Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hugs AND Drugs

Hugs Not AND Drugs!

Does the title of this blog post make you laugh? No? It's inappropriate? Dang . . .

Well, let's move on with it then.

Since it seems like the more I blog about arthritis, the more detailed I get in my personal experiences, so I decided to blog about my actual medicine. In the last year, juggling my medicine has taken a big role in my life. Starting with going off of Remicade, spending six months free of arthritis meds, and then trying multiple different options for controlling rampant inflammation.

I've already explained the trials of the last year in previous posts, so I won't get into that again. Now I'm on Enbrel, and so far it's been working fabulously. I've been mostly inflammation free since November. Energy levels can be low but that's to be expected. And as much as I don't enjoy giving myself shots, it's extremely liberating.

You might not think that having to take your medicine by injection is a good thing. It takes some getting used to, that's for sure. But after spending five years having Remicade infusions - and being hooked up to an IV every few weeks - I've grown to appreciate being able to give myself my medication on my own terms.

When I tell people I give myself a shot once a week, they cringe. Unless they are diabetic and then they laugh at my "once a week". But Enbrel shots are very different.

When I was in high school, I was on Enbrel for a short time. Taking Enbrel was a whole different story then. I had to give myself the shot twice a week (along with Methotrexate through injection). So that's three shots a week. Ick.

And at the time, it wasn't any of this nicely packaged, pre-mixed Enbrel you see today. No, I had to mix it myself. Double ick.

Now it's easy. Just once a week. One shot. You're done.

Though because of the preservatives (?) used in order to have the entire dose in one shot, the actual medicine is pretty painful.

But oh well! We deal!

So here's what I do every Friday. (It might be in the morning. It might be at night. It all depends on my mood.)

(I had to convince Mitch to take pictures of the event this last Friday. He was hesitant, but eventually decided to help. So thank you Mitch.)

The evening started with taking my vitamins, which happens every day. I take Omega 3s (1000-2000mg) and recently started taking Vitamin D (2000 IU) at the suggestion of my trainer.

That big one is the Omega 3 tablet. That's a doozy. The lil baby size one is the Vitamin D. Funny huh?

After I take those, I take my Methotrexate tablets.

Because of my bad reaction to Methotrexate, I am only able to take 10mg a week. When I first started it when I was a teenager, I remember losing hair. It wasn't like, big chunks of hair falling out or anything, but I did have a substantial amount of hair left in my hairbrush every time I used it. I even had to get my hair cut short. Dang. But 10mg seems to be the perfect amount for me.

Then comes the prep!

I give myself my shots in my belly. (I like to say that it's important for me to keep a little extra belly fat so I can give myself a shot easily.) Enbrel can also be given in the thigh and on the back of the upper arm. It's always good to rotate where you give your shot, so I'll switch up which side to do it.

When I was younger, I would often have someone else (usually a friend who was a nurse) give me the shot, and would have it in my arm. I was never able to give myself the shot in my leg because I would get a weird reaction from it. It always seemed to go straight into my muscle and my leg did not feel happy afterwords. So that didn't happen much.

Sometimes I will ice my belly first before giving the shot. It numbs the skin slightly so the needle isn't so shocking. Lately I've been brave and have skipped this step.

But I always - ALWAYS - use an alcohol swipe first. No question.

Then to prep the needle.

Like I said earlier, recent developments with Enbrel have made this part amazingly simple. All you really have to deal with is getting rid of the tiny bubble that's in the shot. I can't tell you how happy I am I don't have to go through all the trouble that I used to.

Then the fun part . . .

Actually giving the shot.

This is a lovely picture of me grabbing a chunk of my stomach right before stabbing myself with the needle. Attractive.

My arms were in a weird position while doing this so Mitch could get a better view of me actually injecting the medicine. I'm not normally all twisted when giving a shot.

I'm not sure what it is - if it's the small needle or what, but the medicine takes a bit of time to actually plunge in. It's not something you can do quickly. As much as you might try.

And it hurts.

I said it before . . . this medicine HURTS. There's something about it that stings and makes me want to cry. But I'm a tough girl. No tears shed!

Though I do make this face . . .


The pain only lasts a couple of minutes, so I try to keep from touching my stomach or bending in any way. Weird, I know, but after the pain subsides it's no big deal.

And no serious damage done.

The needles go in my special container that I bought from my pharmacy. I'm pretty sure I could call Enbrel and have them send me another one like I got when I started this fall. But I was in need of a needle dispenser immediately and so we made do with one from the store. We had to make a little adjustment to the lid so we could fit the entire thing in there.


Sometimes I'll end up with a little redness at the spot. Like what happened this Friday . . .

Don't notice it? Mitch didn't notice it much, but I did. It went away eventually.

In the past when I was on Enbrel, I would have a kind of weird lump on my belly where the medicine was just injected, and it would be a little bit red. A simple warm, wet towel on the site helped with this.

But now, a little red mark is the worst I might have. Maybe a teensie bit of blood but it's never a big deal.

And that's it! A little bit of pain, but it's so worth it.

Liberating I tell you!

So there you go. Some more personal information for the world to know.

Please click here to be directed to the official Enbrel website's Patients Instructions for Use


  1. Hey! I was led to believe there would be hugs in this post! Where is the picture of Mitch-o hugging the burn away afterward? ;)

  2. Jennifer- I know! I needed a hug. I tried with Niki but he just goes limp.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Indeed thanks for providing necessary information. I really appreciate to u,all are such a good information.Thanks................


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