Easy Come, Easy Go: Remission & Relapse
Last updated: February 2019
Growing up, I was used to seeing my pediatric rheumatologist once a month. For a long time, it seemed like no therapies were working. Finally, we found something that worked. Over time, my joint pain decreased. And after a few months, the doctor told me, "I don't see any disease activity- see you in three months!"
After a year of using a new therapy, I achieved remission. I was a senior in high school, and I finally got to be a teenager! For once, I was free to make plans without worrying if I was going to flare. I took my SATs, received college acceptances, and danced the night away at prom.
But easy come, easy go. By the spring semester of my freshman year of college, I relapsed and flared badly. There were days I hobbled around campus using a cane. But remission was amazing while it lasted.
Every psoriatic arthritis patient dreams of being pain-free one day. Being in remission means that you are not currently experiencing symptoms or inflammation. It also means your joints are not being damaged.
There are several ways people with PsA may achieve it. Some experience it while using medications. Others credit special diets, exercise therapy, and similar methods. Remission may also occur spontaneously: pregnancy sometimes causes it, and sometimes kids seem to"grow out" of having juvenile arthritis.
It might not last forever
Unfortunately, it's not the same thing as being cured. Remission means that the disease is not active, but it does have the potential of returning. Many patients experience a relapse if they stop taking the medicine that helped them achieve remission in the first place, but there are many factors that can influence your arthritis.
In my case, my relief was cut short when I stopped receiving the treatment that helped. The day I found out over the phone that I was no longer being prescribed the medicine was a dark one. I knew that I would likely flare-up within a couple weeks. It felt like a death sentence. I sobbed inconsolably when I got off the phone. My remission lasted about three more months before I flared.
It was good while it lasted
In Dumbledore's wise words, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." Having to deal with chronic pain and fatigue again after so long without it was tough. I was angry at everyone and everything- the doctors, the insurance, my body, and even myself. But that's not a sustainable way to live, and I had to move on.
I think it's important to learn to deal with relapse and have a positive but practical outlook. While I would like to achieve remission again, I always keep in mind that it could be temporary. And this time I know this time to savor it, hope for the best and plan for the worst. But most of all, stay positive- we're getting closer every day to finding better treatments and even a cure for psoriatic arthritis.
Do you have any questions about PsA?