Lum: Prednisone: perils and pleasures |

Lum: Prednisone: perils and pleasures

I’ve been down with an everlasting gobstopper case of the Aspen crud that is going around: the fevery chills, muscle aches, fatigue, sore throat and a cough that keeps going and going and going until you think you’ll turn inside out.

In addition to antibiotics, I am on my second round of a “steroid burst” of prednisone, an exceptional anti-inflammatory drug when taken in small “burst” doses. After 10 days of treatment I was feeling quite fit, but three days later I was back in the Aspen crud toilet, hence round two.

Now that I’m feeling whole, I’ve been scampering around like a crazed squirrel storing nuts for winter. The steroids give me a blast of energy and reduce my back pain so I zoom around doing my taxes, laying in provisions, going through boxes of papers (I’m still hunting for that 1940 Christmas card), stocking up at the library and trying to get the most out of every second, lest I relapse again.

When I went down 15 years ago, I was on high doses of prednisone for over a year.

A regimen of long-term steroids is a whole different ball of wax than the energetic short-term burst.

I remember my doctor in Grand Junction telling me, “If you’re crying because your dog died, that’s normal. If you’re sobbing because it’s raining outside, that’s steroids.”

On long-term prednisone you face the dichotomy of a metabolism that is half three-toed sloth and half humming bird on acid. While you’re buzzing around washing the salt and pepper shakers that haven’t been cleaned in years, your body is absorbing every calorie and gram of fat and relentlessly turning it into a thick belt of avoirdupois as thick as a bass drum around your middle.

How can you gain weight when you’re zinging about at Mach speed? Hell, you can gain 10 pounds just by looking at a food advertisement. At 5-feet tall, I porked up to 150 pounds and could have been bounced down Aspen Mountain like Humpty Dumpty.

I looked like and had the temper and appetite of Jabba the Hutt.

You take steroids in the morning if you want to salvage part of your day. My co-workers would send me home every day at 4 p.m. when I would begin “peaking” or losing every last vestige of sanity and rationality. My friends learned not to phone me between 4 and 7:30 p.m. “Oh, I forgot, you’re peaking — I’ll call back.”

During peaking hours, I sure could have used a burka and a padded cell. At this point the steroids have taken over completely and you have no emotional reserves or restraints to fall back upon. Drop a remote control behind the bed and it’s the end of the world; a broken fingernail brings screams of rage; get a bad doctor’s report and look for a rope to hang yourself.

In short, it was an extremely long year for me and everyone in my sphere.

But these little “bursts” can be a blessing. Though many of the symptoms are the same (it is agonizing to wean off them), you know it’s going to be over soon and can take advantage of the energy while it lasts.

Su Lum is a longtime local who is, today, flying high. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at