Thursday, October 30, 2014

This Halloween, we want quiet!!!

Dear Friends and Family,

On October 15th, Lucianna was seen at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins for a routine eye check up.  Unfortunately, her eyes were not completely quiet as we'd hoped they would be. She has some minor inflammation in her stubborn left eye.  The doctor opted to keep her Methotrexate on the current dose (which is the maximum for her size), and put her back on the Pred Forte steroid drops.  (~Sad face ~ drops are not the ideal here, but we have little options.)  The doctor wants to see her back in 2 months, so approximately mid-December.  I personally think this is a long time to wait for a recheck. 
That all said, Lucianna has been complaining of eye pain on and off for the last week and half.  After trying some lubricating allergy drops to see if that helped (in case it's just allergy eyes), we have decided to get her into a local ophthalmologist to see if anything beyond a few trace inflammation cells is occurring.  Our appt is tomorrow; ironically enough, it's also Halloween.  Lucianna is very excited to be "Anna from Frozen" for Halloween.  My friend Stephanie graciously offered to make her costume and an Elsa costume for Bella.  Lucianna's face beams every time she puts her costume on.   After her appt tomorrow, I will update this post as soon as I am able.  

Keep your fingers crossed for her.  We are hoping for a "quiet" Halloween, or at a minimum, no increase in inflammation since her last visit. :)

Lucianna's proud Mama

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Next hurdle jumped...

Dear friends and family,

I meant to update our blog last Tuesday after the appt with Dr. B, but the week got away from me!  At Lucianna's eye check up last Tuesday, her left eye was clear.  So the increase in the Methotrexate seems to be working as well as the addition of steroid drops.  So we are told to wean the drops and discontinue after August 19th.  The trick here is weaning her off the drops and waiting to see if the Methotrexate can hold back the inflammation.  I am grateful that her eyes respond to the steroids and the Methotrexate is effective, as some children's eyes either aren't responsive or they can't tolerate the Methotrexate.  We are lucky on both accounts!

The next update will be around middle of October.  That will be the true test to see that the Methotrexate alone, can keep the inflammation at bay. 

Have a great rest of your summer!

Lucianna's Mom
(The picture above was at the hospital.  Not staged, not planned...but perfect.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"Uveitis" - the disease that does not go away quietly...

Lucianna and Bella - June 29, 2014
Dear Friends and Family,

Today, Lucianna had her routine check-up.  (She was inflammation free as of April, the first time in 575 days.)  That said,  I expected to get some not-so-good news today as Lucianna had been complaining of eye pain for about a week.  Some doctors say the disease is a-symptomatic, but that is not the case for us.  Lucianna does complain when she has a flare, she just does. "Coincidence", not in my opinion.  She has inflammation in the left eye, 5 or less cells which is considered, "trace" on the grading scale.  Trace is certainly not a terrible diagnosis, but any inflammation in her eyes will cause damage.  Her doctor wants to increase her Methotrexate drug dose to .8 mls, and wants her on steroid drops twice a day.  We know that untreated inflammation can cause a cataract, but so does the prolonged use of these steroid drops.  Lucianna already has a cataract in her left eye.   We asked the doctor if we could try the increase in the MTX first and see how she responds.  The doctor agreed to let us forego drops for right now as long as we get a re-check in 4 weeks, so that's what we'll do.  We don't want her cataract to worsen or for her to get another one, and really don't want her to face cataract surgery any time soon, so we are going to place all bets on Methotrexate.

On a happier note, we settled on our new home last Friday.  We are still unpacking boxes but we are already feeling the benefits of a closer work commute.  The girls love their new rooms and it's nice to have Daddy around more often!

Thank you for your well wishes, please keep Lucianna in your thoughts and we will send an update in 4 weeks.

Lucianna's proud Mama.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

For the first time in 575 days...her eyes are clear!

The Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital - April 9th

Dear friends and family,

It's been an exciting few months since my last post. The best news was at our eye check up on April 9th.  Lucianna has no inflammation in her eyes...not one cell...nada!  

So what does this mean?  It means that we finally got the medication dosing to the right level to control the Uveitis in her eyes.  She's not cured by any stretch, but the medication is keeping the inflammation at bay.   She is considered to be in a "medically induced remission" and the goal is to keep her inflammation free.  (That's the tricky part.)  So what doctor's recommend is that stay the course and wait.  Some doctor's believe that if we wait a solid two years and she's had no break-thru flares that we could, conceivable, start weaning her off the Methotrexate.  I have seen many families on our Facebook "Kids with Uveitis" group that have attempted to wean their child from the medications and suddenly they have a flare. So I'm not going to hold my breath.  However, I am focusing on the fact that her eyes are being controlled and not enduring any further damage.  Hooray!  Since last August, we also added,  Meriva-Curcumin SR.  (It's available on Amazon.)  Some studies have shown that the Curcumin may assist in the reduction of inflammation in the eyes.  Interestingly enough, since adding this herbal supplement, she has only seen improvement in her eyes!  We give Lucianna a 1/2 pill each day by simply mixing it into applesauce.  It's supposed to help with a lot of arthritis conditions as well.  Who knows if it's the Curcumin,  or the slight increase in her Methotrexate dose, but we are thrilled!

Something I never really blog about is that every 2 months Lucianna has to have her blood drawn to check for several things, but most importantly,  is liver function.  Methotrexate can cause issues with her liver, (among other things),  so every two months we have to see that all is well.  So far her blood work has come back normal, thank goodness!  I have to bring this up because this is a picture of her getting blood drawn (see left).  Have you ever in your life seen a braver child???  She's just an amazing little girl!  And Miss Bella is an awesome big sister.  Lucianna is unable to be out in the sun without her sunglasses.  She literally can't open her eyes.  Bella will often hold her hand and guide her to the car where her extra pair of sunglasses await her.  So sweet!

In late March, Lucianna turned 5.  It's hard to believe that it's been almost two years since the onset of her Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and only 3 months after that, the discovery of the Uveitis.  I am sure glad those stressful, uncertain times are behind us! I had NO CLUE it would take this long to get here.

So last, but not least, after careful consideration, we have decided that after 7 years of living in WV, that it's time to move closer to our jobs.  So we have sold our house, and have found a home that's only 20 minutes from our jobs!  Putting the girls, particularly Lucianna, in a public school will definitely be a learning process since we have to set up a 504/IEP plan for her in the event her arthritis or her eyes flare and she needs some special consideration.  Never a dull moment!  That said, we are looking forward to having more quality time together and less time spent commuting!  

"Time is free, but it's priceless.  You can't own it, but you can use it.  You can't keep it, but you can spend it.  Once you've lost it, you can never get it back."  -H. MacKay


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Hooray! It was a false alarm!

Hi friends and family!

We are shocked but absolutely thrilled to report that we had a false alarm!  Lucianna's eyes are still holding steady, (1 cell in the left eye), and she is NOT flaring!   The ophthalmologist says that she could be experiencing the pain, itchiness and redness because of the dryness in the air and the use of a humidifier!  Whewweeeeee!  I am so relieved.

Thank you all for such awesome support!  It sounds like the meds are working: .7 mls of Methotrexate administered orally each Friday night and Meriva Cucumin, 1/3 of a capsule mixed with her folic acid and applesauce each day.  For those reading who have a child with Uveitis, you can buy the Meriva Curcumin on Amazon.  I am now starting to believe that the Curcumin, along with the Methotrexate, might be keeping Lucianna's eyes stabilized.  Our next appt is in April and I am hopeful that at that appointment Lucianna will be completely inflammation free!

On Thursday, January 9th she visits her Rheumatologist - she is physically showing no signs of inflammation in her joints, so this appointment should be a piece of cake!

Happy 2014!

Lucianna's Proud and Relieved Mama

Friday, January 3, 2014

Can you hope and worry at the same time?

Christmas 2013 - Waiting for Santa

Dear friends and family,

We had an absolutely wonderful Christmas holiday.  The girls were spoiled with gifts from Santa and family beyond words.  We enjoyed some fun sleepovers at Grandma and Papa's house (a first for us), and we spent nearly a week with Nonna and Papa and all of our other wonderful family in NY.  I wish we could bottle the holiday spirit and drink it all year long.  I still haven't taken down my Christmas tree...and I am one of those people who is desperate to take it down on 12/26.  This year the holidays seemed too short as did the 3 month reprieve we received at our last eye doctor visit in November.  So, around mid-December I could see some redness in Lucianna's left eye, but only intermittently.  It isn't uncommon for anyone to have red eyes this time of year with how dry it is outside (and inside).  Then after Christmas she started telling me that her eyes hurt.  We were in NY...miles from her doctor.  We decided that if she complained again the next day, we would contact a local ophthalmologist.  She didn't complain.  She complained again on New Years Eve and knowing that the next day was a holiday, we had to just wait.  I hate the waiting.  So on 1/2, I called Hopkins and she has an appointment this Monday.

Granted the worrying is not good for me.  Granted the what-if's are bridges we shouldn't cross until we get to them, but I am her mother.  This sweet, funny, happy kid should not have an illness that could rob her of her eyesight.  It's just not fair.  As her mother, I can't help but worry.  It is normal, human and expected.  If I don't worry, what the hell would I do with all this time on my hands?  (lol)

As I sit here and wait for Monday to feels like months away.  It can't come fast enough.  How many more times are we going to have bumps in the road?  A mom on the private Facebook Uveitis group that I am part of said that her son is 12 years old, diagnosed at 2 years old and just had his first FULL year of quiet eyes.   Sure, I was so happy for her, but I was a bit deflated at the same time. She waited 10 years for that??? Do I have what it takes to do this for 10 years?  Damn right I do!  (But boy am I going to need all the help I can get!)

So, while I worry, I will cross all my fingers and toes.  I will dance the "clear-eye dance" and when all else fails, I will hope.

Much love,
Lucianna's proud and admittedly worriful Mama. 

"Once you choose hope, anything's possible."  - Christopher Reeve