Wednesday, May 5, 2010

AM I STRONG ENOUGH? Damn Straight!

AM I STRONG ENOUGH? Damn Straight!
And it’s time I start fighting. It’s been several months since I last wrote on my blog and figured an update is in order. The top three questions people want to know, but may be afraid to ask goes like this. 1. Are you still smoking? 2. Are you back to normal? 3. Are you seeking legal advice? My answers are as follows:
  • No
  • Pretty much, and
  • Damn straight!
So am I still smoking? It’s ironic but Chantix worked for me! I quit smoking within a week of taking Chantix and have not had a smoke since. Last night, I went out with a friend to watch the Blackhawks get their butt kicked on TV. This event would have been the perfect opportunity to “sneak a puff” but it didn’t enter my mind. What does enter my mind when I think about smoking is being locked up in a psyc unit. My mind goes back to sitting in the activity area every morning when the nurse making her morning round to administer anti-psychotic drugs would also pass out Nicoderm patches. It seems that many people in the psyc unit that week were also smokers. But not me! I had taken Chantix, so smoking was no longer on Tina’s “messed up” mind!

So am I back to normal? Pretty much so. This past Wednesday, I had an appointment with my Psychiatrist who specializes in addiction medicine. My panic attacks have been non-existent for the past several months, which could be partially due to the anti-depression medicine I take. I also keep a bottle of Ativan pills in my purse as a “back up plan.” Ativan is a prescription medicine that belongs to a class called benzodiazepines which are used for sedation and anxiety disorders. I have not touched this bottle since January but I keep it in my purse as a type of “back up plan” in case my mind should go wacko again. It gives me a sort of “peace of mind” just knowing it’s there. The good news is that my doctor doesn’t need to see me again until July, at which time it’s my goal to completely get off of any type of anti-depression medicine. I find it quite pathetic that I’ve traded smoking, for Chantix, for anti-depression medicine. But the good news is that I’m one step closer to being completely back to normal.

So am I seeking legal advice? Damn straight!
A few weeks ago I met with an attorney. We are in the process of completing the paperwork so I can be part of the Chantix Product Liability Litigation: MDL-2092. I will be one of the individual plaintiffs in this Master consolidated complaint, in the United States District Court of Alabama. This complaint was officially filed on March 23, 2010 at 8:48 AM and I was given the 95 page document to review. What lies below, was copied directly from the complaint:

Clinical Trials Reveal Serious Risk: From a 52-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted between October 2003 and March 2005, Defendant discovered that 20 out of 251 patients on CHANTIX experienced “psychiatric disorders,” while only 3 patients out of 126 on a placebo experienced those disorders. The relative risk that CHANTIX patients would suffer psychiatric disorders was more than three-fold that of patients on placebo, a relative risk that was significant both clinically and statistically. This fact was not disclosed in the publication of the study, on which Kathryn Williams, then employed by Pfizer Global Research and Development, was the lead author.

Further, “three participants experienced serious adverse events during the non-treatment phase. One study participant, a woman in the CHANTIX group experienced suicidal ideation which resulted in hospitalization 11 days after completing the CHANTIX treatment. She had no previously diagnosed mental and/or psychological disorder. The study investigator considered this case to be attributable to the study drug [CHANTIX].”

In the 4th quarter of 2007, CHANTIX accounted for 988 serious injuries in the U.S. reported to the FDA, more than any other individual drug in this time period. By comparison, the FDA received a median of 5 reports of serious injury for 769 different drugs in the 4th quarter. Only 35 drugs accounted for 100 or more reports.

By July 1, 2009, the FDA reported that CHANTIX accounted for 4,762 reports of serious psychiatric events since CHANTIX’S 2006 approval. Of these, 188 reported attempted suicide and 98 reported completed suicide. Many of the cases received and reviewed by the FDA were reported for patients without any prior history of psychiatric illness.

Can you imagine how ANGRY I was while reading this document? I would have never rolled the dice and taken this drug if I had known just half the information disclosed in this document. How dare Pfizer, the manufacturer of CHANTIX, put this mind altering drug on the market? Of course I know the answer to this question …. It’s all about profits. It’s not about the people whose life could be turned upside down by this drug. It’s not about the families left behind due to suicide.

AM I STRONG ENOUGH? Damn Straight! And it’s time I start fighting. If you are so inclined, help me with my ONE GOAL …. To get CHANTIX off the market. Share this story with anyone you know that is fighting to stop smoking and considering taking CHANTIX.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Am I Strong Enough?

Brave. Courageous. Strong. Selfless. Since my blog first appeared, these are a few of the words friends and family have used to describe me. I am so grateful to all of them. However, as each day passes, I keep asking myself am I brave enough? Am I courageous enough? Am I strong enough? Am I selfless OR am I selfish?

The fact of the matter is this Chantix induced psychotic “event” happened to me over two months ago. It was December 15, 2009, the day that changed my life forever. Was I really brave and courageous? Up until the Channel 2 news story was about to air, I had not widely shared my story with some of my closest friends and family. There are several reasons. First, where do you begin to tell someone you were “locked up” for 5 days in a psych ward? Secondly, I believe in my heart that people that love me will always look at me without judgment, but what about others? Will they look at me and wonder if I’m really back to “normal” or about to break down? Or will they look at me in judgment and think that in some way, I was responsible for what happened to me?

So am I selfless or am I selfish? I would say that telling my story is an act of selfishness. Why? Because sharing my story is in many ways all about healing. And letting people know that I am a different person today than I was on December 15, 2009. Many people have a moment in their life that will forever define them. Of course, there are the happy life-defining moments, like for me, the two days that my beautiful daughters were born.

But what about the deepest darkest moment in one’s life that defines us? Mine was December 15, 2009. When was yours? Or have you experienced it yet? Was it the day your dad had a heart attack and never woke up? Was it the day you learned your child had a brain tumor? Was it the day you stood over your mother and watched her take her last breath? Was it the day you were sexually abused by a loved one who you trusted with all your heart? Was it the day you found out your brother was dying of lung cancer? When was your defining moment? Mine was December 15, 2009. Perhaps you haven’t had it yet – but one day, something may happen so dark that it will define you.

So how can I possibly compare my defining moment with someone with a child with a brain tumor or someone who has been sexually abused? How dare I! How dare I say that the potential side affects of the drug called Chantix are more harmful that dying of lung cancer! How dare I! Am I selfless or am I selfish?

Let me take you with me, just briefly into my defining moment. Let me share with you only what I am strong enough 60 days later to share with you … the rest will remain in my head until I’m ready to let it out through my own selfish act of healing.

On December 15, 2009 my dad died. And I cried like a baby for hours and for days. My dad -- my rock -- he was gone- taken from me forever. I would never see him again, and I was trying to be strong. I had to be. I’m the strong one in the family and I had to be there to hold up my mom. Dad kept winking at me, and saying “don’t worry about your mom, she will be ok.” And when my dad hugged me, I felt better because I was in his arms. But it wasn’t really him, because he was dead. He held my hand in the ambulance to the hospital. He was the only one that I would let ride with me. “Dad, it’s ok” I said, “I am strong enough … as long as you are holding my hand, I am strong enough.” I thought to myself, I know you are dead Dad, but I am strong enough to let you go. “I will take care of Mom.”

My husband wanted to kill himself. Oh my God, how could he do that to me and the girls? How could he be so depressed that he would take his own life? I knew that things had been really hard for him, losing both his mom and his dad within the last few years. Just like a typical man, he’d been holding it in all these months, but now, he can no longer deal with the depression. Going from his parents dying to my dad dying will be way too much for him to handle. Then there’s the situation with his job. I have to be there for him. “Please dear, please don’t kill yourself” I begged of him. “I am strong enough and I will be there for you to hold your hand and get you through this!”

Then there was God’s voice, which I was hearing over and over again in my head. He was telling me He was walking with me and that he had saved me. “Thank you God for saving me” I said. I told my sister that I had been saved and I felt high on life, yet I was crying when I told her the news.

Have you ever hallucinated? Do you know what it feels like? Have you ever been locked up in a psychiatric ward for 5 days? Do you know what it feels like? Have you watched your mom take her last breath? Do you know what it feels like? Have you had a defining moment in your life? What did it feel like?

As you’ve likely guessed, my dad is still alive and my husband was never suicidal or depressed. But on December 15, 2009, I believed these things were happening, and to this day, I believe God saved me that week and He was talking to me.

And with that said, let’s spend less time in judgment of others and more time helping others. Let’s spend less time being selfish and more time being selfless. I do not have the right to judge you and you don’t have the right to judge me. God does.

The reason people that are sexually abused don’t tell others, is that they feel they were in some way responsible. My dear friend, you are not responsible. Was I responsible for what happened to me? No, I was not. And neither are you. Tell your friends and family what you are going through. We are all struggling with something right now. Be there for one another. Listen more than you talk. Be selfless not selfish.

There’s not an hour that goes by that I don’t think of what I’ve been through and wonder if I will ever be back at 100%. But one thing I know for sure is that my life is better today that it was before December 15, 2009…because I love stronger and have reprioritized my life. And if I were truly a selfless person, as I hope to one day become, I would realize that this isn’t about me at all. It’s about a mission and I am just a voice. I keep telling myself to realize that no one is looking at me. No one is judging me. And that I am strong enough.

Friday, January 29, 2010

My Chantix Story

First Post 1/29/2010
Every once in a while, something happens in your life that is simply unimaginable and difficult to talk about, even with your closest family and friends. It could be a lot of things from a serious illness, to depression, to an addiction. The unimaginable happened to me recently and I’d like to share it with you.

In the past several weeks I have experienced a few things I never imagined could happen to me. Being confined to a psychiatric ward without direct access to my family or my belongings, looking down at my arms and not remembering where the bruises came from, and sitting in my living room with a CBS news reporter. I'm sharing my story because what happened to me could have been prevented. I also believe that one person can make a difference in this world and I’m hoping that by simply telling my story, I can be that one person, just for today. So if you read my story, and you think that someone you know could benefit from it, feel free to forward it on to others.

So here it is: I am an ex-(closet)-smoker. There I said it! That may surprise some of you that are close to me, because I hid it well. In fact, I was so far in the closet with my smoking addiction that even my own teenage daughters didn’t know I had started up again. I had successfully quit smoking at least 4 times in the last three years, but always went right back to lighting up. In September of 2009, I finally had it and out of complete and total desperation, I began taking a drug called Chantix, the prescription smoking cessation medicine made by Pfizer...which has brought me here today with ONE GOAL: TO GET CHANTIX OFF THE MARKET. In my opinion, Chantix is a mind altering drug that should be banned. But don’t take only my word for it...just Google "Chantix" and you will find many results with multiple attorneys waiting to hear from people who have lost loved ones due to suicide to join in class action lawsuits. Look a little deeper and you will find out how the FAA banned Chantix for airline pilots and controllers, yet bus drivers that drive your kids to school can take Chantix. Search further and you will find stories of people whose lives have been turned upside down due to paranoia, aggression, anger, and severely altered behavior changes. As the FDA continues to analyze tragic stories, and people continue to hire attorneys, this drug is still on the market.

After I started taking Chantix, I successfully stopped smoking about a week later. And with Chantix, it was actually very easy. I felt confident and seemed to manage everything on my plate (work, school, home) and didn’t feel depressed at all, in fact, quite the opposite. I did have a few small “quirky” things going on, but in general, everything was going well.

In the middle of December, I stopped taking Chantix and immediately displayed extremely erratic behavior. This included paranoia, anger, aggression, panic, anxiety, confusion, and hallucinations. I was ultimately taken by ambulance to the emergency room. My medical records state it took the assistance of approximately 4-5 EMS and firefighters. I was uncooperative, agitated and combative, causing them to apply a 4-point restraint system on me. From there, I spent 5 days in an Acute Behavioral Health Unit (aka psychiatric ward). It was a locked facility and a place of extreme darkness, where I was administered various drugs and interacted with other patients through group therapy sessions. It was there that I met some of the strongest and bravest people in my life, who struggled with a lifetime of serious behavioral health issues (God Bless you Mary, Sonia, and Andy).

My only exit from the locked facility was when they wheeled me out to do other tests such as MRI’s, Cat Scan’s, EEG’s, etc. to confirm I did not have any more serious brain disorders. After five days, I was released and have now been officially diagnosed with a “Substance Induced Psychotic Disorder” and "Anxiety Disorder". Prior to this event, I had never had any type of mental health issues or been on any type of anti-depression medication. I have no history of depression or other mental health problems. The doctors believe my psychotic episode is the direct result of stopping the Chantix medication and the Anxiety is due to the events which followed.

What I experienced is a typical “black box warning” of Chantix. But here’s the deal...I was desperate to quit smoking and I thought it couldn’t happen to me. For those of you who know me best, you know that I’m a Type“A” personality and a highly functional individual, managing a family, full-time job, and MBA program. Those that don’t know me will have to take my word that if this can happen to me, it can happen to you or someone you love.

The bottom line is this, it is my opinion that Chantix is a mind altering drug with serious consequences. If you feel compelled, please share my story and help me with my ONE GOAL: TO GET CHANTIX OFF THE MARKET. Feel free to contact me and share your own Chantix story here.