Stoney's Journey

This is written by a long time member here: Stoney

I am one of the lucky people. I’ve had some joint and tendon issues for years, but nothing too major. A spot of psoriasis on my knee since I was a kid, and Raynaud’s since I was a kid. The Raynaud’s got more severe after my first child was born. I also developed some blood sugar problems at that point.

After my second child, things took a turn for the worse. The blood sugar issues actually improved over the course of my son’s first year of life. But when he was 9 months old, and we were in the process of moving into a new house, I started having some really painful finger joints. They got quite painful, even to the touch. This seemed to come and go. . . . As the pain disappeared, so did the swollen spots. I decided to go see my GP when it kept happening over the next few weeks.

By this time, my hands were hurting, not just my fingers. The GP examined me, and ran a full autoimmune panel, CBC, etc, as well as a Lyme test (I live in the Northeast United States). Everything came back negative, but the doctor had already recommended that I see a rheumatologist.
When I went to see the rheumatologist a month later, she took a look at all of my blood-work, and did a full exam. She quickly diagnosed me with psoriatic arthritis, which of course, I had never heard of. At that point, she just started me on NSAIDs, and we had to play around with those for a while to figure out what worked best.

Over the course of that winter, fatigue hit, as well as increased pain. I did not know that fatigue could exist at that level. I was very active, walking miles a day. Suddenly, every step not only hurt, as my feet became involved, but I felt like I was moving through pudding with every step. I had a toddler, and needed to lay down to rest multiple times a day. I was pretty frightened, because things just kept getting worse.

I was also a nursing mom, so the choice of medications was somewhat limited. Plaquenil was added in, and I was thrilled with it after a few months. I suddenly realized that while things still hurt, it wasn't as bad, and the worst of the fatigue had lifted. I still napped, but it was just one big nap a day with my son, rather than needing to constantly lay down.

Over the course of the next few years, more joints became involved. When my son was 5 and a half, I needed to add in another DMARD. Just plaquenil and an NSAID were just not working any longer. So I weaned my son, and went on methotrexate. I felt sick all of the time, but kept at it for 6 months. It was doing nothing for me, and I still felt sick, so I was switched to leflunomide.
Right about that time, my always dry eyes and dry mouth got much, much worse. I was diagnosed with secondary Sjogren’s at that point, and added in medications to help with this.

Six and a half years past my diagnosis, here I am. I have just started my first biologic, Enbrel, and seem to be having good results. I have some damage in my hands and feet, and had my first surgery related to PsA last summer, when I had the base of my thumb operated on. I’m hoping that there won’t be a lot of surgery in my future, but I also realize that it’s a real possibility. But the good news is, now that I have a few years of experience with this disease, I have a lot more knowledge. I recognize that overall, the meds work to slow the progress of the disease, and that I can manage whatever comes my way. It may not always be pretty, but I can manage.