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.”
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.