Rinvoq has been a game changer for me.

Traveling with Rinvoq

Bangkok. Wednesday. Evening. Thankful.

Three months, three countries, six cities, 12 different hotels, and 93 tablets – yes, this year’s adventure in Asia is coming to a close. We’ve been working as usual, probably even more than usual. Yet, not having to think about most of life’s mundane routines has certainly been refreshing. When not working, we’ve had plenty of time to laze around, soak up the sun, or, during torrential monsoon rains, discover a few new Netflix shows.But believe it or not, after three months without the need to grocery shop, cook, wash dishes, clean, or do laundry, we find ourselves looking forward to doing these everyday chores again. Lutheran guilt?

Since we left Copenhagen in September, Charlotte and I have revisited several old favorites and discovered some entirely new places. We’ll be returning with numerous, multi-sensory memories of people we’ve met, places we’ve seen, food we’ve eaten, and the quiet moments when we’ve just realized how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to go on these long trips.

Similar to last fall, this year’s visit to Asia has been enjoyed with a minimum of bagage. The advantages are numerous, not least of which is the avoidance of temptations to buy stuff along the way. Also, living in tiny hotel rooms, like the one in Tokyo with a floor area of about 6 square meters, which added a unique demand of keeping our stuff organized.

When traveling “light,” the choice of what we bring along becomes almost as important as packing effectively. Not carrying 10 kg of camera equipment has been both mentally liberating and physically relieving.

The single most expensive item I brought from Sweden wasn’t my year-old smartphone, the old laptop from that increasingly profitable California fruit company, or the vintage watch from the alps that I bought for myself as a 60th birthday present last summer. Not even the combined value of these things comes close to what has been stored in my worn toiletry bag.

About three years ago, after a series of tests and scans, I received a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis or RA from a reputable rheumatologist in Malmö. While I had experienced symptoms for several years, I chose to tough it out, ignore, and dismiss the chronic stiffness, persistent joint pain, inadequate sleep, and morning grumpiness. I don’t know, but it seems like a fairly common way for us men to deal with this kind of issue. We tend not to talk to each other about aches and pains. Very few of my male buddies talk to me about stuff they’re going through. Maybe it’s just me they don’t share it with.

Anyway, I certainly didn’t see that all the symptoms I had were somehow connected, and perhaps, most importantly, I didn’t want to admit that there might be an underlying problem that needed a thorough investigation. I didn’t have the energy to be sick and just maybe I felt that I already had enough problems. Wasn’t my already poor and increasingly declining eyesight enough?

After a year and a small fortune invested in various dubious holistic remedies, and then several months of injections and pills containing medications with nearly unpronounceable names, like Methotrexate, (devilish) Prednisone, and biological Adalimumab (Humira), the higher uppers at Sweden’s Social Insurance Agency finally approved my treatment with Rinvoq, a so-called JAK inhibitor. Expensive as hell but covered by the high-cost protection. I see it as a kind of tax refund.

In essence, Rinvoq blocks an enzyme that causes the body’s immune system to work overtime and eventually trigger inflammation, leading to more or less paralyzing rheumatoid arthritis. The long list of potential side effects from Rinvoq makes for rather grim reading, like a catalog of symptoms from the Plague.

Adding fuel to the fire?

It took me some time to come to grips with the fact that despite the risks, the possibility of living a relatively normal and perhaps even an active life outweighed them. At least until those damn enzymes are no longer inhibited by the medication, which can happen after a while.It’s been a little over two years since I started treatment, and so far, the medication is working.

Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but I believe/hope that I’m keeping the nastiest side effects at bay by living a reasonably healthy life. So, for me, these trips to warmer climates are also about feeling physically better, which I do. Aside from a few minor flare-ups, I’ve been asymptomatic since we landed in Asia almost three months ago.

And so, while I do look forward to returning home where I can cook and eat homemade food, sleep in our comfortable bed, and reunite with friends, I also dread the inevitable cold that awaits us in a few days. This, of course, awakens thoughts about our next trip…

Curious fact: When we left Europe, I brought with me a supply of Rinvoq that would last a little over three months. For a patient in the USA without health insurance, my stash of just over 90 tablets was equivalent to about USD 20,000!