lifemental healthpre-dialysis

You used to be pretty; how Prednisone changed my life.

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a long time. It’s one of those topics that’s been in my head (and my drafts folder!) for ages. I keep coming back to it because I’m convinced that I cannot be the only person who has felt this way. I know some other people reading this are going to get it.

If, on the other hand, you read this and find yourself thinking I’m shallow and petty to be so worried about how I look when “surely there are more important things in life”, I hope you’re never where I am.

Before I got sick, my knowledge of steroids was limited to knowing that wrestlers and body builders used them to grow insanely huge muscles, and come to find out, those aren’t even the same type anyway!

After I was diagnosed, and found out that treatment was going to be a combination of high dose steroids and a chemotherapy drug (Rituximab), the first thing I did was turn to Google.

I’m not sure whether that was a good idea or not, because I found out pretty quickly what Prednisone does to you. Weight Gain. Even though I knew this in advance, I still wasn’t prepared for what actually happened to my body.

January 2012 | July 2012

I have never been slim. I am 5″5′ tall and in January of 2012 I weighed approximately 70kgs. I didn’t love my body, but I was more or less ok with how I looked.

The more steroids I took and the longer I took them for, the less recognisable I became. It’s like I looked in the mirror and somebody else looked back. Unless you’ve experienced this, it’s impossible to explain how strange it was. Even now, in 2016, the photo on the right is strange to look at, and it’s not even the most dramatic comparison. I have used it though, because it’s pretty much the only one I’ve got of myself at that time, which also says a lot.

Obviously, I was not the only person who noticed this change. Fortunately, the vast majority of people in my life were extremely sensitive and were either concerned, encouraging, or said nothing at all.

But. There are exceptions to every rule, and, unfortunately for me, one of these exceptions was somebody I expected better from.

I don’t remember the context of our conversation, but I’ll never forget one of the most hurtful things anybody has ever said to me.

You used to be pretty.

As if I didn’t feel ugly enough.

I know someone’s value shouldn’t be bound up in how they look, and I don’t know that mine ever truly was. Sensible Holly knew that this weight was just a side effect of medical treatment I urgently needed, but that I would eventually be able to stop, and when I did, the weight would disappear as quickly as it appeared (and it almost did!).

But somehow, even with this in mind, and with many more reasonable friends to tell me this person was full of shit and needed to be ignored, it bothered me.

It still bothers me now. So much so that I briefly considered not writing this post. It’s that raw.

Fast forward to now, in 2016. I’m currently on a very low dose of Prednisone (7.5mg) and have lost all the weight I gained, along with a bit more besides.

Day to day, I feel ok about my appearance. I know people don’t look at me and think I’m ugly, I don’t catch them muttering under their breath “Look how fat she is!”

And yet, it’s still there. That underlying feeling, fear almost, that one day I’ll wake up and look in the mirror and that sick, fat, ugly self will magically be there again. Some days I think it always will be.

I don’t have all the answers, so the least I can do is be honest.

2 Comment

  1. THIS! I feel exactly this way. Luckily, no one has said this to me, but you can’t help but feel it. When I was on chemo I couldn’t eat for 6 weeks, I lost 25 pounds and all my hair. Once I stopped chemo (& was still on high dose steroids) I promptly gained 45 pounds. I’m almost off the prednisone, but now kidney failure keeps me from losing the weight. I knew I cared about the weight, I thought I didn’t care about my hair (but everyone else sure did). People say things like “you’re still you”. Of course I am. Just a tired, nauseous version of me.

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