprise a lot of you.
I am afraid of tablets.
There, I said it. That was an elephant in the room. I should now clarify that it’s not all tablets, just small ones.
The tablets for Methotrexate are tiny and yellow. A really horrible yellow. A yellow, that to this day, makes me feel sick from just looking at it. Taking these tablets as a six-to-10-year-old was a performance; an event. First, there was the hot milk, then the tablet, then the hum, then water, three gips, more milk. Then tablet two.
I went to great lengths to avoid taking these tablets, including switching to an injection in my thighs once a week instead in 2000. In 2003 I came off Methotrexate for the first time since I started (apart from when I had chickenpox), but went back on a few months later. My dose was gradually lowered over the years, and then in February 2008 I decided I should face my fear and go back onto the tablets – largely because I was going away to university later that year and didn’t fancy storing my meds in the communal fridge. By January 2009 I was completely off Methotrexate – until a terrible thing happened. I went back on in July that year, and finally came off earlier this year. I’m definitely hoping it will stay that way.