Sunday, 31 May 2009
Thursday, 28 May 2009
The gist of his steroid tapering advice is thus: lowering by one tablet, i.e. 5mgs, a week is too much, especially as you get to the lower doses. For instance, 20mgs down to 15mgs is a 25% reduction in dose, 15 down to 10 is 33% and then 10 down to 5 is a 50% reduction. His argument, which resonated with me, was that, just as you are reaching the lower levels of the steroid tapering by one tablet a week massively cuts the levels of steroid in your system. And therefore may upset the bodies levels as it replaces the artificial steroid with its own (or something like that). Now this could be a load of old cobblers but it sounds reasonable to me.
So, this week I am taking alternating doses of 10mgs one day and 15mgs the next, therefore achieving a steroid dose of 12.5mgs overall - a reduction of only about 15% (forgive the shoddy maths). This I will continue for another week after this and then reduce to 10mgs. This will involve seeing my GP in the meantime because to make this slow tapering work I need more preds than I've been given.
Interestingly, this week as the dose has been lowered I have seen an increase of:
- Spots. Curses. Shaved the blinkin beard off too, so I've got nothing to hide them under... Strangely they seem focused on my nose, which is rubbish (and, one has to note, would not be hidden by a beard. Unless I was some sort of wierdo. Which I'm not. Well, not in that sense anyway), and continue their dominance of my scalp. Honestly, it feels like braille up there...
- Roid rage. Yesterday in particular I spent the day with a knotted ball of fury growing in my stomach. Unfortunately, as usual, it manifested itself in me being snappy at the family, and nearly erupted in the cinema (took boy 2 to see Coraline in 3D) due mainly to a huge number of imbecilic adults talking/walking about/reacting to a film for kids as though they were children themselves... grrrrrr
Which leaves me wondering; is it the steroids themselves that create these side-effects or the changing levels of prednisolone and my own bodies steroids, i.e. it doesn't matter much about the size of the dose, more influential are the periods when the dose changes. (there needs to be a ? somewhere in that sentence, but I can't work out where, sorry. I'm going to stop thinking about it before I get angry with punctuation...)
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Is it just me, but having just re-read that paragraph there is something slightly suspicious sounding about the phrase 'a pile of used tea bags'...?
Anyhow, this week, it's been a belter. First of all the deadline for year 7 reports was friday. I have 4 year 7 classes this year, so thats 120 students (approx). Now my union recommends around 50 words a student (I think) which would mean: 6000 words! Half a disertation. And of course I've left them to the last week. As usual. Thank god for modern technology is all I can say. Blimey, back in the old days I would have had to hand write them all! Not that I'm suggesting I would rely on, say, cut and pasting these days you understand.
Apart from that it has also been the week that year 11 finally leave for study-leave. They don't get all those empty weeks before the exams like we did back in my day (revision or beach? revision or beach? revision or beach? beach beach beach Yay!). Oh no. In fact the exams have already started. Now this is a fraught time because to begin with I am always desperately trying to revise as much of the course as possible in class with them before they go. Precisely because I know once they are out of my clutches (like me before) they will do bugger all. And secondly, because I always end up very fond of my GCSE teaching groups - its bloody sad to see them go. And thirdly, this year, my form group are also in year 11, so they are off too. Which is even sadder. I've only had this lot since year 9 (my last form I took from year 7 to 11, it was like waving goodbye to my own kids... sniff. I bump into them around town now and again, some of them even greet me with a hug!), so a couple of years, but I have grown very attached to them, and, I think, they to me. So, as I say, there is a lot of hard work and worry, and a lot of emotion (not to mention all my other classes, year 10 coursework, the reports, my own kids etc etc).
This whole week is rounded off by soemthing called Record of Achievement (RoA), something that also didn't exist in my day. Basically a big, formal, send-off for the year 11's in the local town hall in the presence of the whole year group, senior management, governors, parents of all the kids etc. Essentially they all recieve a folder (their 'Record of Achievement) containing all the certificates they have garnered through their school life, plus CV, personal statements and so on. (Right, I too realise that it won't contain their GCSE certs, and that they haven't even done them yet, and yeah, september would seem a much better time to do this kind of thing - but, hey, I'm just a classroom teacher - what do I know?). Anyway, they get those, plus loads of the kids get subject and sports prizes, there are some speeches/reminiscences by staff and kids, then a buffet and mingling afterward. It's a mixture of dull, blinkin lovely, very happy, and lump-in-throat stuff.
It's about here in the week where the UC starts to rear its ugly, unwelcome head. Because as tutors we are expected to do a speech, about our forms groups. Now, many people think because I'm a teacher this is easy. But: a)some people do short little off-the-cuff (perfectly reasonable) 'you've been great' type speeches, but I HAVE to try to make mine funny and mention them all, b) standing on a stage in front of about 300 students plus, say, 250 parents is absolutely arse-sweatingly, ball-shrivellingly, UC triggeringly TERRIFYING. So I wrote a speech. Went to the toilet about 4 times before my go (I was near the end). Delivered the speech, desperately trying not to think about, or accidently say something about pooing myself on-stage. And was delighted to hear much laughter along with my gags, as opposed to the deathly hush of a hall full of people watching a man uncontrollably poop under a spotlight. And then it was over. And there was a great deal of hugging and hand-shaking, and thankyou's and goodbye's and... then I went home. And, although I'll see them all again around school as they do their exams, it leaves you feeling pretty weird. The only comparison I can think of is when my wife described that feeling you get having finished a really good book, where the characters in particular really pull you in. A sort of hollow, empty, yearning feeling. Because they're not my kids, but I've seen them every day, every morning, for the last 3 years (and 5 with the previous form), and I've had a real laugh with them, and I've told them off loads of times, and I've helped them/failed to solve problems, and I've shouted at them, discussed serious issues with them, given them advice, played jokes on them, had jokes played on me, shared good times, sad times, happy times... and now they're gone. On with the rest of their lives.
And I'm knackered.
Friday, 15 May 2009
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Now, far be it from me to denigrate any level of work or employment. Indeed, I have been the holder of many an unfulfilling, even depresssing job. Yes, I've made the triangular boxes that sandwiches come in (didn't last long at all in that one). Yes, I've stuffed envelopes (met Labi Siffre doing that one). Yes, I've been a barman in a horrible, violent pub (sacked). Yes I've worked at M&S (sacked after 3 weeks). Yes, I've been a florist (er...). Yes, I've emptied sacks of mail at the post office all day (technical name - 'Tipper'). Yes I've been a cleaner, both in an office and a secondary school (the lowest point on my own employment journey). And yes I realise there are a thousand worse jobs out there than those few examples, and yes I realise that many people are both lucky and thankful to have a job, any job. And no, I dont think any single one of those is less worthy than anything that I do on a daily basis.
However. I am really struggling to have any respect for whoever it is who cleans/maintains the toilets at school. Not the students loo's - god knows anyone who has to go in there deserves a bloody medal (usual ambient odour of girls loo = fags, usual ambient odour of boys loo = indescribably disgusting smell of a floor soaked in piss for 30+ years... really don't even try to imagine it). No, the person who does the staff toilet. This person is a BLINKIN BUFFOON. I'd like to make it clear that I have self-censored myself there.
It's not the cleanliness, though that ain't great (but I put that down to having to share with other males, we're barely above animals when it comes to watching what we're doing. Or indeed, cleaning up after ourselves. Except me of course). Its the goddamn toilet roll that is riling me. Well, the toilet roll dispenser to be exact. This thing:
(It's called a 'flat-pack toilet roll dispenser' in case you were wondering - I've just spent about 30mins google-image searching for the correct one. I never realised there were so many! There's a whole industry out there...).
The guy who refills this is an idiot. Every single time I use this toilet I have the same problem. Every other day, morning or night (I dont when he does it) he does the same thing. And it must be done with planning, which makes it even more enfuriating. He clearly see's it as a time-saving strategy, so that he doesn't have to fill it every day. He pushes in as many of the tissue refill packs as he possibly can. 'Ahaha' he must think, 'how clever am I? I wont have to come back to this baby tomorrow...' Well you're not clever. You're a pillock. You've pushed the tissue in so hard it wont come out the little slot at the bottom. No. Everytime I pull a piece it just tears. Little strips of loo roll the size of the end of my finger. Or at best, feathery strips a few centimetres long. So that I'm having to ball them up and try to wipe my BOTTOM WITH A STUPID BALL OF LOO ROLL, LIKE SOME KIND OF CRAZY WEIRDO, WHICH SOMETIMES, WHEN THE UC IS BAD CAN TAKE BLOODY HOURS AND LEAD TO ALL SORTS OF UNWANTED FINGER-RELATED UNECESSARY-NESS. STOP IT, FOR GODS SAKE!
So today, after school I went in there and stuck a post-it note on the dispenser. Then imagine my smugness dissolve when as I left school I witnessed one of the deputy heads coming out. Thank goodness I didn't sign it.
Monday, 11 May 2009
There was the usual mix of schools who turn up purely for the fun, with enthusiastic and willing players, schools who have a mix of players of ability and enthusiasm (that's us), and then those that clearly are there for the glory and ring in 6th-formers, county level players and the odd non-league semi-pro (2 were counted on friday - and they're always the dirtiest, playing every game like it really is more meaningful than the broken plastic trophy that has been the prize for the last 3 years...). Our objective this year: get through the group stage and go home heads held high.
Well, we exceeded expectations. With a killer combination of some very good play, gritty determination, last-ditch defending and plenty of hilarious distraction (I give you our first goal: conceded when we were a man down because our sub couldn't get the top covering his strip off - it got stuck over his head - and I stopped to help him... well, he was supposed to be coming on for me. An inauspicious start), we actually progressed from our group as unbeaten winners. We then lost the semi-final on penalties, but won the 3rd/4th place play-off easily. So, all great... But....
There's always a 'but'. During the group phase I was clattered by a fella on another team - not unfairly, just very hard. Fortunately I always wear shin-pads, I have learnt this is a must with my condition. In fact, much to the hilarity of my team-mates my (as-yet unpatented) leg-protection-system includes: one pair of ankle high socks, one pair of doubled over tubular bandage from mid-foot to knee, one pair of shin-pads, one pair of football socks - I feel like a knight preparing for battle. I should have some sort of squire to put it all on for me... Nevertheless at the end of that game I had to check the damage; my wife's last words ringing in my ears "don't get injured". It is these knocks that have so often lead to my arthritic UC symptoms rearing their ugly heads. It was right under my shin pad but there was still a nasty whelt and little early inflammation. This gets into your mind. So I spent a good deal of the rest of the games thinking about my leg. Between each game I was examining it obsessively. I kept rubbing it all the way home. I spent all evening looking at it, trying to determine if it was getting bigger. It grew by about double by bed-time. I lay in bed wondering how big and painful my leg would be by morning... I spent more time and energy scrutinising an 10cm square patch of bruised skin on my shin for those 8ish hours than could ever be considered normal or healthy.
As it happens, it had reduced by morning (at this point I should make my doctors usual disclaimer: that's because I'm on prednisolone), so by midday saturday I had stopped stressing about it. Stupid disease.
I reduced the prednisolone by 5mgs this morning. Now on 15mgs a day.
Sunday, 3 May 2009
Woken up by Lovely wife at 6.30 with a cup of tea.
Joined in bed by son no. 2.
Drag myself out of bed and neck cuppa by 6.45, pulling yesterdays discarded clothes back on.
Try not to grunt too negatively when bid a chirpy good morning by lovely-wife upon reaching the downtairs.
Out to car, drive to hospital.
Not for me! Lovely-wife working, (NHS long-day shift: 7.30 start, but expected to be there by 7.10. And 8pm finish, though paperwork often extends this to at least 8.20 - Yep. That's a 13hour shift. And she doesn't often get much more than a vague lunchtime in the way of breaks either).
Drop her off, drive home, stopping for a paper on the way - I pass about 30 newsagents, but always stop at the same one. I don't know why.
Get home to be be confronted by son no.1.Now he is just knocking on 13 years old, so if he is up at this time all initial conversations are fractious affairs...
Rustle up the kids some breakfast - if I don't do this son no. 1 will not have any. Out of laziness...
Begin my second cup of tea and settle down with the sports pages. One of the redeeming aspects of taking lovely-wife to work on a saturday is being up early enough to read the paper without feeling guilty. Obviously reading the paper (saturday is the only day I manage) is something I have only recently been able to return to, as the kids have reached an age where they do not need entertaining by me all the time.
If I am lucky the boys might entertain themselves adequately right up until 10.45 when we often go swimming. Which means I can read almost all of the paper!
This is always accompanied by several further cups of tea. My name is rich and I'm an addict.
The rest of the day gets made up as we go along...
But this saturday... About 10ish, am reading paper and enjoying 3rd or 4th cuppa whenthe phone rings. Son no.2 answers. I can't hear him, so assume it's for one of them (I really recieve the least phone-calls in this house. By a massive margin. Son no.1 uses it so long for so often, he frequently runs the battery out on the handset. Usually just before I do get a really important call...)
Son no.2 appears, profering me the phone: "who is it?"
"Did you ask?"
I take the phone (aware that 'some man' has been able to hear our brief father-son interaction).
He replies. I recognise the voice immediately. It's my consultant. So surprised am I that I spring up! Like a naughty boy caught on the hop.
I shouldn't be surprised, seeing as I finally left a message for him, via his secretary, on friday afternoon. But I never expected him to phone on a saturday. I thought he'd be at the golf club. So, that's another ill-founded judgement I'll have to alter. Don't you hate it when people exceed your expectations?
The upshot of our conversation was that he agreed with my suggestion that I don't want to try anymore new meds for a little while - 3 failures in 2 months is enough for now. And that I could go for a slow taper off the preds, down to nothing with no other drugs! You know, just to see what happens. This should coincide nicely with my next appt in clinic in June. But, the main thing he said was: if I continue to have problems he is going to send me to London to see a colleague who is an expert in UC, at UCH. Wow! That is really good news. I am going to really have to reassess my opinion of the old bugger. I looked this new guy up on the net, he's there! And he's written loads of papers about UC! And... well I didn't find much else out, but at least he's the real deal.
After that, the sun was out, so me and no.2 went down the park with the football. No.1 wouldn't budge off the sofa...