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This week it will be 5 months since I started taking methotrexate. I’m grateful to say that my overwhelming experience has been positive. The anticipated post-medication nausea, headaches, and exhaustion have been minimal. And my body’s overall response to the medication has been positive. I find myself with almsot “normal” energy on many days, which has been fabulous for my spirits, my life and my business.
But … and you know there’s always a “but” … I do have one side effect that is a bit troublesome. I think MTX is affecting my menstrual cycle. Now I’ve discussed this with both my GYN and my Rheumy, and they both say this cycle distruption is “normal” for a 45-year-old. But I didn’t have the slightest cycle disruption until 3 months ago. Nothing had changed in the last 8 years! So why, all of a “sudden,” am I experiencing complete menstrual chaos?
Everything I find about MTX and menstrual cycles says there is the possibility of disturbance or spotting. What I don’t know is whether it can induce complete menopause or if the effect is amenorrhea with hormones still present in some level. And again, it is frustrating to have the docs both saying … don’t worry, you’re 45 anyway. That seems like a lame excuse!
I know … I know … it IS a minor side effect in the big scheme of things. And it certainly isn’t significant enough for me to stop taking methotrexate. Plus I think of friends who have had emergency hysterectomies for a variety of dramatic reasons when they were younger than I am now. And it was all bound to happen eventually. But I kinda like estrogen … it helps with a lot of vital functions in my body. And I just wasn’t mentally prepared for this … thought I had about five years to wrap my brain around “the change.”
They say that nothing is ever simple. And that’s been the story of the last couple of Sundays (my MTX day) for me. Sunday of Week 4 was pretty good … if you don’t count the two feet of snow that fell the day before. Sunday of Week 5 was pretty nasty … but not really because of the MTX.
I’m still finding that the ginger nearly eliminates the nausea. And that MTX makes me a bit more tired than usual.
But the biggest lesson over the last two weeks has been what my limits are. The snowstorms of February 2010 taught me that I may be able to do something I used to do (like shovel snow for an hour), but that the price I will pay is a steep one. And because I work in a business where happy clients are essential to my livelihood, it’s been a challenge to figure out how to reschedule people and not hurt myself even further.
I have had alternating days of great accomplishment and productivity. Followed almost immediately by days of incredible fatigue and frustration. But somehow this still feels like an improvement.
Last summer when the RA hit my life with full force, I had a very simple rule. Do only what is necessary and take it very slow. My main symptom was overwhelming fatigue. I did have some joint pain, but it was 20% of the issue while fatigue was 80%.
Then when I began to take medicines for the RA, the rules changed. The fatigue levels are improving markedly, and actually that is making it harder. I find that I can do more, but that this is making the pain levels go up quite a bit. So, the new rule seems to be do whatever I can one day but don’t forget I will pay for it the next day with exhaustion and discomfort. And if I go really nuts, I WILL be in pain.
My big challenge seems to be finding a balance of accomplishment and recovery. MTX day / Sunday seems to fit well as a recovery day. However, I clearly need more than one recovery day in the week. This is a very new concept for me … and one that will be another part of this luscious journey.