This piece has been entered in the Patients Have Power Writing Contest run by Clara Health and designed to raise awareness about clinical trials. As a member of their Breakthrough Crew, I am passionate about this cause and hope it will help raise much-needed awareness about the power of breakthrough research.
I plunge the needle into my stomach for the very first time, my hands sweating profusely as I do so. The biologic medication I’ve been prescribed for ulcerative colitis is literally keeping me out of the hospital.
I was admitted for three days – over Easter weekend no less – cursing God and my body for betraying me. My guts were a bloody, raging mess, my bowels loose and leaving a scarlet trail behind me as I rushed to the bathroom yet again.
Thankful for the oral medications I had been taking, it was difficult to finally admit I had experienced treatment failure with them. The final straw was landing in the hospital. I could no longer hide the fact that I needed more help managing my inflammatory bowel disease.
The nights were restless. If I wasn’t awake to drag my IV cart to the toilet yet again, I was being woken up at ungodly hours for blood draws or a shot of potassium injected into my IV, the liquid burning as it traveled up my arm and into my body to replenish the electrolytes my body had so violently expelled.
The last day of my hospital stay, the GI doctor sprung it on me that I would have to stab myself in the stomach every two weeks. Queue the sweat.
Fast forward almost three years into my injection schedule, and treatment failure would come once again. I developed high levels of antibodies against the medication, my body once again giving me the middle finger. I’d worked so hard to be a model patient, adapting my routine for injections around my hyperhidrosis and getting my sweaty hands to play nicely as I pinched my skin and gripped the syringe for dear life. If my hand were to slip off, I could lose a precious dose of life-saving medication.
Had it not been for clinical trials for these medications, there would have been no options for me or the millions of other people who rely on these drugs to treat their medical conditions, such as:
- The antibiotic that cured your child’s strep throat
- The anticholinergic that helps those with hyperhidrosis shake hands with confidence
- The inhaler that helps those with asthma breathe a sigh of relief
They give us as patients and caregivers options. Because someone who came before me chose to volunteer, I now have more options to treat not only my hyperhidrosis but my ulcerative colitis. What works for one person may not work for another. But the treatments approved through clinical research and subsequent clinical trials give us hope that each of us may find valid treatment options and maybe someday, a cure.
Clinical trials create more hope and more treatments. In the future patients like me, and maybe you, too, won’t have to experience medical trauma or medical PTSD as a result of hospital stays or medical procedures they’ve had to endure.
Patients have power. By enrolling in a clinical trial or clinical research study, your participation opens doors so people in the future will have access to more treatments. Your feedback as a patient helps to shape future studies and trial protocols, so speak up!
Empower yourself. Don’t wait for others to do it for you. Raise your sweaty hand and consider participating in a clinical trial. A healthy future depends on it.