Dear intestines, I am bidding you farewell as I gallivant around the globe with my magical new friend; let me introduce you–hey, what’s that face for?
With mesalamine in my rear-view mirror, the next step was finding a medicine I preferably wouldn’t end up in the hospital because of. In between that time, however, I was introduced to quite the polarizing drug: prednisone.
And it worked beautifully.
Following my hospital stay, I hadn’t felt better ever since my colitis symptoms started. There was no blood. No cramping. No urgency. It was pure bliss. The pills tasted atrocious. But after some water? Pure bliss.
Yeah… about that.
You see, as I quickly found out, prednisone is one of those “too-good-to-be-true” drugs: a corticosteroid. Does it work? Heck yes. But there’s a catch. A few, actually. For me, I started breaking out and growing hair in all sorts of places–it was like going through a second surge of puberty. Later on, I would develop harsh acid reflux because of the drug eating away at the lining of my stomach.
It works your body hard. Too hard. Sure, I worked out and grew some muscle, but it slowly deteriorates your body after a while of taking it.
For this reason, everyone requires a taper, and I was no exception. From six pills per day to five pills I went, then to four, then to three, two, one, one-half, then zero. Right around two, however, two things would happen: my irritability sprouted like a Redwood and, sadly, my symptoms would return.
- I didn’t believe I would develop this irritability. ‘That’s not going to happen to me,’ I thought. Well, believe it or not, it did. I would feel more anxious, grow impatient quicker and not be the biggest bundle of joy to be around for the next couple weeks as I finished tapering. I didn’t notice it at first, and my family and friends saying I seemed different made it even worse. Maybe this is what Stan Lee was experiencing when he created The Incredible Hulk.
So, what then? I couldn’t continue on prednisone for the rest of my life, so I was introduced to another medicine, called Imuran (azathioprine).
While prednisone is classified as a corticosteroid, Imuran is an immunosuppressant. In other words, it acts by shutting down one part of your body—the immune system—in order to heal another part of the body. It is an oral form of chemotherapy. It destroys in order to protect.
- Eek. I know. Let’s take a step back, however. The reason it does this is because ulcerative colitis, as well as being an inflammatory bowel disease, is an autoimmune disease. This means the immune system goes haywire and attacks itself. Eek. I know.
They said the new medicine would take several weeks to kick in, so I was put on another lovely prednisone taper while I waited.