So, we know there’s no cure for MS (yet…), but all hope is not lost!
Enter: Disease Modifying Treatment.
DMTs for short. While these don’t cure MS, they help prevent future damage by potentially reducing the amount of relapses I have. This is pretty crucial for my long term well-being.
Just to get this out the way. DMTs do not reduce any symptoms I’m currently having. They only help prevent new ones from popping up. Unfortunately for me, there is nothing currently out there that can guarantee to help reduce the damage already done.
When I was first diagnosed, I was handed an Argos catalogue of drug choices. Flicking through the pages, I was bombarded with paragraphs of information on injections, infusions, and pills. All of these had benefits; they also all had side effects.
Now the hard part. Which one of these magical meds did I start wanting to take? Which side effects were worth the risk? As expected, the more effective the drugs were, the more side effects came with them. What did I value more? A better future, or a better now?
A difficult choice.
I opted for a drug called Tecfidera. A little blue pill (not that one!). This was a middle of the road drug, it could reduce relapses up to 50% (but no guarantee!). It was fairly effective, and came with only a few side effects (I’ll get more into this later).
I have to take one of these, twice a day. That’s it. Easy, right?
The good folks at Biogen even made it easy by splitting the pills up into days of the week.
But what about the cost? Do I need to be paying prescription fees for the rest of my life?
Nope, that’s covered too.
Every 4 weeks I get a phone call to arrange a month’s supply of pills to be delivered directly to my door, completely free of charge!
So what horrible side effects accompany my free blue pills?
The most common are flushing and stomach issues. These seemed fairly manageable, nothing I couldn’t live with.
Oh, and then there’s the risk of developing Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML for short). This is a rare virus of the brain. It causes incredibly serious (and possibly fatal) damage.
The chance of getting this was so small, I considered it worth the risk. Plus, I get a blood tests every 3 months as a caution. I felt pretty safe.
My first dose
For the first week I was given a half dose to take. This was to allow my body to warm up to the drug, get used to it a little before throwing it in the deep end.
I opted to take it after my morning workout (stomach issues were the last thing I needed while squatting!). Best to take this stuff with food , it might help prevent belly ache, so I had it with my breakfast.
The pill went down easy. And then I felt it.
Almost immediately my skin turned red hot. Like a weird, burning tingle all over.
I’ve been told that flushing is a typical menopause symptom, something I never thought I would experience.
But about 10 minutes later, the feeling disappeared. I’ve been on Tecfidera for nearly a year now, and that was the only side effect I’ve ever experienced.
So in terms of medication, I’m pretty much covered. No nasty injections, only a few hospital visits a year, and no unwelcome side effects.
Piece of cake.
If you’re on Tecfidera, share your experience below in the comments. I know that it doesn’t agree with some people, so it would be nice to get a bigger view of its effects. Let me know what you opted for instead, and how that’s going.