This last year and a half has been pretty crazy. I was like 52 weeks pregnant with Ev when E was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis. When Ev was 8 days old, Ell was put under to have a cortisone injection in her knee. Then the physical therapy began. A few months later she started taking injectable Methotrexate orally to try to reduce the inflammation in her right hand. Then the occupational therapy began. Soon we had to switch to injections and double her dose.
And we waited.
She endured weekly shots and bimonthly blood draws. Dr’s appts. Pneumonia thanks to her suppressed immune system. Methotrexate hang overs. Night terrors. Break downs: “Please, PLEASE don’t DO THIS TO ME!” on shot night. For nearly a year she barely grew or gained weight. Her body was too busy fighting and attacking itself to grow.
And then she started to put on weight.
She passed the 36 inch mark.
Her fingers looked less puffy.
Her rheumatologists were pleased with her progress but they were unable to tell for sure if she had any inflammation in her fingers. Two of her fingers are obviously bigger than the rest but it was hard to tell if it was just bony overgrowth from past inflammation or if she still had something going on.
So…..they ordered an MRI.
6 weeks later we were back at Lucile Packard for the procedure. Ell had to be put under because of her age. This was nerve wracking….she didn’t do well last time coming out. They had her for an excruciating 2 1/2 hours. Thank God for the iPad and the Kindle.
Then…..1.5 weeks later…the results.
Her MRI was NORMAL.
Nearly 18 months after her diagnosis…she was finally inflammation free! Her physical exam showed no signs of inflammation in any other joints. Honestly….we were shocked. We expected to be learning how to administer a new medication that day….not leaving with good news. We were cautiously relieved. Cautious because this disease can be tricky.
The “R” Word
One of the biggest myths about JA is that children grow out of it. Unfortunately…JA is an autoimmune disease and you don’t simply grow out of it. What you hope for is remission. First, a medicated remission (no active disease while on medications) and then…then you hope for non medicated remission.
Right now, Ell has no signs of active disease while on her weekly injections of methotrexate. If it stays this way for 6 months we will talk about when we can start to slowly wean her off. This is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. As much as I HATE (and I mean HATE) injecting this toxic drug into my baby every week…I am also terrified of the disease coming back. I am terrified of it getting worse. E’s case is so very mild compared to so many…but it is still my baby and I want her healthy.
So that is where we are now. We will continue with her meds and go back in three months!
As much as I hate this disease, JA has brought a lot of positives into our lives as well. When E was first diagnosed, I started researching E V E R Y T H I N G I could. The doctors had mentioned methotrexate as a possible medication and so I googled and read everything I could. When doing so, I found some Youtube videos of a beautiful young girl, J, getting her injections and talking about her life with JA. I didn’t have a Youtube account, but I created one that day so that I could send the mother a message and see if maybe she would talk to me about this disease.
You see…you find yourself feeling pretty alone when your child gets sick with some disease you knew nothing about….and all you want to do is learn everything you can about it and talk to people who have been there.
To my surprise, J’s mom messaged me right back. She answered all my questions and more. Our stories were actually eerily similar, just a few years apart in time. She invited me to join a support group via Facebook for parents of children with JA and soon I wasn’t feeling so alone anymore. I also learned just how serious and even deadly, this disease can be. I learned just how mild E’s case really is. There is a form of this disease called Systemic JA, also known as Stills Disease, that can be very scary. These children are very sick as their organs can become involved, including the heart and lungs.
I have met (both in real life and online) some amazing people because of this journey with JA including several other little girls around E’s age with JA. It was also given us perspective…how thankful we are that E is not worse but also how thankful we are that Everett is healthy. It has been a rewarding, humbling, joyful and painful journey.
One of those amazing little ones that we have had the privilege of meeting just a couple times, happens to have the severe type of Systemic JA. She lives locally and we have met because of our local Arthritis Walk. I recently learned that “L” has been hospitalized and has been very sick. I can’t stop crying as I think about that sweet girl having to fight so hard to just to walk and play. Please, please please keep “L” and her family in your thoughts and prayers. They need it.
And so…here we go holding our breath for three more months! Hoping that this little girl stays healthy…