Infusion One in the Books

This is my “I’m finally getting Rituxan!” smile.

I’m home from my first Rituxan infusion, only three left to go!

While I’m smiling, I need to be brutally honest. Today was hard, the smile is put on. I’m tired, stressed, and I had another massive emotional rollercoaster caused by our broken healthcare system. I almost didn’t have my infusion today.

It was my first time taking an infusion at the elbow. While I had to focus on keeping my arm straight, it hurt a lot less and didn’t burn!

First, upon my arrival to the infusion center my authorization was not in the system. Instead of calling upstairs to get the information, they made me go upstairs to find the employee responsible. Why it couldn’t have been handled by a phone call I’ll never know. Just another part of the process where the systems and staff don’t seem to have an open line of communication. Insurance issues are handled in an entirely separate department and no one knows how to navigate it outside of a few people. Thankfully, the problem was fixed with a phone call down to the infusion center from the authorization staff.

When signing all the paperwork to do Rituxan last Tuesday, I had to take a pregnancy test to process the orders. It took my doctor a good ten minutes of navigating the EHR system to determine which of the tests was needed for Rituxan. At no point was a Hepatitis B panel shown, but apparently I needed that too. Unfortunately when I went to infuse today, my treatment was almost cancelled because I didn’t have the panel done. It wasn’t discovered until the Pharmacy was prepping my infusion. My amazing nurse got my doctor on the phone (he’s out on vacation) to override the testing requirement so we could get the prescription processing. She ended up drawing blood and everything came back fine.

At the time this all went down, I finally broke down and cried. This disease has been a constant source of unrelenting stress since March. I honestly never anticipated having this much trouble when ITP came back. Pair that with not sleeping and feeling generally miserable because of crashing platelets, I couldn’t hold in my frustration any longer.

While I tend to handle my disease with sarcasm, humor, and witty banter, I am still human with raw emotions. The system is not designed for rare disease patients, especially ones who are using off label therapies. We are forced to micromanage care, and anytime you look away, you risk someone else dropping the ball. Most of the time, those people are not the ones directly caring for you (like doctors or nurses), so it makes advocating for yourself much more difficult.

I absolutely hate having to be assertive, direct, and at times downright demanding to get what I need to battle ITP. I want to find creative solutions to the problems all of us rare disease patients face. Every time I’ve shared these bumps in the road, patients tell me their horror stories. I know we are not alone, but it seems like the system temporarily corrects itself for one of us, then goes right back to operating under broken processes. At the end of the day, this helps no one, because the cycle continues.

I hope that after all my infusions are finished and I am back in remission, I can work with payers, hospital systems, EHR companies, legislators and rare disease groups to fix a lot of these issues. There’s no sense in dismissing them once my treatments are over, because I will eventually be back in the system when I come out of remission again. I also want to turn negatives into positives. I want my challenges, problems, and pain points to help inspire change.

Now on to some interesting things about today’s infusion:

I had a reaction an hour in, complete with itchy eyes, throat and ears. I became flushed while my nose got stuffy. They had to stop the infusion and administer more Benadryl plus IV steroids. I had pre-meds of Benadryl and Tylenol, but no steroids. That’s likely what caused my allergic reaction (it was similar to what I experience with cats). For the next three infusions, I am going to ask for the steroids as pre-meds too.

My platelets went from 169,000 to 94,000 in 6 days. I am destroying them rapidly, so I am anxious to see how quickly Rituxan will work.

Food already tastes a little bland, but I’m hoping that will help me lose the 10lbs I gained from steroids!

Now that infusion one is finished, I am anxiously awaiting next Monday. Keeping my fingers crossed that the rest of the process is smooth from here on out. I appreciate the compassion shown by my nurse today. She went above and beyond to advocate for me when I felt defeated. She made it happen, and for that I am eternally grateful.

#PlateletsUp

Win a Signed Copy of How to Heal a Bruise!

A wonderful platelet pal, the owner of ITPandMe.com has published a book! I am so excited to be giving away three signed copies of the book.

Rules:

Contest begins on Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 11am EST.

Three (3) people will be selected to win a signed copy of How To Heal A Bruise by sharing a social media campaign message to raise awareness of ITP.

#ITPAware day, Sept 25! Check out How To Heal A Bruise: http://itpandme.com/itp-awareness-day-coming-soon/ #raredisease @RareCandace @meghan_brewster

**Make sure you put Meg & I in the tweets so I can see them!**

Also, I will accept bonus submissions if you tweet using #ITPAware and link to How To Heal A Bruise on Amazon!

BUT WAIT!

Take a photo holding a sign discussing life with ITP, the 21st Century Cures Initiative or how much you hate Prednisone and you will receive TWO (2) bonus entries!

Note: you’re giving me consent to use your photo on social media to continue to raise awareness about ITP. Get creative and have fun! Make sure you tag me on Instagram and Twitter: @RareCandace 

Winners will be announced Thursday, October 1st at 5pm EST (if I am late, forgive me as law school and my new autoimmune issues have been kicking my butt lately).

This isn’t About Passion

AwareRare

In the last few months as I slowly get to know professors and administrators in my school, I have noticed a trend. I wouldn’t say it is an academic thing, or law school related, rather it is just ignorance. When I express my motivation (or insanity) behind deciding to go to law school such a short time after being diagnosed with my rare disease, I’m met with a strange reaction. Everyone says the same thing except in different ways. It boils down to, be passionate but focus on your studiesContinue reading

Five Things I Learned Living With ITP

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September is ITP awareness month, so it is only fitting to start off with a list of the things that I have come to discover about life with low platelets. It has been a challenging, difficult and frustrating journey. However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a better person because of it. Continue reading

The Fear of Remission Ending

When I was finally done with my Rituxan treatments and my doctor declared it a success, I was so relieved. Finally I felt like I had some control over ITP. Then I inquired about how long my remission would last. I was warned that after about 9 months, my body will start to produce new working cells that Rituxan had disabled. I referenced my calendar and saw that it would be close to my 29th birthday. Now every day I wake up, I think about this upcoming date.

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What “Being Rare” Has Taught Me

Two weeks before diagnosis.

Two weeks before diagnosis.

They say ignorance is bliss, and I would have to agree. In the weeks leading up to my hospitalization and being diagnosed with a rare disease, the last thing I thought about was anything health related. I was more focused on work and the daily stresses of life. Then when my world came crashing down, my focus was forced to shift. All of the sudden, I had to live day by day. I was no longer working for the weekend (be honest, you started singing that song in your head), the things that take up my time had to be carefully considered. These last 7 1/2 months have given me some interesting lessons. Continue reading

Healing Power of Pets

Happy Holidays From Kona!

Happy Holidays From Kona!

I have always loved animals, but the bond I’ve shared with my dog is extra special. Kona is sort of like a small child, she requires constant attention and loves to be right next to me no matter what I’m doing. When I got sick, all I wanted was to get out of the hospital and see her, so when the therapy dogs came around each day I was very excited! It made me realize just how great of an impact animals can make in the healing process.  Continue reading

Rituxan Finale!

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I am happy to report that I completed my final round of Rituxan yesterday. My platelets were at an impressive 193,000, a nice number considering I am continuing to drop off the prednisone. I should be off that completely by next Thursday. Then I will wait for my adrenal glands to start working again, after a nice 7 1/2 month vacation. In addition to that, there are further challenges ahead.  Continue reading

Rituxan Round 3: Failure Is Not An Option

IMG_3797Forgive me for not writing about this sooner. I had to schedule my third Rituxan treatment on Wednesday due to the Thanksgiving holiday and it kicked my butt! I was flatlined on Thursday, very little eating and enjoying turkey day with everyone. I tried to make up for it by eating leftovers all day on Friday. And yes, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, I had 234,000 platelets Wednesday morning! Continue reading

HIV/AIDS, Erase The Stigma!

Red Ribbon

By now, unless you are living under a rock you know it is World AIDS Day. Today holds a special place in my heart, I was born in the 80s when HIV-contaminated blood products were a huge concern. I grew up understanding those risks and how special it was that my dad’s co-workers donated blood for my brother when he was born. From a very early age I knew about HIV/AIDS from the stories I heard about the blood drives, I never knew about the social stigmas attached to the disease. Just that at the time it was considered a death sentence.

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