My Chronic Condition Trifecta
Patient Perspective Award-winning author Robert Cutting discusses his three incurable autoimmune diseases and his journey to remission
For the last 46 years, I’ve been an educator and an author. I am happily married to my wife of 45 years and have three wonderful children and two incredible grandchildren. Part of my ancestry is Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk). Since 1973, I have published over 160 titles, from award-winning textbooks to stories for children of all ages. I am also living with three incurable autoimmune diseases.
At age 30, I was diagnosed with both psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis. I spent years trying to manage my conditions and find a treatment that would work for me. The pain associated with these conditions was often unbearable.
After living with these two conditions for over 30 years, one day I noticed blood in my stool, which led me to my doctor. It was then that I was also diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease commonly known as IBD that affects 1 in 150 Canadians. This rounded out the chronic condition trifecta I now manage. While the condition is common, each person’s experience living with it is unique and individual.
At no time did I think my previous two diagnoses could lead to another condition of a similar nature. At the time, my doctor did not bring up the possibility of extra-intestinal manifestations (EIMs). Thirty years ago, we didn’t have as much knowledge and information as we do now, and we now know there may be links between these autoimmune conditions.
While I was being treated for colitis, my gastroenterologist commented how severe my psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis had become, with psoriasis plaques covering close to 90 percent of my body. He recommended I speak with my rheumatologist and ask about a treatment that could help manage all three of my conditions.
There, I was told the inflammation happening throughout my body was increasing and if I didn’t start treatment, I would face additional health problems. It was recommended that I start on a therapy that reduces the effects of a substance in the body that can cause inflammation. The medication is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, IBD, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and plaque psoriasis, among other diseases. Though I was hesitant to begin the treatment, the risk of not gaining control of my inflammation would be too great. In August 2015, I began my treatments.
Had it not been for my gastroenterologist’s recommendation to speak with my rheumatologist, I would have never known or been able to access this treatment, which has changed my life. I feel better at age 65 than I did at 35.