I had an unexpected phone call the other day.
Here's the background. If you go back to this post from 2015, you will know that through the Queensland Government's community care program, I have someone come for an hour and a half each fortnight to help with the major cleaning stuff around the home.
The lovely lady who comes to help out is Karen. She does the heavy stuff - vacuuming, bathroom cleaning, changing sheets, etc. She also brings treats for my dog (not in her job description), and is just a delight to have around. We all look forward to her visit.
My strange phone call was from a nurse who works for the agency that employs Karen. The nurse had looked over my file and realised I was taking methotrexate.
The nurse was concerned for Karen's safety - whether she should have been taking care with any potential exposure to cytotoxic material. (Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug - in hospitals, the drug, and any body fluids of patients treated with it have to be handled with special gloves.)
So I had to explain to a nurse the difference between methotrexate used for cancer treatment in a hospital, and used for lupus treatment at home.
Cancer patients take methotrexate in high doses over short periods of time. Those high doses mean that while they are taking it, their body fluids still carry lots of poison from the drug.
Lupus patients have methotrexate in much lower doses, and we have it only once per week, and take it for years and years. I take my methotrexate on Sunday night, by Friday when Karen comes to clean, it is well and truly out of my system. Even on Sunday night, and through Monday, while it is still in my system, the dose is so low, there's really no risk to someone whose only exposure is cleaning my bathroom.
Methotrexate can be dangerous, and I am careful with it. I'm careful to take exactly the dose prescribed and always on the same night of the week. (People have died from taking methotrexate incorrectly, always take it exactly as your rheumatologist says to.) If I'm having a bad day and my son is sorting out my pills, I still deal with the methotrexate bottle, and don't have him handle the tablets.
The way we take it for lupus, however, is much safer than the way it is used for cancer treatment.