A Steroid Christmas - Happy Joy Overdrive

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A Steroid Christmas: Happy Joy Overdrive

a recent article from my blog at www.oberata.com about battling lupus, nephritis, cytoxan, and high-dose prednisone. Thought I could share it here.

Posted on December 26, 2009

BOLD PREDICTION: sometime before you find yourself singing Auld Lang Syne on December 31st, you’ll be reflecting about 2009. You’ll think about your joys, your defeats, Tiger Woods’ new infamy, the recession, Twitter, Obamanomics, health care reform, and how – amidst it all – your I-Phone can almost make you a corned beef sandwich.

It’s also the time to reflect, set personal goals, business objectives, and to resolve to “never make those mistakes again.” While sipping potent egg-nog, you’ll make wild boasts about what you’re going to do in 2010. You’ll bowl us over with passion, telling us how organized, productive, rich, humble, and Green you’ll be.

Crimony! I’ve got one word for you: March.

Not to crash your party, but most of us have all the perseverance of a flashbulb. There are a number of reasons for this, and I am certainly among the most eligible to claim this failure to start and finish well. If you like, we can discuss these at the pub.

However, this lofty planning lunacy isn’t reserved for the common man; I just read about a popular social media pundit who promises to have . . . wait for it . . . . “laser focus” as his 2010 resolution.

Yawwwwwwwn. I almost dropped my triple Venti non-fat Peppermint Mocha.

OK Witty Writer Guy. What’s your Christmas message?

If fond nostalgia were my strength, you would have probably stopped reading by now. For whatever reason, I’m gifted with a keen observance of life’s bird’s nests; that is, the biggest annoyances often make for the best writing. If it makes me crazy, hurts me, or chews me up and spits me out, you’ll probably enjoy reading about it, identify with it, laugh, whatever.

Which brings us to 2009 – an incredibly trying stretch for your humble writer! There’s always someone who’s got it worse, but ‘09 really brained me.

This is OK, though, because my mom - who could practically find positive spin on the Holocaust – says, “Jeff, you’re walking writing material!” So here’s your Christmas delivery, full of yuletide snark and constructive negativity! Yes, I checked: Santa & Jesus love critics, too.

We Like Pain Stories

See, you’re still reading. And even though TMZ might be on your television in the background, I’m OK with that. I’m at least in the ring throwing punches at your attention.

The reason you’re watching TMZ is because celebrity pain is intriguing, right? (Like, who knew Brittanny Murphy before last week?) OK, maybe that’s NOT you. But stories – whether joyous or tragic – communicate in powerful ways (see Garrison Keillor, Mr. Rogers, Jesus, etc.). Stories tend to plow us over for one reason only: we relate to the PAIN in them, no matter our age or experience. Jesuit monk Richard Rohr says it best (paraphrased):

“Pain and suffering are God’s biggest – and maybe his only – learning tools that get us to really change.”

Which is why you should hear the story about my Christmas Happy Hat. Hey, it’ll make my 2009 all worth it!

David Banner Claus

I’ll spare you details (OK here if you must) of why 2009 was so harrowing, but one major grief was a chronic illness that has forced me to take high-dose steroids this December. If you’ve never taken this joyous medicine, Prednisone brings you into instant identity with the fictional character, David Banner. If you’re semi-ancient like me, you remember the Incredible Hulk TV show, where almost anything could set this guy off: spilled milk, a harsh noogie, a mugging . . . . Well THAT is Prednisone for you: ”Insta-rage” with tiny catalysts . . . like puppy slobber . . . or packing peanuts blowing in the wind in your backyard.

Prednisone also bloats you up like Jabba the Hutt. There are two main reasons for this: first, your body retains a ton of fluid. Second, you can actually OUT-EAT Jabba the Hutt, pounding deep fried Gorks and Klatooine paddy frogs, if you like. Large pizza? A mere hors d’oeuvre!

Now, I’m no Paris Hilton. But I do know that adding 18 pounds in 15 days does not (a) help your self image, (b) lift your mood, (c) improve your ability to fit into Versace shirts, or (d) create yuletide spirit.

So I had to dig deep last week. You see, I had not only been on a whopping 60 mg. of Prednisone for two weeks, but my nephrologist also saw fit to bomb me with a bolus – that’s 1000 mg – of the stuff via I.V. This was in conjunction with a Cytoxan infusion to give a radical jolt to my kidneys in a “healthier direction”.

I got home from the hospital the next day and, well, Hear Me Roar! After some non-event, I just went Incredible Hulk on everyone for absolutely no reason. I sat huffing and puffing, staring at the wall, sitting on my bed. 2009 had come to a crashing end. Christmas sucks. I suck. The world is screwed. My skin is green.

But in that dark moment, I took radical action: I grabbed a giant red and white Christmas hat and placed it upon my head.

It’s now several days later. What a difference! It’s so hard to go Hulk on people . . . I mean, imagine trying to motivate Green Berets wearing a Bozo the Clown suit. Granted, I still sent away a door-to-door salesman with a series of grunts, but overall, I am back to Mr. Relatively Nice Guy.

It’s because the hat is happy. It’s borderline irrational, but I have tricked the Big Mean Guy. I have to wear it! Christmas is fun again and I’m not a howling jerk.

Was There A Lesson In There?

Maybe the most obvious thing people never
want to admit is this: “I want change without the pain.”

That’s a deep thought to ponder over Christmas. But just think of tough guys. REAL tough guys – like Rocky, Spiderman, the Apostle Paul, John Wayne, Joan D’Arc, even Ricky Lindemann from My Bodyguard – have all had one experience: getting their arses kicked hard. You’re not tough until you get almost killed. That’s life.

So, what’s Santa bringing you? More hurt? More scars? More beatings? OK. Just think of how tough you’ll be in 2010!

And don’t forget to wear your Santa Hat.


  1. rob's Avatar
    Great commentary Oberata! Very funny, and quite true as well. I've been dealing with "insta-rage" myself lately. If you feel up to it, say hello in the public part of the WHL forum, the more the merrier. Welcome to WHL.


    P.S. Klatooine Paddy Frogs are not bad, but I've always found deep fried Gorks taste too much like Bantha Pudu to be very appetizing.
  2. BonusMom's Avatar
    Loved your blog entry-thanks for sharing!

    I'd recently lost some weight that I gained due to the blasted steroids I took earlier this year, in spite of the holidays. That is, until I made the trek to my parents' house. I think I've regained 5 lbs in the 3 days I was away....and I'm not taking steroids. It's a vicious cycle and the 'roids definitely contribute to it.

    So glad you were able to use your Santa hat to avoid the Scrooge that rears its ugly head with Prednisone. The benefits of meds often prescribed for SLE outweigh (no pun intended) the weight gain and mood changes, although it's sometimes difficult to appreciate the benefits while you're barking at the waitress as you order your family size all meat pizza-for one.

    Welcome to WHL. It's a great forum that allows members to vent our spleens and/or share our victories in the face of SLE.
  3. Oberata's Avatar
    . . for the encouragement!~! I'm feeling welcome already, and better for having an audience . . somehow . . Best, JT
  4. Oluwa's Avatar
    I am in your audience...middle row. Do write more, Oberata.

    Be well...