After spending 2 ½ days as a “guest” of the fabulous Virginia Hospital Center, I was finally released to continue on my merry way. I left the hospital with my platelets boosted and a prescription for enough Prednisone to do to a horse whatever it is Prednisone would do to harm a horse. I’m sure I could research this and provide you with a pithy metaphor, but I like to encourage people to stretch their imaginations (and I’m too lazy to think of one right now).

At first, the Prednisone wasn’t bad. Sure, I was hungry all the time, but I could always eat. Plus, I now had more energy than ever before! Clean my apartment at 4 a.m.? Absolutely! Teach myself how to knit a hat? Sure! After a few weeks though, I started to notice more adverse side effects. Primarily weight gain, and not just your usual weight gain, but a puffening – like the inflating of a Macy’s parade balloon. My friends and coworkers – good souls that they were – tried to convince me that it was in my head. To which I responded “Yeah! Literally! Have you seen the size of this thing?” I believe this clip accurately describes the size my noggin grew to (to be fair, I have a ginormous cranium to begin with):

Usually you read about side effects of drugs, and they register briefly. I’ve rarely taken a drug and been so adversely effected by it, but those Prednisone side effects are not kidding around. Weight gain? Check. Facial hair growth? Check. Irritability? Check. Depression? Check (although I’m fairly certain the last two were more related to the weight gain and facial hair growth). I could go on and on, but I won’t. Suffice to say I felt like the Hunchback of Notre Dame for a while. Clearly I’m not a big fan of the drug and if it’s ever suggested to you that you take steroids for any length of time, my recommendation is that you run, not walk, from that doctor’s office.

On top of this, I was visiting the doctor on a weekly basis to get my platelets checked. This consisted of a 15 minute appointment where I’d have blood drawn, get weighed (always the highlight of any doctor’s visit) and then meet with the doctor, or more likely the nurse practitioner to find out what that week’s platelet count was. I tried to get my friends and coworkers to place bets on the over under, but apparently they had some sort of ethical objection to betting on my health.

For a few weeks I stayed at a high dosage of steroids, but eventually the Doctor told me that I had “failed steroids” meaning they hadn’t whacked my antibodies into not tagging my platelets. “No,” I told him, “I believe the steroids failed me.” I also asked him if he’d been able to buy that yacht with my copays yet and when I was going to get to ride on it. I’m still not sure if that guy likes me.

Having failed steroids, the next step was a chemotherapy treatment called Rituxan. When most people hear “chemotherapy” they think cancer, and it’s true that Hematology and Oncology are very closely linked with Oncology having evolved out of the study of Hematology. The difference being that oncology is the study of all cancers, while Hematologists treat non-cancerous blood disorders as well as cancers of the blood and bone marrow. I’ll admit that it’s a little unsettling that my Doctor’s practice is called “Virginia Cancer Specialists” and that most of my appointments are in the Oncology unit at the hospital. That being said, what I have is a minor blip on the medical radar compared to just about everything else, including cancer.

The best (worst?) part of this particular appointment is when I went to make the Rituxan appointment with the receptionist and she chiprs “Chemotherapy?!” as though I am headed for a wonderful Disneyland-like adventure. I’m sure the look on my face was a mixture of confusion and wonder at what she was on. I get not being doom and gloom about it, but there is a stop between that and maniacal insanity.

I’m going to continue this saga for at least one more post, but am going to try to think of something more amusing to post in between. The Rituxan treatment was interesting, but more for what was happening around me than for what I actually went through (which amounted to sitting basically). It’s likely to be a more serious. If you’re reading these, I thank you for indulging me and hope you were slightly amused. If not, go back and watch that clip from “So I Married an Axe Murderer” again. That usually does the trick.

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