can i have phil mickelson’s psoriatic arthritis?

via AP

Golfer Phil Mickelson’s recent announcement that he has psoriatic arthritis has been blowing up my Google Alerts since his press conference. And though I have read many of the articles about it, I’ve found most of them to be incredibly disappointing. Many of the reporters evidently decided to take what Mickelson said about PsA at face value, instead of doing the five seconds of research that would suggest that starting Enbrel does not mean everything will be coming up roses.

Here’s some of what Mickelson said at the press conference as well as an NBC reporter’s take (via NBC Sports):

Weekly shots have brought the disease under control, and Mickelson said there shouldn’t be any negative impact on his long- or even short-term health.

“I’m surprised at how quickly it’s gone away, and how quickly it’s been able to be managed and controlled,” he said. “I feel 100 percent, like I say. But when I (was) laying there on the couch and I (couldn’t) move, yeah, I had some concerns. But I feel a lot better now.”

Weekly shots of Enbrel lower his immune system, and Mickelson said the difference was noticeable almost immediately.

“I feel great now and things have been much, much better,” he said. “I’ll probably take this drug for about a year, and feel 100 percent. I’ll stop it and see if it goes into remission and it may never come back. It may be gone forever.”

“It’s not that it’s cured, but it may never come back,” he added. “Or if it does come back, I’ll start the treatment again and should be able to live a normal life without having any adverse effects. So I’m not very concerned about it.”

Wait, what?

I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works. Since Mickelson went to the Mayo Clinic, I’m hoping his doctors told him biologics, like Enbrel or Humira or Orencia or Remicade — all of which I have been on and all of which stopped working for me after a promising beginning — don’t necessarily always keep on working. For some of us, they may never work or they just might stop helping after awhile.

Regardless, psoriatic arthritis — a chronic, potentially debilitating condition — is something to be concerned about regardless of whether the current treatment is working. This New York Times article does better job of explaining what Mickelson faces. And I get why Mickelson is (hopefully) just downplaying the seriousness of what he has. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t really want to face it either. I did the same thing, though my doctor’s optimism led me to believe it wouldn’t be so bad.

Still, it’s really disappointing that the many reporters didn’t take the time to take a step back and phone a dermatologist or a rheumatologist or even hop onto the National Psoriasis Foundation’s website to find out more than what Mickelson was saying. Now, I’m sure there are many people out there thinking PsA isn’t a big deal, that it’s just a matter of popping onto a drug for about a year and everything will be hunky-dory. Never mind that Enbrel, and other biologics, are powerful meds with potentially dangerous side effects. Never mind that psoriatic arthritis is different than the arthritis Grandma has in her knee, that it’s a chronic condition.

I think it’s a shame that what could have been a really great opportunity to raise awareness about immuno-arthritis and other chronic illnesses has turned into a joke, with sports writers devoting more space to Mickelson’s turn to vegetarianism than to his disease.

I hope that Mickelson’s predictions come true for him. I hope it does only take a year on Enbrel and his symptoms never come back. But even if they don’t, his PsA isn’t gone just because his joints don’t hurt. I hope Mickelson’s symptoms go away for good, but I won’t hold my breath.

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11 thoughts on “can i have phil mickelson’s psoriatic arthritis?

  1. I agree with your take on the media; they’re in it for the headlines not the truth.

    And if it doesn’t go the way Mickelson expects it to, it will be newsworthy and hopefully get picked up by the press. Who knows, maybe he’ll even start a charitable foundation for research. It could happen…

    • Kathy,
      Yeah, it’s really frustrating to me, especially since I’m a reporter. When I’m writing about anything — but especially illness — I try to at least do enough research in it that I’m not giving readers a false impression of the disease.

  2. Wow. That’s very frustrating. I suppose I can understand the urge to downplay the disease and its effects, but that doesn’t do anybody any good – especially others who may have been diagnosed recently.

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  4. I suspect that Mickelson is painting a bright picture of his PsA, first, because he wants to believe that the biologic he’s taking WILL keep him pain-free and playing golf professionally. The second reason probably has to do with marketing — it wouldn’t do to worry his fans. But in the end, he’s like the rest of us with autoimmune diseases — his meds will work for a time, and then he’ll have to change them in the neverending search for remission. I hope, like Kathy, that he’ll use his own experience with the disease to raise funds for a cure and to help others who have it. And like you, I wish the media would do their homework for a change. As a longtime reporter/editor, the lack of research and, seemingly, disinterest in provided a more complete picture of the subject is frustrating to me. It’s nothing new, of course, but … arrrghhhh.

    • Hey Wren,
      I know! Especially with the Internet, there’s no excuse to not type whatever you’re writing about into Google. Sheesh.

      And I don’t necessarily fault him for wanting to be optimistic. It’s hard, I know, to come to grips with it when you’re first diagnosed. I hope he decides to raise awareness, too.

    • Hey Young Wife:

      Waiting for remission can be so frustrating. I know I wouldn’t be half as patient without my husband’s support! I’m sure your husband appreciates all the things you do for him, too. Good luck, and I hope you and your mister find the right combination of meds for him soon!

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  6. Boy, wouldn’t it be nice, if we lived in such a fairy tale world. I hoped at first that I could find this instant cure all, but like many of you I have tried treatment after treatment. I have been on Remicade for almost 2 years and it isn’t helping so much any more and it is so hard to find a good rheumalologist around. The one I have has a God complex and won’t even consider changing meds, even though I am in lots of pain. Some days it is so much pain that I am nauseated. I hope he doesn’t have to go through what we all have, but he had a unique opportunity to help by researching the disease himself, talking to others who have had in awhile, and stepping up to promote awareness. What a shame that he didn’t step up to the plate.

    • Hey Lucinda:

      I know, right? Why is it so hard to find a good doctor who cares? It can be so frustrating. I stayed with a bad one for far too long. I hope you find someone who listens to you soon.

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