The latest change in my treatment regiment for the Rheumatoid Arthritis has been my decision to stop the Methotrexate chemotherapy. After a year of taking this injection weekly, which included nausea for a couple days after injection and difficulty fighting off simple infections like a cold, I was ready to reconsider. Were the benefits really outweighing the long-term risks?
Methotrexate is a common medication given to patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. According to WebMD, this type of low-dose chemotherapy can reduce inflammation and slow the progression of the disease by suppressing your immune system, which delays joint destruction. Recently, it is common for Methotrexate to be taken along with another DMARD, such as a Biologic like Enbrel or Cimzia. Which is exactly what I was prescribed a year ago when the Biologic alone wasn’t cutting it.
All of these benefits sound great to the patient, who is ultimately looking to stop the constant pain and slow down the joint damage. But I think we often forget to weigh the risks against these benefits, especially when considering something as severe as chemotherapy. Once you read some of the long-term risks associated with Methotrexate, including various infections, liver damage, infertility and even cancers, this treatment option becomes a lot more dangerous than even the RA itself.
It has been over a week now that I decided to stop taking the chemotherapy and I have barely felt a change in my RA symptoms (which is actually surprising!). Half-way through the week I had nausea and felt like I was fighting the flu for a day, probably from the detox of the Methotrexate from my system. My doctor expected the RA to flare up, but no sign of that yet.
I know the feeling as a patient diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, that we want to use every possible weapon to fight the powerful, and painful, disease. But after experiencing low-dose chemotherapy over the past year, including living through daily side effects, monthly blood tests, etc., I have decided that the supposed benefits it has on suppressing some of the daily pain and joint damage does not outweigh the major risks it presents for my future. Let’s just hope in the coming months as I continue to detox the drug from my system, that my body doesn’t need Methotrexate to help slow down this disease.