… and so I’m on this drug prednisone and one side effect is repeating yourself due to really short term memory … Lane? Memory lane? Loss? Long term hearing loss? Where the hell was I?
Six months ago, after completing a 14-day walk across northern England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea I thought I might be one of the fittest seniors around. On February 1st, I struggled to get out of bed. Every joint and muscle in my body ached. I screamed out loud when I moved my neck. It took me minutes to extract myself from the chair at my desk and when I did manage to shuffle to the end of the driveway I had to flip the morning paper on end with my feet in order to bend, bend, bend and finally pick it up. So much for physical fitness.
I had been gradually getting my head around the aging process but I was unprepared to go from 65 to 90 in a single morning. After three months of x-rays and blood tests, I was getting worse. My left arm looked like it belonged to a heroin addict and I had so many x-rays I became worried about all the radiation I was being exposed to.
“No, no, it’s like the equivalent of a day in the sun without any protection,” said the technician as she hit the button and then ran and hid behind a lead wall.
Last Thursday I found myself in Toronto shuffling into the examination room of Dr. Abraham Chaiton, an internal medicine specialist and expert in rheumatology. In short order it was answer the questions, take your clothes off, lie down and put your feet up. I needed help with everything but the answers.
With gel and a hand-held camera we looked at the inner workings of my right foot on a screen above the ultrasound cart. “Feet are fine,” he said and that was that. I did not have the dreaded rheumatoid arthritis which starts there and moves on up the body.
I have polymyalgia which is both treatable and curable. Music to my inflamed ears: polymyalgia – a sweet-sounding disease, like the name of an Asian flower. The simple treatment is prednisone, both a wonder drug and a very nasty steroid.
I began to explain to Dr. Chaiton my distain for any drug stronger than a multivitamin when he looked at me over his wire-rim glasses, ‘the look’ that said I could can the Myo-Med cream, jettison the tart cherry juice, crush the ice, heave the heating pad and get real serious, soon.
Not only was I losing the battle of the steroid, I knew at that moment if I really upset this guy there was no way he was going to validate my parking ticket.
“I’m with you Doc,” I said.
Two of a hundred side effects are weight gain and water retention. At my high dosage, by the end of May I will look like the last photo taken of Jerry Lewis. By June I’ll be so fat, I’ll have to drive my car from the back seat because I won’t be able to fit in the front. The good news is I have now qualified for the men’s 100 metre sprint at the London Olympics. The bad news is if I win, I’ll probably have to give the medal back if you know what I mean.
Also, after taking the first high hit of prednisone I noticed I was becoming a bit chatty as I walked through the produce section of Food Basics waving the bottle of pills around and asking people: “Have you tried this stuff?!? Seriously, pop a handful of these things and watch what happens!”
I got into my car at Dr. Chaiton’s clinic by resting my bum on the edge of the seat, turning slowly and then lifting my right leg in with both hands, same two-handed lift with the left leg and then painfully reaching out slowly to pull the door shut. Every day since then and the prednisone, I have walked for 90 minutes on a very hilly golf course and then stepped into the shower without holding onto the curtain rod. Honestly, I had no idea we had drugs this powerful.
Dr. Chaiton was dead right. I would be dancing by Saturday night. Unfortunately due to the reality separation effect, I was arrested while dancing naked in the public fountain at nearby Queenston with the bronze statue of Laura Secord. This being the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the police were not amused.
When asked to explain myself I told them the absolute truth – “You get rid of the shawl, the rucksack and that long peasant dress and you got yourself a fine lookin’ woman there.”
Fortunately I had the prednisone pills with me and after taking just six, I was able to break out of my cell with my bare hands.
Crankiness? Anger flare-ups for no apparent reason? I tell you all this now because if we meet on the street and you so much as look at me sideways I swear I will hold my breath until I turn blue and wet myself at the same time. Actually, I’m just kidding because according to the manual, turning blue and peeing your pants are common side effects but rarely occur simultaneously.
I’m also a little delusional. I keep hearing a voice in the back of my head that says: “Run Forrest, run!” Gotta’ go.