The dark wonder drug lies in the drawer. In there, behind the socks, are the massed heaps of green and white boxes containing my collection of as yet untaken prednisolone. Open the drawer a crack and they sort of shimmer. 5mg tabs. Full of fatness, sleeplessness, reflux and fear. Taking these back at the beginning the world was a desperately dark place.
Up at the clinic, once the diagnosis had been confirmed, and the pain had magically lifted, they told me I might be on these things for a time. There’ll be side effects, some worse than others. You might get a moon face, a fat neck and a humped back. Weight could hang onto you like sliding lard. I looked up photographs of sufferers and saw them. There was something defective and old about the way they represented themselves. They didn’t want themselves photographed. They smiled painfully from somewhere deep in their disability. They were how the world was back in the 1950s only this was now.
I gave up eating, almost, and went to the gym as often as I could. This weight won’t get me I told myself and neither did it, miraculously. Instead I was overtaken by a sort of paranoia, a fear of company, a dislike for being anywhere crowds were. Didn’t do readings, didn’t go out much, I stayed at home.
Tapering was the buzz word. The dose would slide down the scale in a sloping line. I began on 40 mg daily with a whole armful of additional drugs to counteract the side effects of the first. Stuff to fix the calcium drain from my bones, to stop the stomach acids roaring up my throat, to fix my blood. Might take 18 months, advised the GP, to get down to zero. In the background was the vague suggestions that for some people zero never actually came. I read about it. Patients who’d become sufferers in middle age and were still full of prednisolone fear when they were 80.
But as the taper sloped, ever so gradually, the fear began to dissipate. The nose bleeds stopped. The sleepless nights slowed down. The pain which had taken over all my major muscles never returned. I got down to 10 and then 5 and then 1. I stopped carrying boxes of the drug around with me as a bulwark against missing a dose. Now I’m in new territory, facing days where prednisolone does not feature. I’m through the sound barrier in a place where anything can happen. Yesterday I took nothing. Today a single tablet. Tomorrow I’ll take nothing again.
Out there are prednisolone free skies. Ones where there is no polymyalgia and no paranoia. It’s taken three years. What will I write about now? How shall I continue to observe medical practise and report on the NHS? But, given my age, I’m sure something will shortly be along.