I have three exes. Three medications I allowed to enter my body because I believed they would stand up for me against my nemesis, multiple sclerosis (MS).
One of my exes hurt me. One of them stood me up—and then ran into trouble with the law. One of them was nice, but ineffectual. None of them was tough enough to defeat multiple sclerosis.
I hooked up with Avonex in ’96. Let’s say that Avonex was like that kid who impresses all the grownups with his good looks and good manners, then insults them all behind their backs.
Avonex was my first. He caused me nothing but pain.
The day I started Avonex, my breasts were rock hard, and weeping. I made a sacrifice for Avonex; I weaned my sixth month old son.
The needle was long, the procedure confusing. After the injection, I ached all over for days.
Did it get any easier?
I never did get used to the needle, or the muscle aches, or the joint aches, or the flu-like symptoms. Only my boobs bounced back.
My doctor encouraged me to give it more time. Avonex and I only lasted nine months. Not my fault. I injected faithfully. Avonex didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. I had another MS attack. After all my patience, through all my pain, Avonex had done nothing to fend off the multiple sclerosis. As soon as I got back from the hospital stay, I called it quits with Avonex. I was tired of being his pin-cushion. Cutting my ties with Avonex meant cutting off the entire Interferon family. I wouldn’t give his cousin, Betaseron, so much as a glance.
Was it a clean break? No. Avonex was clingy. It took months—no—years, before I stopped feeling lingering joint pain from you-know-who. Since then, I’ve met one girl who claimed Avonex was treating her right. I wish her good luck. Avonex just wasn’t my type.
After Avonex, I went on a series of blind dates down in New Haven in a clinical trial for rock star Tysabri. I wasn’t allowed to know if I was with the real Tysabri, or his placebo twin brother. As the lack-luster months went by, I began to suspect I wasn’t involved with the rock star I was hearing so many great things about. I sure wasn’t dancing until three in the morning, or resuming my tight rope routine. I did my due diligence, and kept making trips to New Haven for the sake of science until the study was up.
Once the Tysabri trial was over, I went for wholesome boy-next-door Copaxone. Which was better than nothing. Or so I was told. Copaxone required a shot every day, which was quite a commitment. The needle was small. The side effects were…non-existent. Copaxone wasn’t going to hurt me. But did it help me? I couldn’t tell.
I believed in Copaxone. I had hope for our future. I shot up faithfully, day after day after day. I felt sorry for other girls, stuck with fickle meds that gave them nothing but side effects. Over the years, maybe I got too complacent. Maybe I ignored a couple of symptoms I shouldn’t have, like my fingertips going all numb and tingly.
When I relapsed on Copaxone, I did not even know it. I was shocked to learn my brain had developed a black hole. Copaxone let me down gently, which made the betrayal all the more insidious. I had no choice but to call it quits.
After I dumped boy-next-door Copaxone, I wanted to go for Tysabri. The real one. The rock star. After all those precious months I’d invested with the placebo twin in the Tysabri trial, I felt I deserved the real thing.
Tysabri and I did finally hook up. It was a one-time deal. The very next day, the Feds found out about Tysabri patients who died in the trials, and the parent company yanked Tysabri off the market. Maybe I was actually lucky to have been matched with that boring old placebo.
Tysabri and me were not meant to be.
Looking back, I wonder if I got benefit from any of my exes. I relapsed on all of them. They were all expensive, with price tags of over $1,000/month. Did any of those fancy boys slow down the progress of the multiple sclerosis even a little bit? I’ll never know. Perhaps all I got out of those medications was a sense of hope. Even a false hope can get a girl out of bed in the morning. That’s all very nice, but a false hope can also keep a girl from looking for The One.
I think I have finally found The One in 2006, then going by the name of Zenapax. When Zenapax started getting studied at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in Baltimore, he changed his name to DAC-HYP. Now DAC and I have a long distance thing going. We meet once a month in Baltimore. DAC has succeeded in keeping the multiple sclerosis at bay. The worst I’ve ever suffered from DAC is an occasional rash. That’s not too high a price to pay.
If I have learned anything from my exes, it is to keep my eyes open. I would dump any treatment in a heartbeat, even dear DAC, if I could one day hook up with that elusive cure.
p.s. from 2016: Even after the NIH study of DAC HYP ended, DAC and I are still going strong. My visits to the NIH have continued, though on an every six-month basis. DAC treats me right. But hopefully, we will soon not be so exclusive. If the FDA approves this medication, DAC will be seeing many, many other people, under the name Zinbryta.