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 🙂


5 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
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  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!

  3. Kathleen says:

    How is Rituxan working if you are still on it? Started Xeljanz and gaining weight among other possible new effects but I take Prednisone as well. I didn’t know about Rituxan as last ditch effort but feel as though I am running out of options. Have a handful of similar diagnoses as you and trying to educate myself. I appreciate your blog but rather be stealth on line. Thanks for the reference page, looks like a metric tonne of info I will put to good use. Hoping you are well. Finally joined much needed local RA support group. 🌞 Kind regards, Kathleen

    • Hi Kathleen! Thanks for writing. It sounds like we have similar stories. I’m sorry to hear about your issues with Xeljanz. It actually worked somewhat on my joints, but the weight gain was too much. No sense in replacing one health issue with another! Rituxin worked somewhat for me as well….for about 18 months. In fact, that’s the last one that really helped, but the downside for me was that when it stopped, it STOPPED. And since each infusion is 4 months apart, I couldn’t try anything new for months.

      Since then, I’ve failed Orencia (take 2), Kineret, and (as a long shot) Cosentyx. Doing my first full dose of Cimzia tonight. My doc has avoided all TNFs since 2012, when I had allergic reactions to both Humira and Enbrel. But, like you, I’m running out of options, so giving it a try. Wish me luck!

      Please keep me posted on your progress. Sending best wishes for more good days ahead. Thanks for reading! ✌️

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