Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I started taking Prednisone

Never Done: I started taking Prednisone

For all of you have been following my asthma with baited breath (so to speak) -- or who haven't seen me this week -- I have developed a deep cough that sounds an awful lot like a smoker's cough. On the one hand, I'm the picture of health with muscles that are literally bulging out of my upper arms and lower legs, and on the other hand I can barely get through a good laugh -- or a night's sleep -- without, well you know know without what.

So I decided to take the lung doctor's prescription for Prednisone, to try to reduce the inflammation in my lungs. I feel a little sheepish about writing about yet another health-related thing for this blog, but I have not, in fact, ever taken a steroid before, and it's actually given me something to write about. They tell you to take it early in the day because it can give you the jitters, and put you on edge and make it hard to sleep. Great. I'm sure everyone around me will be delighted about this development.

It raises an interesting question: do we have an ethical responsibility to tell people when we are doing something that is good for us but could negatively affect them? Certainly it makes sense to tell the people close to us, but what about the people not so close to us? Here's a little story.

In the middle of the day I did get jittery -- very jittery. Couldn't hold a pen jittery. Legs jittering jittery. Agitated and indecisive and just out of sorts. I was tempted to skip swim practice, because it felt like maybe not the right thing to do with a bad cough, but it also seemed like the perfect thing to do for the jitters. So I went, but 15 minutes into the practice, I was super annoyed that the pool was crowded, that people were touching my feet, that a (slightly inept) teammate kept kicking me in the head. I mean, this is always annoying to me, but usually I just go with the flow, and keep swimming. This time however, I hopped out of the pool to give myself a break. My coach Molly asked me if I was OK, and I told her I was, but that I was getting kicked more than usual, so she helped me find an emptier place in the snake of swimmers. I put in another ten minutes of crowded swimming, and then someone swam up on top of me. I lifted my head, saw a green cap, and made a mental note to have words after practice. But then instead of keeping swimming, I just got out at the end of the lane. I didn't have the patience for the crowd, and instinctively understood that I was better off just getting out.

Molly asked me what was up, and I told her some guy with a green cap swam on top of me and I was just too frustrated to keep swimming, and that I was going to go to the Y to swim solo. She said, "He probably did that on purpose. To simulate race conditions." I told her that why some teammate took it upon himself to simulate race conditions was beyond me, and that I was just gonna go. She told me that actually, it was our head coach, and that she'd let him know it was freaking some people out.

I went and took a shower, and thought about how it really doesn't simulate race conditions to swim on top of someone in a pool. Because in a race, you can just stop and let the faster swimmer go past, but in a practice, if you stop, there are 25 people in a 3-foot wide lane behind you. I also thought about how good it felt to be out of the crowd of people, in an empty locker room. And that's when I realized that I was under the influence of drugs -- that I was not just reacting to the pokes and the kicks, but that I and my steroids were reacting to the pokes and the kicks. Oh, duh.

Just then, Molly came in to check on me. To make a long story short, I told her about the asthma, and she told me to slow down. Rest. She told me that I am muscularly fit enough to do the triathlon tomorrow if I had to. She told me that I don't need to be training 5-6 days a week -- that I could get by on 3-4 days a week if more is wearing me down. She gave me the name of her pulmonologist, and she reminded me that stress flares up asthma, and over-training is stressful. She told me to take a couple days off, and to get as much sleep as I can.

She went back to coaching, and I went home to eat dinner, and that's when I started thinking about our responsibilities to each other. Had I been over-careful and told Molly in advance, "Hey, you know, I'm taking some steroids, so if I'm a little edgy, just ignore it, ok?" -- then chances are that she wouldn't have followed me into the locker room, and wouldn't have listened to me enough to find out that I actually needed some deeper help than I was getting. And in that way, my impulse to take care of others might have actually gotten in the way of letting someone else take care of me. Now, if I had gotten out of the pool and yelled at someone, or stayed in the pool and started kicking back -- I'm thinking those actions wouldn't have had the same positive result as getting out and talking reasonably. So as usual, there's a balance to be struck when thinking about questions of responsibility to self and other, even for those of us who tend to err too far on one side or the other. As my mother loved to say, "moderation in all things, including moderation."

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