Today, I launched a massive assault on my immune system. With a drug called Remicade flowing through my veins, I am living up to my self-proclaimed title of Crohn’s Disease Warrior.
Crohn’s Disease, along with its IBD sister Ulcerative Colitis, is an autoimmune disease. In most cases, the human body’s immune system is a defender of evil and wrong-doing. When viral cells or bacteria slip through its defenses, the immune system mounts an attack, sending out soldiers to destroy the enemy.
While your immune system does its duty, you feel its effects in the form of fatigue and fever. After a few days of this raging battle, the fever breaks, your energy returns, and you go back to your everyday life. You may even be stronger after the battle because, like all military machines, your immune system has learned lessons from this most recent war and will try harder to not let those foreign invaders breach its defenses next time.
In my case, the conflict is more like a long-term civil war. More than 20 years ago, my immune system received intelligence indicating my digestive system was an enemy combatant and launched a devastating first strike that took months to recover from.
Like all good immune systems, mine learned how to combat against my feeble attempts to overcome it. Each new medication I took or treatment I tried would keep the flames of war at bay for a while, but eventually my immune system would send in spies to locate and take advantage of my intestine’s weaknesses.
About a year ago, we moved on to biological warfare. Remicade is in a class of drugs known, appropriately enough, as biologics. This secret weapon works to block a protein that causes inflammation and painful symptoms. Every six weeks, I send in reinforcements, and the battle continues.
With every assault, my immune system is weakened, giving my digestive system enough time to rebuild the most recent damage. Unfortunately, the price of war, sometimes includes collateral damage. A weakened immune system means the rest of my body goes unprotected from other more common viruses and bacteria. A stomach virus can last 10 days. A cold can last a month, and if I every meet up with super-villian TB, I might be forced to surrender. The reward, however, is worth the risk, and I soldier on.
So, this afternoon, I chatted with my favorite nurse as she started my IV. (She’s my favorite because she always gets my tiny vein on the first stick and because she always asks how my son is doing at West Point.) She flushed the line, then sent in the troops. I pulled up the foot of the recliner and settled in to watch three back-to-back episodes of Law & Order and sip my super-sized unsweetened iced tea with extra lemon.
The war rages on. The Remicade Rebellion is in full force, and one of these days, I might just claim victory!
We all have wars we fight on a daily basis. What’s yours?