The Truth About Steroids – part 1


It’s time to admit it. I am a habitual drug user. As the York Super Sprint Triathlon approaches it is time to come clean. I’m on drugs.

Not right now you understand otherwise this blog post would be more pertang bang kipperbang than actual script. Never the less I need to be honest and come clean before I rack the bike at the end of April and take yet one more step to be slightly faster in bright yellow lycra than I was last year.

I am now in year 14 on my personal crusade, me against multiple sclerosis. I treat it with the contempt it deserves during day light but fear it as I fall asleep. MS is a sneaky little fucker and likes nothing better than to nip at your heels when you least expect it. Physically fine? F*ck you puny human, have an emotional disorder. Looking normal? Go to hell manchild and slur like a drunkard. I run 10k in 43 minutes but am basically trashed inside.

I don’t fight MS alone. The NHS has my back (mostly…) and the pharma industry is always looking for new and innovative ways to wind up NICE by overcharging for interventions looking for diseases to treat (I’m looking at you interferon, yes you at the back skulking behind that risk sharing agreement. Tsk.). From the beginning I took steps around diet and exercise, I looked at the data around vitamin D, was sceptical about omega 3 oils (although recently have had cause to wonder) and spent a lot of time discussing treatment regimes with my consultant.

When I was first diagnosed it was basically interferon (and its fellow travellers) or nothing. The data though…MS is a long term condition yet the three trials that people were using to recommend it were all short term and one even halted early. Even the NHS seemed less than convinced or more accurately NICE the body that weighs the evidence. I had a close friend who had lost her mobility (and eventually her life) through MS. Her one piece of advice was not to let the MS define me. The idea of injecting on a daily or near daily basis seemed just that.

So I ended up looking at a small Italian study. The use of pulsed steroids to treat MS. The evidence was limited but with the words of my soon to be dead friend hanging in the wind it seemed one inconclusive treatment was the same as the other except with steroids the intervention would be more….discrete? Siloed?

At the time I was on my third attack, had the MS hug and my legs were on fire. So I signed up as a one man clinical trial. Without a protocol.

If you accept that most modern MS treatments are targeted at set points of the immune system then it is fair to say that steroids are no more than a blunderbuss. As I said my problem with interferons were (and are) that they are a treatment looking for a disease. Steroids are the medical equivalent to Begbie ( tanked up on a Saturday night, looking for a face they don’t like. Steroids don’t discriminate and they have become my shitty stick with which to beat my wayward immune system with.


They have side effects…

I would love to say that I was informed in full of the side effects, that I knew in detail how my body would react but no. The past few years have been full of steroidal moments, full of the madness that only steroids can produce. There are, obviously, physical side effects (more later) but the psychological ones were just … wonderous.

My treatment started as 1g a day on a drip for three days, three times a year. After the first set I returned to work and I found myself ranting at my then boss about an element of office politics for an hour. He sent me home. While on my way home it seemed a good idea to have a nap when I got to a red light. Hmmm.

After that we built in a week of ‘withdrawal’ before returning to work. So no ranting. However stuck at home, bored, I discovered not only did I have no emotional control I had no control. And the internet….

I will never be quite sure why buying a can crusher ( was a good idea. Or the £40 worth of Lebanese takeaway while I went for a quite walk. I changed banks, sent bizarre letters to people I hardly knew, donated £200 to a hospice because I felt beholden to do so. Almost booked tickets to see Liverpool play Espanyol as a pre season friendly. In Spain.

For some reason I bought a case of vintage sherry (past its best) which was so foul I gave it away to people I really didn’t like. I have DVDs I will never watch but bought ‘under the influence’. I have a running shirt I will never wear since the steroid inspire slogan emblazoned across it is probably actionable under the Public Order Act 1986 (as well as physically not possible to do without a lot of training).

And I have cried and cried and cried. Not for anything logical or worthy. Not for my dead friend or lost parents. Not for my wretched self. The ending of Spiderman 2, to Kate Bush’s Moments of Pleasure, when Lesley betrays Peter in Broken Homes. The lack of emotional control. You have no idea.

And when I say you I mean me. During steroids I am only dimly aware of my actions. Only weeks after, when an industrial quantity of chick peas turns up or a bank statement showing what you spent or better still a bank statement from a bank account you didn’t know you had. Being on steroids is a little like an episode of Quantum Leap. To geek quote…

“Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished. He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. ……. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”

It’s not the past and the only history I am changing on ‘roids is my financial and internet ones. But you get the point 🙂  Still anything to keep on running. Right?





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