Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In medias res

I took my first dose last Friday. That was four days ago if you're counting.
And yet today I still felt like a zombie, like my limbs were dying from the inside out and my brain had blown a fuse. Some of the lights are on, but nobody's home. And there are switches that won't work, muscles that don't flex, joints that ache and grow tight with fluid. This is day four of methotrexate. And this is me, slightly better than I was yesterday or the day before that.
"Methotrexate may cause very serious side effects. Some side effects of methotrexate may cause death. You should only take methotrexate to treat life-threatening cancer, or certain other conditions that are very severe and that cannot be treated with other medications" (Medline Plus webpage). No shit. It's a powerful anti-rheumatic drug that is used to treat aggressive diseases such as cancer, some forms of lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Toxic to the liver, the lungs, kidneys, reproductive organs. Causes hair loss, metallic taste in mouth, enlarged lymph nodes, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. I understand the risks and the laundry list of possible side effects. And still, I willingly put this substance in my body, all six evil little pills, once per week. I am doing this so that I can have some semblance of a life worth living for a while longer.
One year ago, I was in a different place. I had just landed my dream job with one of the most prominent landscape firms in the state, a generous salary and benefit package, with a company vehicle, a new house. After several difficult post-college years, things seemed like they were looking up. The future abundant with possibilities. Six weeks into it, I began to have pain in my hands and feet.
Working sixty hours a week is hard on the body. I thought that I would get used to it. Seven weeks into the job, I was driving home at night with my hands twisted into claws. They would flex closed and no amount of will or strength could force them open. I couldn't hold my toothbrush, raise my hands to wash my hair, sleep, or put on socks. I took ibuprofen three or four at a time, four times a day. Nothing.

I walked away from the job.
And towards something I never expected. A body that betrays me daily. A brain fogged with toxic medications. A life that will probably never be the same.  

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