October 19, 2011

Roid rage

Cancer has given me tattoos and a scar that looks like I lost an encounter with a Samurai, or maybe a shark, or maybe a samurai-wielding shark. Macho factors for sure.

But the only way to really become an Ultimate Macho Man is to work at it from the inside, and that means 'roids.

By NinjaMouf (devianart.com)
Even the name of the steroid I take sounds tough.

Dex: 100% MAN made

Dexamethasone is a synthetic steroid designed to mimic a steroid our bodies make called cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid released by the adrenal glands perched on top of the kidneys. Cortisol is helpful during stressful situations (like a battle with a samurai-wielding shark) because it contributes to our 'flight or fight' response.

Cortisol and Dex are glucocorticoids, which means they basically affect the way glucose is used by the cells in your body. During times of immediate stress (shark with sword) your body needs quick access to plenty of energy and cortisol makes this happen. Cortisol also minimises our perception of pain, boosts the immune system and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Cortisol x 80 = Dex

Chemists didn't muck around when they made Dex because it is up to 80 times more powerful than cortisol. Dex also sticks around in the body longer than cortisol: its half life (the amount of time it takes to lose half of its ability to affect the body) is up to 54 hours (it's 8 hours for cortisol).

Dex is commonly used in cancer treatments to control nausea, but no one is really sure how it works. One of the fun things about having cancer is coming across treatments that work but no one knows why (there are several examples of this).

Unlike other anti-nausea drugs that directly block serotonin receptors and the main road leading to the Vomit Centre, Dex works another way; they're just not sure how, or why, or where.

Some things are known though: side effects

The list is long, but here are the most interesting ones:

  • Increased appetite and weight gain (note: not muscle gain)
  • Convulsions
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Personality changes, depression
  • Irritability, euphoria, mania

I now put on up to 1 kg a week of body mass, I'm writing this article at 3:40 am, I got anxious today about something small, I breakout in a sprint when cycling for no reason except that I can, and when my thoughts start racing, they're matched only by my racing heartbeat.

But I haven't vomited once.


  1. No vomiting is a good news!

    how long you will be on chemo?


  2. Yes, Dex is a strange one. It causes insomnia in me. And I've been putting on weight (although I am now back to my normal weight, so I don't really need to be putting anything on). Oh well, will just have to work it back off when this chemo stuff is all over. Almost 2/3 done (8th round chemo pump attached as I type).

    Karen S (fellow bum buddy)

  3. DEX! Incredible if you want to clean the whole house in record time, and do EVERYTHING on your to do list that you never want to do. The insomnia is bad though and I felt like coming down off that stuff was awful. I can recall not sleeping for up to 3 nights with this stuff. Isn't it fun for the fam when they come in to see you and you are rambling some absolute rubbish :)