I don't think I ever blogged an update about this, but the stomach/abdominal pain that I was experiencing throughout most of the spring (and had all those scans done) turned out to be serositis, which is the inflammation of the lining of the heart, lungs, and/or abdomen...and a symptom of lupus. Mine is currently affecting the lining of my abdomen although I have had it affect my lungs (that's called pleurisy and I had it several times in college, so even back then, things were starting to point more to lupus) It's pretty painful and it makes me feel sick to my stomach, which takes away my appetite, and well, the whole vicious weight cycle thing begins. Thankfully, the serositis has subsided for the most part over the past couple of months and the steroids I am on helped me to gain several pounds back. But on Sunday, my stomach started hurting again and it's been that way all week.
On Wednesday, I called the insurance company and they had approved the Benlysta! I called my doctor and they scheduled me for my first infusion on Thursday! I was so excited I couldn't talk to anyone because I knew I would burst into tears from thankfulness - here I was, getting myself ready to handle the serositis again and the nagging suspicion I have that the current dose of pain med isn't enough (my body tends to build a tolerance to medicines very quickly) and God moved all the paperwork through and got me an appointment immediately. Such mercy!
So the way the infusions work is that I go in every other week for six weeks and get a infusion. An infusion means the medicine is administered via IV. After the first six weeks, I get the infusions once a month.
On Thursday, my friend Lisa picked me up and drove me to the doctors (they give you benedryl in case you have an allergic reaction and the benedryl makes you really woozy and unable to drive. Also, they want someone there in case you have a freak response to the drug).
I was feeling okay after the infusion and just took it easy at home. Around 6pm, it suddenly felt like my limbs weighed a thousand pounds and I could barely keep my eyes open. I was so incredibly tired and was shocked by how fast the fatigue came on! I ended up going to bed about a half hour later and woke up several times during the night afraid I was going to vomit, but thankfully, I didn't! I felt pretty decent the next morning (my usual morning "normal", which for me is mild joint pain and mild nausea). I went to work and did just fine. I started getting tired in the afternoon and by evening, was pretty zapped. I woke up this morning after a good night's sleep feeling like I had just pulled an all-nighter and have been dragging all day (despite a healthy caffeine intake :) ), so I can say I am definitely experiencing the Benlysta side effects, but very mildly so - I am so incredibly thankful for that!
So the forward plan is continue with the infusions. After about 3- 4 months, if I start responding to the Benlysta (it can take a couple of months to notice if it is working), we can start weaning me off of my other meds...so for the next few months, I'm going to kinda feel like Chemical Woman - lots of chemicals running through my veins :). I am really hoping that this new drug works for me - it would be amazing to feel like I did three or four years ago when my disease was pretty much in remission. I can barely remember what it felt like to not hurt constantly and to have energy. Such a good reminder for me to not take good health for granted and to do what I can when I feel well. My disease started to destabilize two years ago and it's been a hard and growing journey, one I wouldn't trade because of all that God has taught me. I know this new med may not solve everything, but I feel like a new chapter has started.