Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
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I Stroked My Beard Pensively While Writing This Post

The doctor cheerfully told me I might grow some extra hair, become moody (become?) suffer nausea and maybe headaches and, really, that's all I remember hearing because:


Later, when the steroid, Prednisone is what it's called, cleared up my bloodied battlefield of an eyeball a mere twenty-four hours after I first sucked it down with a couple glugs of milk, well, it was a miracle drug as far as I was concerned. But oh, had I just done a quick bit of googling and informed myself I might not have been singing its praises so early on in our relationship. Because, much like every boyfriend of my twenties whose praises I initially sang loud and proud before I knew exactly what I was dealing with, the relationship with Prednisone ultimately soured in a most lemon-y way... But only after intense confusion and rage-filled crying jags - again, very similar to those manic relationships of my youth.

In my defense, playing Dr. Google rarely goes well and often results in confirming to me that yes, yes you do have a most deadly cancer and probably only weeks to live.

I started taking the steroid in May after my own eyeball, relatively benign until recently, staged a bloody coup on my body, turning my head into an explosion of pain. As if it were the blood-colored moon signaling the end of days, the eyeball turned a disturbing shade of red and sent throbbing vibrations all the way down my jawline. After weeks of trying to will the eyeball better with positive thoughts I caved after one particularly sleepless night and went to a top-notch Opthamologist.

He initially diagnosed what he called Episcleritis, which is basically an inflammation of the eye. Sounds mild, I know, but after playing Dr. Google I've learned it's nothing to sneeze at. People suffer from this for years and there isn't much doctors can do (they don't know what causes it) other than prescribe you some really jacked up drugs, the side-effects of which, as you're about to see, are often worse than the original ailment.

I've had this weird bloody eye flare-up over the past three years or so and it always goes away after a couple weeks. This time, like an annoying relative who comes to visit for a "few days" and ends up staying for weeks, the Episcleritis moved its bags in and apparently ordered cable all up in my orbit, because it would not leave my eyeball.

Eyeball rape of a most legitimate kind.

Intense, throbbing pain punctuated my days and nights and everywhere I went I was looked at suspiciously because this Epicleritis looks an awful lot like Pink Eye. I appeared to be a contagious asshole marauding all over town assaulting people with my contagious pink eye. It got to the point that I would just say "It's not Pink Eye" in lieu of a greeting.

"It's not Pink Eye." To the anxiously furrowed brows of my daughter's pre-school teacher.

"I'd like to make a deposit, It's not Pink Eye." To the suspicious expression on the bank teller.

"Debit. And it's not Pink Eye." To the vacant-eyed cashier at Walmart. "Oh, and can I have some cash back, please? Did I mention it's not Pink Eye?"

"It's not Pink Eye." To the strong-jawed, muscled Latin boy of 19 I pay to - WOOPS! Never you mind that last one.

And then I was prescribed the aforementioned "miracle drug". The one that got rid of the inflammation faster than you can list all the side effects of said drug. Because, as it turns out, there are a looooot of side effects.

Are you ready for this? 3 - 2 - 1 and go:

nervousness, acne, rash, increased appetite, hyperactivity, frequent urination, diarrhea, removes intestinal flora, leg pain/cramps, sensitive teeth, difficulty controlling emotion (ha!) difficulty in maintaining train of thought, weight gain, facial swelling, depression, mania, psychosis, or other psychiatric symptoms, unusual fatigue or weakness, mental confusion, indecisiveness, blurred vision (wait! aren't we trying to FIX my eye?) abdominal pain, ulcers, infections, painful hips or shoulders, bone-thinning, stretch marks, long-term migraines, insomnia, severe joint pain, cataracts or glaucoma, anxiety, black stool, stomach pain or bloating, severe swelling, mouth sores or dry mouth.

I don't know about you but after reading that list I'm pretty fucking pissed off about all the intestinal flora I've probably lost in the past few months. Also? Black Stool? If you've been searching for a name for that heavy metal band you just started - YOU'RE WELCOME.

But see, I paid these possible side effects no mind because I didn't know about them all and did I mention my eyeball? My aching eyeball? It was finally all better! And I didn't really notice any obvious side-effects. I didn't have a headache and I wasn't nauseous and to be fair I'm always moody... So I thought I was golden. Big mistake. Huge.

I first noticed the glossy blonde hairs sprouting on my cheeks several weeks ago. But, like a dumbass, I didn't connect them to the loads of steroids I was sending down my gullet every morning. I mean, I regularly sprout some pretty serious facial hair, not an abundance, mind you, but, like, lone goat hairs that pop up on my chin or upper lip. Hairs so thick and intense Tom Selleck's mustache would be green with envy. A pluck here, a pluck there... And yeah, okay, so I've creamed away a more serious cropping of blondish mustache hairs from time to time, but nothing serious. Nothing of the Circus Freak variety.

But then, in certain lighting I started noticing a thick coating of downy hair spreading across my cheeks (on my cheekbone, for chrissakes!) and down onto my neck. It quickly went from here a pluck, there a pluck to everywhere a pluck-pluck. And still, I blew it off.

I do remember thinking that it appeared like I had more facial hair than generally seems advisable on a woman but maybe I was noticing it because of the light. And then one kid would try to kill the other or someone, maybe a dog maybe not, would shit on the floor and the hair was forgotten as I attended to the shitty-ness (literally!) of motherhood.To be fair, one of the steroid side effects is "difficulty in maintaining train of thought" and so perhaps you can excuse me for not immediately realizing that Hey! Dumbass! That shitload of steroid you're sucking down every morning has got you started on a gorgeous beard that could rival your husband's! Gorgeous for anyone not of the female persuasion, I mean.

About two weeks ago I noticed that my stomach was jiggling when I ran up and down the stairs. Now, I've never really slimmed down to pre-pregnancy weight, mostly hovering about 10 to 15 pounds over my pre-Violet weight, but my stomach never jiggled. Now, here it was jiggling like Grandma's jello. It seemed fatter. I chalked it up to a footloose and fancy-free summer of evenings drinking a couple calorie-filled cold ones on the porch after the little ones are in bed. I have since cut back to drinking a couple glasses of red wine just one night a week, and still, my belly full of jelly grew and grew and can I just say Beyonce was correct in her assessment that no, I am most certainly not ready for this jelly.

Now, my belly is not only jiggly, but distended. Hugely distended. Starving child in Africa distended. 5-months pregnant distended. AND STILL, I figured that maybe it was because I had cut out a lot of meat from my diet and had been eating more rice than normal as a result of my foray into cooking various Indian and Thai cuisines. Maybe it's the rice. Yeah, that's it. The rice. I mean, don't they dissuade people from throwing rice at weddings because then the birds eat it and it bloats their stomach or something like that? Yeah, it's the rice.

Then last week we made that video for He Said/She Said. And while the world at large was dissecting my terrible body language, rudeness and obvious contempt for my husband, I couldn't stop looking at my face. Something was off. I look puffy. A little thick in the neck. Moon-faced. Bloated. Tiny gash of a mouth floating in a sea of fleshy face, especially noticeable when I turn to the side. Man, I really have gained weight I thought. Which is strange because I've actually been eating more healthfully than I have in a long time. If you consider rice healthy, that is, which, come on, a billion Asian people can't be wrong. Can they?

So I'd been pondering the thick-necked, moon-faced girl in the video when the eye flared up again. The Prednisone wasn't really clearing it up anymore. As if I'd built up a tolerance or something. So I went back to the doctor and he prescribed me another week's worth and then sent me to a Rheumatologist. A doctor who specializes in inflammation, I guess, like Arthritis. Because that's what I have, I guess, is an inflamed eyeball.

Long story longer: He expressed concern that I've been on the steroid for so long, that it's really not that good for me. This is when it all started coming together for me. As Dr. Doogie (that's not his name but MY GOD, he wasn't a day over 17) listed off the side effects all my seemingly random weird bodily discoveries of the last few months snapped into place and, once the puzzle was complete (did he just say back fat pockets? fat pockets? on my back? pockets?) I realized I've been dealing with some pretty intense side effects including 'roid rage but no back fat pockets, so far, thanks be ta Jesus.

Dr. Doogie wanted to put me on something else he thinks might help the eyeball that isn't as damaging to the body as a steroid can be. It's called Methotrexate. I'll save you the click and tell you that this drug is a deadly motherfucker. It's used to treat cancer, induce abortions and, oh yeah, clear up that inflamed eyeball you're sporting.

Fuck. That. Whether or not we decide to have a third child I say fuck that.

So here I am, pensively stroking my luxurious beard and contemplating my next move.

Painful, bloody eyeball


nervousness, acne, rash, increased appetite, hyperactivity, frequent urination, diarrhea, removes intestinal flora, leg pain/cramps, sensitive teeth, difficulty controlling emotion, difficulty in maintaining train of thought, weight gain, facial swelling, depression, mania, psychosis, or other psychiatric symptoms, unusual fatigue or weakness, mental confusion, indecisiveness, blurred vision, abdominal pain, ulcers, infections, painful hips or shoulders, bone-thinning, stretch marks, long-term migraines, insomnia, severe joint pain, cataracts or glaucoma, anxiety, black stool, stomach pain or bloating, severe swelling, mouth sores or dry mouth.

Or: oh hey! Deadly cancer destroying, baby killing drug.

I like my fucking intestinal flora just fine, thank you. Bloody eyeball it is. Now, does anyone have a good old-fashioned barbershop they can recommend? Mama could go for a clean, close shave.

Five days off the 'roids and after that clean, close shave.

Reader Comments (27)

you might want to check into primal/paleo diets... I know, I know... but they do seem to really help with systematic inflammation. good luck! is a good place to start.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

Would steroid eye drops work to treat it ? They still decrease inflammation and not cause all the other batshit crazy crap that is oral steroids. And methotrexate. Yeah, I'd last resort that bad boy. I was a nurse in a former life (adult med surg for a while and then pediatric oncology for much longer now I have two little bitty boys so i'm currently "private duty pediatric psych home health" hahaha!). There's got to be a better option than the ones laid before you... or Maybe a it's something else. Do you wear contacts? Could it be your eye ball is revolting against it?

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaty E.

I had an adult female student once who had a moustache. I thought it was very cool. Take pics!

My nephew was recently hit in the eye with a boogey board which permanently damaged his eye sphincter (I KNOW!). My brother posted a picture of my nephew's eyes, one with a working sphincter and the other with a giant pupil because it no longer adjusts. One of his friends posted this... Are you seeing a local eye dr? If so, I suggest taking a ride out to Wills Eye in Philly. She said she goes with her daughter and says they are great.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStarsky

I make chemo preps for a living, I spend a lot of time making very very small methotrexate bolus a lot - normally to abort eptopic pregnancies and for arthritis in adults and children.
Fluouracil eye drops.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSaffron

Have you tried turmeric for inflammatory pain? It's pretty amazing stuff. Google it, there's a fair bit of research behind it - I wouldn't recommend it if there wasn't. It's cheap and has no nasty side effects :),8599,1910028,00.html

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

I have had that a couple times..the drops worked well for me.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKeri Hemphill

I have had episcleritis for over 25 years. Undiagnosed for 15 years. Pred forte eyedrops usually do the trick for me and don't cause as many of the side effects of the pills. I have just recently started using Bromfenac eyedrops. It is not a steroid. Methotrexate is not something I would take for my episcleritis. Good luck and I totally feel your pain.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentershani

Yeah, unfortunately the drops didn't work for me. This latest bout has raged since April and the only thing that did the trick were the oral steroids...

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

Monica, Having a history of autoimmune issues, breast cancer at age 42, lesions in my brain from chemo that resulted in severe depression, please educate yourself completely when seeing doctors. As my favorite doctor one told me..." Cindy, Doctors get up in medical conferences and say they graduated from Columbia, they don't say if it was Columbia University or Columbia, Bogota."

Every drug cure we put into our body can cause other severe damage. I've been through hell and back, don't do the same. Take care of yourself and educate, educate and educate. Best wishes and successful medical treatment.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Apathy

I have no wise medical advice for you and I am so sorry to laugh at your pain but Monica....this post was VERY amusing. So funny. You had me cracking up, so much so that I had to read it aloud to my hubby. I've read your blog for a while now and this has to be one of my favorite posts.

Much love, and I do hope you recover!!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

wow- I've been there! I took steroids for about three months at one point to try to fix another problem. Towards the end of the three months I ended up having a head shot picture taken. When I look at that I see the head of a 400+ pound she-male... but on a positive note it eventually went away (when I stopped taking roids). It gets better!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I was on the 'roids to eradicate a nasty rash a while ago. I had tons of energy, but I ate everything in sight because you never feel full on steroids. I gained weight, I was irritable and yeah, I probably organized every drawer and closet in the house. My son takes steroids 5 days a month and Methotrexate once monthly to treat his Leukemia. I always say its like living with the Hulk when he was 6. Good girl. Stay far away from this stuff. I hope that something can be done for your eye. Looks painful.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMod Mom Beyond IndieDom

Dude...can I call you dude? You should have mentioned you were on steroids when you filmed that He Said She Said video. That explains everything!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDanielle

There are non steriod anti inflamatory eye drops. Works with mast cells and shit. I have no clue what that means. But, apparently, they are safer than steriods.

Also, I was suffering from similar symptoms - pain/redness in one eye. It burned like the dickens. Came and went. I still don't think it was an allergy, being in one eye and all. If anything, I thought it was a persistent infection.

However, the doctor prescribed me some new drops called Pataday which are basically antihistimines on steriods - I asked the pharmacist if he could recommend something OTC when they couldn't fill the prescription right away and he laughed because apparently Pataday is like 50 times stronger than anything he could give me. Let me tell you... this was a miracle drug for me. I still have some questions RE: the strength (do I really need something this strong?) which I plan on bringing up with my GP (I went to a walk in for the BURNING!!!) but it really worked well. Within seconds, most of the pain was gone and within a couple days all symptoms were gone. I have no clue why this drug worked so well... I still don't think it's an allergy... but who knows, maybe the drops have some sort of anti inflamatory effect as well. Or maybe the irritation was the result of an allergy and one eye fared worse. Who knows. All I know is that I no longer have to go around explaining that I do not have pink eye :P

Hope you can find something that works without the ridiculous side effects!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Prednisone makes me an angry, angry person. I get pleurisy flair ups ( my lung swells) and every time I forget what a dark, black, angry ride the steroids are. I also get the moonpie face. I try to stick to NSAIDS as long as possible before starting the prednisone. Hope you feel better!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Steroids? I've only taken them once, and I was I a bloated, hairy, sleepless, ANGRY woman. A marriage that can survive steroids can survive anything.

Hope you feel better soon. In response to another comment, trying either the paleo or primal diet may be worth a shot. I've been doing the latter for about a month for inflammation issues. It's easy, I feel better and I've taken some weight off. Even if it doesn't help the eye, the worst possible outcome is you eat really healthy for a while.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

wait until you taper off the drug... If you have been on it for a loooong time (I've been on it for three plus years for rheumatoid arthritis), and go down to not taking the drug, your bones will ache to the point where you think you have leukemia. I didn't get out of bed for a week and a half, swearing I was dying. Your adrenal glands stop producing cortisol which helps keep pain in check. I finally had to be given a megadose to be free of the pain. Yes, i have turned into goat face and jiggle belly... It sucks ass... big time.! Maybe you have an eye allergy to something (even mascara could do it) - good luck and feel better!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTeenah

Personal experience: Methotrexate is BAD. It screwed with my liver almost immediately. My uncle had the bad luck of taking the drug under supervision of a doctor who did not monitor his liver and now his liver is shot. Don't do it.

Prednisone I have a love/hate relationship with. I have Crohn's (hence my knowledge of way too many drugs). It makes you feel great and clears up your symptoms, but yeah, you get a puffy face, weird hairs, mood swings... Long-term use sucks because your body becomes used to it. As you taper off, you'll notice your joints ache more, you tire more easily, etc.

Better living through chemistry... right! Good luck!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCetta

Ouch...that eye looks crazy painful...and if you had 'roid face in the video, I sure couldn't tell!

My daughter has to take steroids every day, and will for the rest of her life. It's no picnic, that's for sure. When she's on, she's very "on", but when she's off, it's tough on everyone. I hope you can avoid the steroids...and figure out if there's something that's triggering you eye attacks.

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

Hi Monica
You might consider trying Chinese Medicine-I'm an acupuncturist and it helps anything and everything you can think of....steroids are no bueno! Trust an acupuncturist in your neck of the woods...and just like any practitioner, make sure it's one you resonate will make all the difference.
Good Luck!

August 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbriana

I had a methotrexate shot for an ectopic pregnancy. Six weeks later, I conceived my now 16mo son. Without the shot, he wouldn't be here. The first week after the shot was pretty brutal but so was the ectopic pregnancy. Would you need more than one? If not, get the shot. Feel better

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjodymo

Monica, I just love your blog and have been following it for about half a year already. My heart goes out to you on this one. My children have chronic health issues (eldest daughter with an adrenal condition, learning issues) and then lately, middle age blues, and have found a lot of amazing help and even a first rate practitioner from the below group. In my humble experience, conventional medicine doesn't get to the underlying condition, and there's the rub. They just keep treating symptoms with horrible drugs like you describe. I don't like the term "alternative medicine", for many reasons, but it is only down this road that my family and I have found healing. I wish you the best! Take care, Olivia

August 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

I had something that looked very similar to that. I also went to see an opthalmologist, and he actually just told me to take ibuprofen. Granted your issue is probably much more severe than mine, but I just thought I would mention it since it would be a really easy place to start. I believe he had me taking 3 pills 3x/day (I think most pills are 200 mg). It's worth a shot.

August 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElle

Geez that looks bad. Turn it around and make a little HORROR movie to scare the trickortreaters come Halloween.

September 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterUtah L

I have episcleritis too. I HATE it. I do the "It's not pink eye" thing too. I don't know why your doctor wants you on such hard core meds for it but mine told me to stop taking birth control pills (really made it bad) and I take advil when it flares up and I have a nice steroid eye drop called Lotemax that I take. The Lotemax provides instant relief when I feel my eye starting to get itchy, burny and it goes away immediately. It's like a miracle. My episcleritis is caused by an underlying autoimmune disease and I see a rheumatologist about it. The rheumatologist said that episcleritis is usually a symptom of an underlying autoimmune issue, so if your doctor hasn't mentioned that you might want to ask for some blood work.

September 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWidelawns

Owie owie owie....I am so sorry to see/hear about your poor eyeball. Been away a while after my own private Idaho, but was alarmed to see you have been dealing wtih this on and off for so many months. Not to mention the side effects. I feel very strongly re: the use of prednisone long term because I have seen first hand the ravages it causes to the human body and it ain't that pretty. Sheesh....So did the doctor prescribe Prednisone eye drops? Hmmm....I guess I would suggest rinsing with normal saline, Using night eye lubricant ointment at night, lutein and Coenzyme Q10 or Better yet the form which is already broken down to Ubiquinol which you can get for 13 bucks at Walmart. It's called Qunol and it is normally made in the liver and goes to all the cells of the body to promote healing, oxegenation, energy, and immunity from ugly free radicals which attack the cells of the .body and cause nasty things like inflammation. I am praying for your healing, Monica.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGina

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