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How I Approach Cold and Flu Season While on Biologics for PsA

Managing PsA

December 31, 2023

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Photography by Brat Co/Stocksy United

Photography by Brat Co/Stocksy United

by Jenny Durand

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Medically Reviewed by:

Nancy Carteron, M.D., FACR

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by Jenny Durand

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Nancy Carteron, M.D., FACR

•••••

•••••

Finding a balance between staying safe during cold and flu season and enjoying life can be complicated. I’m challenging myself to find a combination that works for both my body and my soul.

In late 2019, I received a diagnosis of what my rheumatologist referred to as “textbook psoriatic arthritis.” I can still remember leaving my first-ever rheumatology appointment, with snow falling outside, holding my “after-visit summary” paperwork with my X-ray results stapled to the back in one hand and the weight of the knowledge that my world had just flipped on its axis in the other.

I had been warned since I’d received a psoriasis diagnosis at age 12 that I had the potential to develop this kind of arthritis. But, like most people, I didn’t think it would happen to me — until it did.

I put off starting medication initially, out of fear (of being immunosuppressed, of experiencing side effects, etc.), until I eventually reached a point where my joint pain got so bad I felt like I no longer had a choice.

I started on methotrexate in March 2020, which was particularly terrifying given that a new and potentially dangerous virus that nobody knew much about was circulating the globe. I was being told to take medication that would suppress my immune system during a time when it seemed to me like I probably needed my immune system the most.

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The new normal

I took isolating and protecting myself to the next level over the next couple of years, and it worked, as evidenced by the fact that I never got sick.

But fast-forward to mid-2022, when life began to slowly sort of move back to a new version of normal. There I was with absolutely no clue what “normal” meant for me, a person with PsA on an immunosuppressant.

I felt trapped in a sort of confusing gray area because my life was no longer the same as it had been before the pandemic, and I had never been on immunosuppressants in a non-pandemic world.

I was so used to always wearing a mask and saying no to a lot of social events and things I really wanted to do in order to stay healthy. I felt frozen when it became safer to relax precautions a bit. “How do I do that?” I thought. “How much can I safely do that?”

For most of 2022 and early 2023, I continued to say no to most everything out of fear. Looking back, I realize that I tried so hard to avoid getting sick as a way to feel more in control of an out-of-my-control situation after receiving a diagnosis of an autoimmune condition.

Let me tell you, it was miserable. I ended up missing out on a lot in my life, which is sad because PsA already makes me miss out on more than I would like.

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Challenging myself to find a balance

Over the last year, I’ve really been challenging myself to try to find more of a healthy balance between staying as safe as I can and still living and really enjoying my life. I get all my immunizations, I eat healthy, I exercise, I avoid people who I know are sick, and I wash my hands. But I no longer isolate myself from the world completely “just in case” or just because I’m on immunosuppressant medication.

I think a lot of us with chronic conditions feel like we’re responsible for managing our conditions perfectly. For me, for a while, that meant not getting sick at all. Ever.

But what I’m learning is that it’s not actually about doing it “perfectly.” It’s about doing the best I can and giving myself a lot of grace. It’s about managing my PsA well enough that my pain, stiffness, and fatigue don’t get in the way of me living my life the way I want to — and if not exactly the way I want to, then mostly the way I want to.

Enjoying life again

Those of us with chronic conditions deserve to live and enjoy life just as much as anyone else, even if we’re on immunosuppressants. We deserve to go out and have fun when we feel OK enough to do so, even if there’s a slight risk that we could come down with a cold.

Life includes mess-ups. For those of us with PsA, it also includes flares. I’m realizing that it’s about finding a balance.

It’s possible for me to acknowledge that I’m on a type of medication that suppresses my immune system, that getting sick often leads to flares for me, and that I need to try my best to stay safe. But I can also accept that I can’t control every little thing or outcome. And that’s OK.

I wasn’t put here to manage life and PsA perfectly 24/7. That’s not possible. But I will try my very best to create and experience a life with PsA that is rich with connection, learning, love, laughter, and enjoyment. Now I’m focusing not only on the needs of my body but also on the needs of my soul!

Medically reviewed on December 31, 2023


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Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

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About the author

Jenny Durand

Jenny is a mom, wife, registered nurse (with a background in both oncology and dermatology), writer, and freelance psoriatic arthritis advocate. She has been living with psoriasis since 2012 and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) since 2019. She has a strong passion for helping others by sharing the honest, vulnerable, and not always pretty parts of her own journey with PsA. Her main goal with advocacy work is to help others feel less alone in whatever difficult situations/diagnoses they may be facing. Her PsA diagnosis along with her background in nursing gives her a unique and invaluable perspective of both sides of healthcare. You can find her on Instagram where she keeps you up to date on her life and posts funny and relatable psoriatic arthritis/chronic illness reels and stories.

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