Thursday, January 24, 2013


My mom's husband, at age 81, has some health issues that come with slowing down and getting older. He's got one of those weekly pill strips and sits down to sort out the myriad pills that get taken at different times of the day. He really needs a full check up, probably with a doctor specializing in geriatric medicine but he has resisted, very strongly, the suggestion that he see one.

"I don't want to see another doctor," he argues. "I don't want to take any more pills." Now, never mind that a geriatric doctor could look over everything he's taking and make some decisions to reduce the number of pills. In his mind, it's a doctor and all doctors want to do is add to your pill intake.

The attitude never resonated with me until this month when the blood tests to gauge my rheumatoid arthritis were done. Although they only took 2 vials of blood, a whole host of things are looked at. I gave blood on Friday and on Monday afternoon, had the results. Everything was normal except my vitamin D levels. They were too low for my doctor's liking. I remember reading a study from the Mayo Clinic which said that vitamin D seemed to be necessary to the absorption of RA drugs as well as the easing the symptoms. The pharmacist where I fill my brown bottles feels that vitamin D is the newest "wonder drug" and will, like other vitamins, be downplayed once more studies are done. "Now, folic acid, well, you better be taking that," he said. At the time, I shook my just picked up bottle of folic acid.

I take a vitamin D supplement once a week, but that is not enough. I was to add 1000 iu to my daily intake. Suddenly, I understood the "I don't want to take any more pills" feeling. Above is Sunday morning's set. I take zinc. I take magnesium because it helps with calcium absorption from all sources. I take 4 methotrexate. I'm to take 8 over the course of a weekend, but taking all 8 at once upsets my stomach so I take 4 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday. That yellow pill is folic acid. On Saturday, I take a dark green gel capsule of concentrated vitamin D. Enter the horse pill, the glossy white long pill in the photo.

That's my calcium with 1000 iu vitamin D supplement that I have now added to my mix. If I were male, that pill would be smaller and would just be vitamin D. But, being female, I needed to get additional calcium to prevent osteoporosis, which is a problem in people with RA. Calcium is not absorbed very well when there are other things going on.

Another pill. I sat at the table looking at the line up. "I don't want to take any more pills." Even if I go to an injectable RA drug, I'm still going to have to take supplements and methotrexate. Nothing really gets eliminated, cut down to be sure, but not eliminated. For the first time in awhile, I felt rather depressed at this disease.

I remember, years ago, a spurt of press was given to the over medication of ourselves. We take a pill for this and a pill for this side effect and then another pill for that side effect. We were, at the time, the most over prescribed nation on earth. Are we still? I don't know. What's not shown is the pill I take for the tingling in my toes at night. It can be like you've spent hours sitting on your legs, cutting off the circulation and then it comes roaring back and lasts most of the night. I couldn't sleep. It's just in my toes and no other place. I have to have a reminder note because I have to take that an hour before bed. It has, however, allowed me to get a solid night's sleep.

Given all this, I certainly could be justified in saying I feel over prescribed. I know what everything is for and why I need to take it. The zinc helps keep my immune system, as compromised as it is, as strong as possible. I swear by it and recommend anyone take it unless you have a medical reason why you can't. I believe it's one reason I don't get sick as much as someone else nor does any cold I get last as long. Still, this is a lot of medication. I would really love to consolidate everything into one pill, but that's not possible right now. I keep telling myself that it's for my good, that it keeps me as healthy as possible. I try not to think about it as I line them all up on the weekend and knock them back, 3 by 3, with a nice glass of orange juice. At least, with vitamin C, I can drink it.

Beverage:  Lady Grey Tea


1 comment:

  1. My Mom also takes lots of meds for her RA, but since she's been taking them over 30 years and constantly changing them, her immune system is shot. We can't visit her if we're sick just in case she gets it and ends up with bronchitis or pneumonia. So, good for you keeping up the meds if that's what is keeping you healthy!