Steroid Psychosis- a personal experience

There are some things in life we don’t ever believe we would have to experience. Not only do we not believe we would experience them, but we don’t even focus on the the fact that these things could happen. Why would we? I don’t know but I did experience this and there are many times that I believe me and my children we traumatized by this entire experience.

My husband, was a really great guy. Sure he had his issues, and maybe even a little more than the next guy but he did not deserve to leave this earth the way he did. Well in his opinion he did. He always said,”I have done a lot of bad things and I will die a miserable death from some horrible disease.” I would get angry and tell him shut up, you are being dramatic. Well he must have had great instincts, in fact he did but who would think that great. In November 2013 he was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer(glioblastoma). This is the most deadly and aggressive brain cancers a person can get. Sadly by the time we found out treatment was only a way to delay the inevitable. He did fight with everything a person could fight with. He did have his ups and downs and he did pass on knowing just how much his wife and kids loved him and a few other people as well.

When I took him to the emergency room, the staff(front desk) thought he was over reacting. They saw him going in and out of the front doors. He kept sneaking cigarettes(he had quit for a very long time but some how right before we knew he was sick he started again) He was on the phone and talking and joking and being himself. However, I knew that he was very sick. I knew the crap he was talking was not really making sense. I knew that the time frames he would be referring to were not current and he was not seeing correctly. He was walking into things and other signs only someone who knew him would notice.

When he finally saw a nurse they saw his heart beat was extremely low. This concerned them. I told them he is very sick. Terrible headaches and he is confused and so on. They agreed to do an MRI. I guess they saw something when assessing him that they agreed something was going on. Once they did the MRI, the doctor came in and said we have an ambulance on the way, you are being transferred to another hospital. Your brain is very swollen and we see a lot of blood. We don’t even know how you are walking and talking. At that moment he passed out and I had to soak in the information and try to comfort him. I made the pertinent phone calls and went to pick my son from school and bring him to my daughters who were both at home. I told them what was going on and went to the other hospital. After a few days we transferred hospitals again only to get the proper diagnosis.

After the brain biopsy a few days later we went home. We had the first appointment with the cancer center. We were told by the oncologist, that with out treatment he has days to weeks to live. He opted for the chemo and radiation. This bought him 9 months and I am very happy he did. Funny that I started this off explaining that we should be traumatized but I have not told you why. The reason for this is I want you to understand the back story a little. We were in love and we had our issues but who does not. Our kids were scared they loved their Dad and I was scared also. We banded together to make this as comfortable for him as possible.

This is the part that gets crazy. At first they started him on a lowish dose of Decadron. This is a very potent steroid. This is the kind of medicine that if not monitored properly will make a person insane and violent. They call this steroid psychosis. The doctors or nurses or anyone else mention this to the patient or the family. For a guy whose brain was shot he was pretty in tact. When he was on the low does I would joke and say here honey I have your cocaine ready. Time for you to run around the house and clean. He did this for weeks. He had fun cleaning it was easy for him to do and kept him busy. After about 3 weeks we noticed he was becoming a little obsessive about it. We also notices that he was easily annoyed. We mentioned to the doctor. We were told this is probably from the brain cancer and we should expect a lot of ups and downs with his personality.

Weeks are passing. His health is up and down as they said they kept increasing the steroids to deal with the increase of the swelling in his brain. After this whole nightmare ended we were told that this is a necessary evil. Well now he was starting to get really hyper. He would want to exercise and smoke cigarettes, he would want to eat every 2 hours and clean and go here and go there. He was literally running me to the ground as in between taking him back and forth to chemo and radiation and all of his extra and I do mean extra curricular activities, I had to take care of my kids, I had to take my daughter to dialysis three times a week and deal with all of her medical issues. I also worked part time and had a torn meniscus(knee) and required surgery. I was at my wits end and he would be more and more hyper. When I say hyper I mean. Lets paint the house(that we rent), Lets re arrange the furniture. Lets go here and there and back again. Lets clean out the garage. Lets go to the casino, Lets go and lets go. I could not go for much longer when he started becoming weird. At first it was my son who had it the worst. He would start talking to him about the bible. He was saying weird things and insisting he saw angels. Then he started forcing my son to pray. I mean pray out loud prayers he does not know, never learned and never needed to learn as I am Jewish and our kids are raised that way. He then started on all of us. He would be very nice to every one and then curse us out. He would call us names that would make the toughest guy in the world blush. He would get angry about nothing and because of the steroids he was strong. Because of the cancer he was starting to go crazy and because of the steroids he was becoming psychotic.

There were days were he would choke us, me the kids, any combination. Calling the cops on him would be quite counter productive. It was not him. He was very sick and dying. He did not need to be abused and sent to jail. One day he was so crazy and mad about nothing I was driving us home from who knows where and doing 50 down a main road. He reached over and turned my car off. He grabbed the key with such force it bent in half. Luckily I am a good driver. Luckily I know how to handle pressure and luckily we did not crash. He would get angry regularly and say he was moving out. He would literally pack everything he believed he owned(meaning well I paid for the tv, I bought that picture, I picked out those pillow) everything. He would say he was moving out and put everything in front of the house. When he was really really mad he would call his family, mother, sister and tell them that we don’t take care of him. That we don’t feed him and we hide his medicine. He would tell him that our oldest daughter was to busy screwing the guys in the neighborhood to help him get dressed and get to the bathroom. He said I was not taking him to his appointments. This of course was far from the truth. We stayed with him every minute day and night and when he ever got to a reasonable amount of steroids again he did realize it. That is the saving grace in the whole thing is that he did not leave this earth angry mean and violent.

This steroid induced rage lasted about 2-1/2 months. We had days that were truly nightmares. We had to listen to him every word he said or he would flip out. He would call family members and lie to them. Sometimes he would decide to fight with them to. They always blamed it on us. They believed we were being bad to him and all the crazy lies they believed. To this day I can’t stand them for sitting home living their lives while he literally went crazy abusing us and then they have the nerve to think we did something wrong. My mother in law to this day exactly one year past his death has not seen my children, asked how they. 90 percent of his family is out of our lives now. Sad, but good they are pretty worthless anyway.

My family did not know what we were going through. I never believed they would understand. I would lie and say he was not feeling well so no one would visit. I just did not want them to see the holes in the walls and the broken things from his fits of rage. I can look back on it and laugh as I have a gift of sense of humor. I am blessed with the ability to say it was not him. He loved me, he loved us this was the drugs talking. When we finally could not take him anymore I had to do something drastic. I felt that he was going to really harm us more than what we already were and I did not want to see it turn into a tragedy. I gave him Tylenol and told him it was his medicine. I knew that once the steriods started wearing down he would crash. He would fall asleep and feel like crap. The steroids were keeping him alive, they were also killing him. Finally he woke up feeling down and hurting and sad. He said I think I am dying now and I need to go to the hospital. I played the loving wife and comforted him. Once we got to the hospital they doped him up on the steroids again. They admitted him just because he did not feel well and the stage of his disease. The emergency did not understand that he was going crazy from the steroids. It took several days of him being in the hospital for it to start getting resolved. It took for nurses to hear him screaming at us on the phone when we were down stairs in dialysis with my youngest daughter. He would swear we were out doing something bad. He would be nice in front of the doctors and nurses but be mean to us. Finally after a doctor saw me crying in the hallway to listen to me. I explained what was going on and he knew right away that it was the steroid psychosis. He was not the doctor caring for him. The only way he was able to help was by putting him in a seizure room. This way he was being monitored by camera. This way they could see what was really happening when they were not in the room. They saw him throwing waffles at the kids. They saw him screaming at us and all kind of things. They would come in the room and he would pretend to be nice and that we were playing. He would want us to go along. Of course we did because we did not want more problems but we would tell the nurses when we would go into the hallway for whatever reason. Eventually they figured out they need to get him weaned down to the lowest possible dose. This would take many weeks and we would not see the benefit for several weeks. They have us some medicine that would knock him out if he went crazy at home and sent him home. Well he was crazy for about 3 weeks or so. We agreed to take him home only if he would agree in front of the doctors that if he went crazy at home he had to take it. Well too bad that did not happen he would throw the pills across the house and call a cab to take him somewhere. He would have no money and I would have to send the cab driver away. This was a very very low point in our lives. The kids and I were really starting to be afraid of him. We were tired. We were annoyed and we were scared we would never see him as himself again.

Finally he got to a reasonable dose. He was awake and functioning but not psychotic. This was better. He did not remember anything from that time. He did not remember painting, He kind of remember making the  holes in the walls. He did not remember the name calling and choking and punching and everything else. He did not remember cursing out his mother. This all came back on me eventually. When he started getting normal again. He would call them. They would say are they still treating you bad. That wife and daughter and all this nastiness. He would lie to me and say they did not say it but I would be sitting right next to him and hear the conversation. He felt terrible and spent many many nights apologizing for hurting us. It took the kids a while to get close with him again. They always loved him and that is what allowed us to look past the horribleness of it all.

As the time passed his health continued to fail. We did everything possible to fight it. I loved him with all my heart and while he was going through that terrible time, I kept it to myself. I did not share with anyone except one time his sister because he called and forced her to come get him. That was one of his big moving out days. I told her he was going crazy. She took it like really, but not serious.

He was admitted to the hospital several times during the next few months. Each time he came home a little weaker, a little more tired and a little nicer. He eventually got so nice that it was nicer than I ever knew him. This made it so much harder to lose him. I would try so hard to boost him up. Any little thing he did I would tell him he was great and full of will. He eventually lost his left side completely. He would still walk. He would use his right side to his full advantage until this no longer was possible. He did fight this horrible disease with as much fight as you could ask for. He kept positive. He would make this videos and looking back on them I cry my eyes out. He would sit at the table for hours drawing and it would usually be something saying that he loved me or one of the kids names or something that was easy for him. He really did amazing considering our first visit to oncology told us days to weeks to live. He managed to get past the horrible couple of months and make the next and last 7 a whole lot better. Even when he would lay in the bed for weeks on end and barely get up to eat or use the bathroom, he would yell out Babe- I love you. He would do roll call with the kids and tell them how much he loved them no less than 20 times a day. No one could know just how much he needed to say it and we needed to hear it. I still see his face all swollen, with his eyes shut and him yelling to my oldest daughter, he would yell hey G come here. She would be right next time him watching tv or reading and he would say you know I love you. We spent months sitting quietly while he rested. The kids, the dogs and I would just sit there. We did not know what to say or do. We would just talk to him when he was awake. The good thing is that with each down came an up for a while. He would have up days or nights where we would actually have fun. We would watch movies. We would make videos play cards and one night we even sat and had a few drinks(this is rare for us ever and I mean ever) We would take those good times and cherish them. My oldest daughter and I spend months researching this disease, If there was a way to cure him of it we would have found it for sure.

I would hope that no one ever has to experience this disease, or any like it. I know that cancer is a monster that just keeps on. I would hope if you had the time to read this and the misfortune of knowing someone that must take these high dosed steroids to see the signs before they experience what we experienced.

I hope my kids really can move past all the bad and just remember the good. I know that is not really possible as I know I can’t. But like I said before I am quick to make a joke to help ease the pain.

I will always and forever miss him. In 9 days it will be the one year anniversary of his death. I don’t really think this is the kind of anniversary we dreamed of. Hoping he is resting in peace….until we meet again.

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