Friday, 30 May 2008


Here's a funny little drug. Its a corticosteroid, which means it can reduce inflammation in your body. I don't know why or how. I am currently tapering down a course of these, now on 5mg a day. This is the 4th course i've taken in 5 years.

The first time they were pumped straight into my veins in great big doses, which I was thankful for because at the time I thought I was going to die by gigantic rectal prolapse that would include most of my internal organs and probably my head. After a week of that I was released from hospital with a big bag of oral tabs starting with 80mg a day. These babies did the trick and after 8 weeks or so I was back to normal and at work again (I never thought I would be pleased to be back to work!).

Subsequently I have taken shorter, lower doses for flare-ups although these have been mainly due arthritic symptoms - limb inflammation to elephantine proportions that is at once both hilarious and soul-destroying. Again, they did their work and life went on.

Then I had a period of semi-remmission (could've been the acupuncture, but thats for another post) and didn't touch the little monkeys for nearly 3 years. Until now.

Why now? Well thats for yet another post (Richard's world of stupid health stupidness, thats what I should've called this blog). Instead lets consider some of the side effects. I think I've been pretty lucky here, but they have definately had some effects.

When I read the info sheet that accompanies the tabs (I can never decide whether this is a good idea or not) my eyes are inevitably drawn to the phrase 'moon face'. A moon face!? What the f**k? "Yes sir, these tablets will solve your bowel issues... but you might end up with a face thats huge, round and pitted. Oh, and it lights up too just in case anybody missed it..." Moon face? Surely there's some other way of describing it that won't instantly make people see their future involving a channel 4 documentry production team? Fortunately (especially in my job) I've not experienced this effect. My heart goes out to anybody who does.

So, what effects have they had. Well:

  1. Roid rage - an internal boiling that I am aware of, but just can't keep a lid on. Eventually somebody is gonna break the camels back and whoa... run away, people, run away.
  2. Appetite increase - I'm not sure if this is real or just because I read it on the info sheet its become a handy excuse for STUFFING MY FACE WITH CRAP.
  3. Shakes - for goodness sake, like some old geezer. And why do people like to point this out to you all the time: "Hey, you're really shaking!" I KNOW (cue effect 1)
  4. Acne - Oh god, I'm so vain (I bet i think this blog is about me... oh, it is). I didn't suffer much in the way of spottage as a teenager - why now God? WHY NOW? (cue effect 1)
  5. Hair loss - this is a new one. Is it cos the preds caused me to grow more, and now it's shedding? Or am I just starting to lose it anyway? Bald, at 35? Noooooooo (cue effect 1).

So, why is it a funny little drug? Because this time it aint working properly and the consultant keeps talking to me about Azathioprine... but I can't hear him properly... mmmmmmmm

Thursday, 29 May 2008

To eat or not to eat?

Ha ha. I could have done with his help from time to time...
Every time I eat I weigh up potential toilet consequences. Every time I eat I subconsciously note the time, so that later I can contemplate how long it has taken for foodstuff to conclude its journey. I have even included certain things in my diet so that I can recognise them when they come out (sweetcorn anyone?). Yep, every day i check my poo. So, after 5 years I have built a pretty good list of colon friends and foe.
Goodstuff: eggs, bread, rice, potatoes (without skins), salad leaves, grilled chicken, steak (I dont care what the medics say, it works for me), gravy (!), cashew nuts (I've convinced myself these are a miracle cure), most veg if it's boiled and skinned.
Evilstuff: fruit, salsa, blue cheese (I once visited Roquefort and sampled the delights rather too enthusiastically - doh.), granary bread, chile or anything too spicy, tomatoes, ice cream, olives, coffee, and BOOZE!
Those are the main things, and when I think about it: the Devil has all the best food... Except,
I'm not talking vindaloo or phal here, just your ordinary mild to medium curries. Not only do these seem to travel through my tortured insides without causing me to monopolise the bathroom,but they actually constipate me! Which clearly is insane. I have no idea why. I've never bothered to ask the medics. I just thank heaven for small mercies.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Are you sitting confortably?

When i was a kid my parents were always complaining that i spent too long on the toilet: "What the hell are you doing in there?", "You'll get piles...". What they, or indeed, i did not know was that this was just a dress rehersal for the rest of my life.

I have Ulcerative Colitis.

I spend a great deal of time on the toilet.

And when I'm not on it, i spend a great deal of time thinking about it. In fact, my life pretty much revolves around my bottom. Which is nice...

I was 'diagnosed' (a long and painful process when it comes to UC) something like 5 years ago. Six months of repeatedly getting a stomach upset, that was occasionally laced with blood (and often followed a night out), eventually lead me to my GP. After numerous stool samples (collected with the worlds smallest spade) I was eventually refered to the Digestive Disease clinic. Here i suffered the indignity and downright lies that is the 'flexible sigmoidoscopy' - an apparently 'uncomfortable' experience. Lets just say: not very flexible and for uncomfortable read agonising. I am open to accusations of being a wimp, but anything that requires your colon to be inflated upon entry... well, its more than a little painful. This revealed evidence of colitis, but not much so everyone remained uncertain and unwilling to give it a name. The following year i had a massive episode that lead to hospitalisation (and another sigmoidoscopy - the bastards), iv steroids, 2 stone loss in weight, and... eventual diagnosis. After discharge and aborted treatment with Mesalazine tablets(made me worse!), it all died down and i got on with life.

I'm an ostrich kind of a guy. When things are going ok i like to deny to myself there is anything wrong. It was whilst in this mindset that the UC rolled out its second hilarious weapon: arthritis. Yep, UC: its an IBD; but mine also leads to hugely swollen arms and legs. Could be one arm, from elbow to fingers, or both feet so they wont fit into any shoes, or a knee, etc, etc. Blinkin' painful, very disabling, but also useful for frightening children, which in my line of work can never be taken for granted. These episodes have been mostly treated with prednisolone.

Now, over the years I've been lucky. No tremendously bad flare-ups, bar the odd michelin-man limb. I am also a stubborn old curmudgeon, so I have had many a row with my consultant because I refuse to just take the drugs he wants to prescribe. I have managed things with lifestyle change (on the wagon for 3 years, 1 month, 28 days, who's counting?) and acupuncture, and all has been as well as could be expected. Until recently. So, now I'm having to confront the old enemy again, and I've decided this time to get my head out of the sand and record the fun. I know there are some excellent UC blogs out there, but everyone I've ever spoken to seems to have a different experience. I hope mine could be useful to someone at least.