I think there are certain things in life, procedures mostly, that if a person is forced to endure should only take place in the morning – bright and early. For instance: spinal taps, always a “first thing” kind of event; root canals, something you normally don’t want to hang around until 3pm for; surgeries, that are barbaric enough on their own without the added pleasure of suspense; and finally, learning how to inject yourself with a caustic medication such as Copaxone. I am personal witness to all the above events and today I have the pleasure of experiencing self-injections. Originally, the Nurse (Shelby) was going to be out here at 10am but needed to reschedule until later in the day. Of course, because tacking on an extra three hours of wait time before learning how to do these injections is no big deal at all. Really, I have patience; I can wait. (lies)
From the Shared Solutions website: “Copaxone is believed to change the way the immune system reacts to MS by preventing harmful cells from developing and by stimulating beneficial cells in your body. These “good” Copaxone-activated cells then enter the Central Nervous System and help reduce damage at the site of lesions.”
So the goal of therapy is to prevent the lesions from spreading, and some people on daily injections report not having any relapses in over ten years. And Copaxone is superior (so says my Neurologist) to other long-term medications like Avonex, which is injected only once a week, but is intramuscular rather than subcutaneous like Copaxone. Also, Avonex causes flu-like symptoms after injection; vomiting, nausea, cold chills and fever are common for the first few months. With my medication, the most serious side effects are (again, according to Shared Solutions) “redness, pain, swelling, itching, or a lump at the site of injection, flushing, chest pain, weakness, infection, pain, nausea, joint pain, anxiety, and muscle stiffness. These reactions are usually mild and seldom require professional treatment.” Sounds fun, right? But wait… they left out one of the most common side effects- permanent indentation in the skin due to destruction of fatty tissue.
Obviously for me, the last side effect is the one I get most bummed out about. First of all, I find it highly disturbing that I need to find injection sites on my body that have enough fat to pinch together 2-3 inches and then inject. I doubt this is a big hang up for most people but for me, as for anyone with body image/eating disorder issues, I find it hard to believe this aspect of the injection will ever become routine. Second, I really worry that this daily scavenger hunt for fat will trigger hyper-vigilance with my diet and an over-sensitivity to perceived imperfections of my body. Just as I start to feel a little more comfortable in my own skin; “here, have some permanent indentations.”
My goal with Shelby today will be finding injection sites (you need 7) that will not be as prone to these indentations. I’m hoping the hips and thigh areas will be sufficient so that I can leave my arms and stomach alone; pinching for fat here will be both unproductive and somewhat traumatic.
So, here we go. This morning was the last morning I get to wake up and not take the injection out of the fridge, put a warm compress on the injection site, inject, press with cotton ball, ice and then bandage. They say that after a few weeks/months the routine becomes second nature. In the meantime, Thommy and I bought some champagne and orange juice for the next couple mornings. When I was a kid and deathly allergic to just about everything, my parents gave me $1 and my Dad bought me ice cream after each allergy shot. Grown up, but still a little bratty in my own special way, I see nothing wrong with bribing myself to be a big girl and just doing the damn injections.
Here’s to second nature and being a brave little toaster… CHEERS!