Every visit to my rheumatologist results in a discussion about rheumatoid arthritis remission. Going on two years after diagnosis, I am not sure I believe remission exists. It seems like something that is only available to a privileged few. My doctor insists that the earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the higher the case of remission. Apparently, if you get treatment within the first two years of the onset of symptoms you have a more than 50 percent chance of achieving remission. She went further to tell me that if a person has mild disease activity and tests negative for certain blood markers, like the RA factor, they have a higher chance of remission. Apparently, I fit in that category.
For many years, I have dealt with the affects of RA and fibromyalgia and frequent visits to the doctor’s office always lead to nothing. I got a point where I felt that what I was feeling was in my head. I was even told that I probably need psychiatric care, which rationale I would not take. I, like anyone else, have had some tough moments in my life, but I was clearly not stressed or depressed to that extreme. It took me nearly eight years to receive a diagnosis, and the day that receive those diagnoses, I felt two things, relief and anger ; relief that finally knew what was going on with me and anger that it took so long to find out.
As far as remission goes, I am not setting my hopes high. All I pray for is not to get worse. I can live with the pain and ill feelings I do with on a daily basis, and the only expectations I have are to live for today. I am about to start on Humira which my doctor tells me is a TNF inhibitor, and with it, I have a higher chance of remission. It has been a few days since I have this conversation with my rheumatologist and it doesn’t seem to have left my mind. I am not ready to set my expectations that high, because I might feel disappointed later. I am fine where at I am, and I have learned that the one thing my conditions cannot take from me is my resilience.
So what defines remission anyway? According to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), the criteria for determining remission include:
• Morning stiffness less than or equal to 15 minutes;
• No fatigue
• No joint pain
• No joint tenderness or pain on motion
• No soft tissue swelling in joints or tendon sheaths
• Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (a blood test that measures inflammation) less than or equal to 30 in females and 20 in males.
Source: Eutice, Carol & Richard, What Defines a Remission in Rheumatoid Arthritis? (2008). Retrieved September 17, 2009, from About.com: Arthritis: http://arthritis.about.com/od/arthqa/f/remission.htm
In the meantime, it is getting cooler around here, and I don’t know that by watching a weather report. I know that because, as I tell my husband, my RA and fibromyalgia predict the weather. Maybe it is coincidental, but so far, I don’t really need to watch the news. Don’t laugh. Any RA’er or FM person will agree with me.