My Short(ish) Bio

Welcome, and thanks for stopping by (San Diego…sorry, couldn’t resist channeling my inner Veronica Corningstone for a moment :D)!  My name is Jessica Hawk-Tillman.  In January 2010, I was officially diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  At that time, I knew nothing about the disease, or autoimmune illness in general, but that changed quickly. Two and a half years later, my list of diagnoses include:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Severe Gluten/Dairy Intolerances
  • Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia
  • Adrenal insufficiency, due to long-term steroid use
  • Anemia of chronic illness

My treatment plan is a constant work in progress.  So far, I’ve failed all but one of the approved biologic drugs, which, for those not crazily overeducated on this stuff (I wasn’t either, until I had to be!), are the strongest drugs used to fight “moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis”, just like the commercials say.  I am new to Rituxan, my last-ditch biologic. Due to liver and blood issues, I’ve also stopped taking methotrexate, sulfasalazine, and Celebrex. On the positive side, I am exploring Eastern medicine and continue to learn more everyday. With this blog, I hope to raise awareness of these diseases, connect and converse with others that struggle with chronic autoimmune disease, and maybe, just maybe, affect a bit of change.

Since these illnesses are something I have, and not who I am, this blog is not just about coping with RA and everything else I listed.  You’ll see posts about technology and work/life balance, since I have a great career with a major technology company.  I love travel, cooking, learning about wine, hiking, gardening, photography, writing, baseball, hockey, college sports, and music/singing, which means two things.  First, I have little time to wallow in sickness 🙂 Also, a smattering of those topics are a given.  Most importantly, you’ll hear tons about my family: Lora, my amazing wife; Bear*, my wonderful son; and the two pooches who rule our home, Sam and Cooper.

Health is an obvious passion for me, and I believe strongly in finding solutions to help everyone in our country, especially children, learn about and access real, healthy food, daily exercise, and healthcare, regardless of income level.  I also spend a lot of time thinking about equal rights for all, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation/identification.

Lora and I are striving to raise Bear to be a loving, caring, thinking person in the world, happy with and unafraid to be himself, and eager to leave a positive impact on the planet.  We try to live that example for him everyday, and this blog is an important part of my journey. Thank you for being a part of it!

*his blog pseudonym 🙂

3 thoughts on “My Short(ish) Bio

  1. Greetings I am so delighted I found your site, I really found you by mistake, while I was researching
    on Digg for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a
    tremendous post and a all round enjoyable blog (I
    also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse
    it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back
    to read a lot more, Please do keep up the excellent job.

  2. carlascorner says:

    Hi Jessica: Found your blog when I was doing a search on Xeljanz. After being through MTX, Humira, Simponi, Enbrel, Orencia, and Cimzia we’re trying “something new”. I was very hesitant and am looking for any first-hand information. The last post where you mentioned it, you were on a 45-day “off” trial and I wondered how you’re doing and what’s up now. If you’d like, you can reply to or visit my blog at Thanks for your insight.

    • Hi Carla! Thanks for writing. Sorry I’ve been away for a bit, but I did come off Xeljanz completely. It actually worked great on my RA, but I had a very unhealthy side effect from it, unfortunately. Xeljanz caused uncontrollable weight gain for me. Over the 9 months I was on it, I gained 25 pounds. It was slow at first, but by the last few months, it was 3-4 pounds a month, so very dramatic. Once I came off, my weight stabilized fairly immediately, and now, I’ve been able to lose about 10 pounds of that. However, it was clearly not something I could continue, though it worked wonders on my disease levels. I’m trying Rituxan now, which though I’ve only had one set of infusions, is not nearly as effective. We’ll see if it improves after the next round in May. Thanks for sharing your blog…I’ll stop by as well. Good luck to you!

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