Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Grunt-and-Move-Through-it Medical Month

Between the mole biopsy on my leg that doesn’t want to heal---the doctor said a shin surgery can take eight weeks or more---and some other medical stuff I’ve got going on I’m declaring August to be my Grunt-and-Move-Through-it Medical Month. And it’s starting with me having to take my nearly brand new hearing aids back in because one of them quit working. At least the skin doctor just requires me to e-mail a photo of my half-dollar sized, red and warm biopsy sight. Thank goodness our concierge is a jack-of-all-trades here because there is no way I can take a selfie of the outside of my ankle and she’ll have to do a few more between now and the end of the month. Still, I had to set up my patient portal just to get the first photo to where it had to go online. Silly, time consuming stuff. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, as we age it’s important to keep our computer skills up. Even scheduling appointments for yourself is less time consuming than waiting for a real person to do it over the phone. Even my internist answers messages through his portal quicker than I’d get a call-back.

Also on my medical stuff on my To-Do List are surgeries for a trigger thumb and carpal tunnel scheduled the eight of September with the pre-surgery appointment for an EKG and blood work coming up soon. Another set of blood tests are needed for my coming Reclast infusion for my bones, too, but who knows when the infusion center will get me on their schedule. There’s been a snafu going on for over a month between the doctor’s office, the infusion center, the specialist pharmacy and the insurance company and I'm about ready to scream with the phone calls and text messages this is generating. And with all the darn blood draws I’ve had this year for anemia I’m surprised I even have any blood left to give. At least I’m remembering to drink a zillion glasses of water the day beforehand to help the blood lab find plumb veins. And since you want to ask, no the various places that want my blood don't seem to want to share the tests results.

When I was at my bone doctor’s office to get the results of my full body bone density test he was really pleased at the improvement the Reclast is doing. My risk factors for a major osteoporotic fracture is 18% and 3.7% for a hip fracture, both numbers down from the two previous years. The crushed cervical vertebras in my neck and lower on my spine are no worse and investing in an expensive office chair was worth it because none of the pain they cause me now is worth going through surgeries to get them fused together. But I finally called Uncle on having him do my trigger thumb on my dominate hand because getting it stuck in weird positions is happening more frequently and it's increasingly harder for me to manipulate the thumb back to where it belongs. What made me realize it’s finally time scared the crap out of me. One day my thumb on my left hand got stuck folded under my palm and while I was trying to get it unstuck the thumb on my right hand got stuck. With both thumbs locked up in each other and I thought I'd have to use my tongue on my emergency dialer to get help. 

In the meantime, I’m doing a course of Prednisone which is in the corticosteroid class of drugs and according to Google, "It prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation." But doctors don't like you to be on it long term---trust me, I've asked---because it also suppresses your immune system. Great timing on having a suppressed immune system since Covid is starting to show up back on our campus. One of my nieces and I both say we could happily live on a daily dose Prednisone though. All your joint pains disappear and you feel like you can do anything....best time to tackle a deep cleaning projects. Ever. My bone doctor hands Prednisone packs out like a pervert trying to lure little girls into a van with candy and you can bet your booty I won't turn down another 10 day course of it after my surgery.

The day I was at the bone doctor’s office he was running an hour and a half late and I was given the choice to stay or reschedule. I stayed because I’d once been the cause of him having an emergency that put him off schedule and I knew once he was with in the room he’d take all the time I needed. But I was not prepared with questions for having two surgeries at one time so I allowed Dr. Google to scare me with all the stuff that could go wrong. Had I not paid my $100 to hold the surgical date and had the EKG appointment all lined up before jumping on internet I might have backed out. So I’ve made up my mind to grunt-and-get-through it the way I get through everything…by making pre-surgical To-Do Lists and have my Plan A and B in place and trusting everything will go according to plan. My dominate hand will be in a splint for less than a week but I’m still trying to figure out how to eat that way. I’m having flash-backs of my husband’ having to make that transition after his stroke but he had me to cut his food, not to mention that he didn’t have to eat in public in the beginning. ©


48 comments:

  1. Good luck on your upcoming procedures. I got a surprise one this week: an appendectomy. The moment I woke up in recovery, though, I knew I felt better than I did before surgery. I thought my opinion might change once the medications delivered during surgery wore off, but it didn't. After going from urgent care in my small town, to my small town but brand new hospital for a CT scan and then being ambulanced to a hospital in Austin, I had surgery at 10:30 on Tuesday morning and was released at 4:30 pm!

    I refused prednisone when my rheumatologist offered it until my infusion drugs got up to therapeutic levels, but I didn't refuse it when I had the two brain surgeries. It's meant to keep the brain from swelling too much in that case. And I agree with you: with the second one at least, I felt as if I could do anything and all RA joint pain went away.

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    1. Wow, I remember when my brother had an appendectomy the burst. It was touch and go for a while and he was in the hospital a week. Glad yours turned out so well.

      I never thought about Prednisone working in our brains as well as our joints. It's too bad the effects don't last once the drug is out of our systems.

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  2. Good luck with your upcoming medical procedures, Jean! I’ve not heard of trigger thumb before and it sounds very annoying. Agreed on keeping up with computer skills! I have a friend who is only slightly older than me and she proudly and stubbornly refused to get on the technology bandwagon while she was still working. Would not use email or learn to use computer programs. She didn’t get fired but her boss kept changing her schedule and doing other things to make her strongly consider quitting which she finally did. She doesn’t work anymore but her lack of computer skills are still hampering her as she cannot manage the rest of her life as easily as those of us who are computer literate can. She should have learned gradually (and got paid to do it) when she had the chance.

    Deb

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    1. I wonder if your friend ever figured out that she made a mistake in not learning while it was free and she help.

      We have a few people here who don't use e-mail and that is the primary why the management communicates. The CCC does have a TV channel people can watch but you have to set there a 1/2 hour to see all the notices run by on a crawler. They can't sign up for stuff without having someone else do it for them because they aren't computer literate.

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    2. P.S. Trigger thumb is not as common as trigger finger but mines comes from years of making wedding flowers back in the day when the styles required all the flowers to be wired and taped and from doing a LOT of typing all my life. From what I've seen over the past decade wedding flowers are just bunched together and tied. No labor intense styles, but admittedly I haven't been to many weddings lately so the styles could have changed back again for all I know.

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    3. She didn't clue in that the reason her boss made her last years at work so unpleasant was because he was forcing her out due to her stubborn refusal to learn technology. It was obvious to me and my husband. Such a shame to end her career that way as she was there for decades. I think her pride will never let her admit she made a mistake.

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  3. Good attitude. The medical stuff sounds like it belongs under the heading of Necessary Evils, and you'll be happier in the long run when it's all accomplished.

    Strongly agree with you about keeping up the computer/tech skills. My 92-year old mother is aeons ahead of many of her contemporaries, and it has kept her in touch with so many distant family members. She is almost deaf now (refuses hearing aids), and exchanging texts and emails with everyone keeps her from feeling isolated. And playing solitaire, crossword, and other games helps her stay sharp.

    Re: steroids. My neurologist prescribes me a course of them once in a while as a migraine cycle-breaker. I don't like them because they give me insomnia and further compromise my immune system, but being on them for that short period (7-10 days) is like heaven for my arthritis! Once my migraine eases, I capitalize on that total body relief.

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    1. I love your mom! But I do wear my hearing aids (most of the time) but they make my ear itch inside so badly that I end up taking them out too often. Texting keeps you in contact the younger generation where we used to use phone calls, but young people like texting better.

      I usually just get the Prednisone when I see my bone doctor once a year and/or when he does a processor on me. I need to check out whether or not it interferes with my sleeping. I should do that with all the drugs I take. Last night I got the highest sleep number I've had since I've been keeping track and I'd like to figure out how to repeat that.

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  4. Good thing you are organized so you can keep all of your appointments straight! Best of luck with the medical procedures! Hope all goes smoothly and you heal quickly!

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    1. You'd think in retirement we wouldn't have our lives ruled by the calendar but it seems like there is no end to having a day planner. I downsized the style I'd used for years for 2022 but for 2023 I'm going back to a bigger one again.

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  5. Wow, I'd need a secretary to keep up with all the appointments. Congrats on the good bone numbers but sorry about all the other ails. Computers really do keep us going smoothly. I like having access to my test results via the portal.
    Could that trigger thumb be splinted at night like they sometimes do the finger? Just a thought.
    Hang in there girl.

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    1. Yes, they do make splints for trigger thumbs but it gets stuck what too often to keep ignoring. Often times it gets stuck pulling up my pants after I pee with my pants still hooked in my thumb. Not fun in a public restroom. Its only a five minute surgery and the carpal tunnel a 10 minute surgery but he's putting me out so it's a three hour wake up time. I forgot to ask why he couldn't do it with a block, but I trust him to make the right call for me.

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  6. Hoping you have some activities to look forward to during the month also. I think you are very wise to have one hand surgery at a time given that it won't limit your activity and daily life as much. Good luck with non-dominant hand eating!

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    1. I've been trying to practice using my right, non-dominant hand for some key activities and not doing well. Thankfully, I shouldn't have to do it for very long assuming all goes according to plan. And, Yes, I have lots of other stuff going on to distract me this month.

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  7. I laughed out loud when you described your double trouble trigger thumb episode. Not funny for you but the visual for us hit high on the humor scale. Then I tried to imagine myself eating without thumbs. It can be done but I foresee lots of liquids coming your way for a few days! Got a way to stock up on smoothies? I’d be happy to come over and feed you while we laughed our heads off, but Michigan is a bit too far away from the Oregon coast, so I hope there’s someone there among those you share laughs with who will step up and help you navigate those days. You could bill it as ‘performance art’ and line up others to cut your meat for the 4-8 meals you’ll need help with.

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    1. September is a nice month to visit Michigan. LoL But I'll be fine and plan to order just food that doesn't need cutting in the beginning until the splint comes off.

      If you think the double locked thumbs was funny, remind me to tell you about the time I was in a public restroom and my thumb got locked around my pants while I was trying to pull them up.

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  8. I am so sorry you are going through all this Jean! Doctor appointments now fill up our calendars like fun events used to.. That trigger thumb sounds just awful, I hope he can fix this quickly and painlessly for you. I admit I giggled a bit when you mentioned your thumb in your panties in a restroom. I could picture that happening to me. I also chuckled when you said you didn't know how you'd eat with your dominate hand being in a splinter. Prior to my rotator cuff surgery I was told my arm would be in a sling a foot from my body for 4 weeks. I could not remove it for anything, not even to shower. Each time i would go into the bathroom PRIOR to my surgery my husband would yell, "PRACTICE" The first time I came out of the bathroom and asked what the hell he was talking about. He said, you wipe with your dominate hand, start practicing now with your left. Good idea! Your maintenance person can take a photo but not...
    Yes, prednisone feels great at first. Trust me on this. The longer you're on it, the worse your bones will get, along with insomnia, hunger and the list goes on and on with bad stuff. Hence my broken ankle. Be careful. I used to think just 5mg a day was fine until they started with 60mg. Immune suppression is not a place you wish to live. I've been there for 5 months now and it pretty much just sucks. I'm certain you will have this done well and in no time be typing and pulling up your pants again in no time!🤣

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    1. I have been practicing wiping myself with my non-dominate hand and I'm getting frustrated. But Rick is right, it needs to be done. I can write with my non-dominate hand but I've been practicing that for over a year as a brain exercise.

      My doctor has never given me 50 mg of Prednisone for more than a day. He has these step-down packs where each day you get 5 mg. less until the last pill is only 5 mg. And I've never had more than one pack a year so I'm not worried.

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  9. p.s. you may wish to get something if you wear jeans or pants with zippers to put in the zipper to zip up your pants. Difficult for me to have done with only my left hand. Socks too. Don't wish to scare you but just want to let you know of something you may not have thought of. :-)

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    1. Never thought about socks being hard but you're right, I need to practice. My husband really struggled learning how to do that one handed. But with the right weather early in September I might be able to get by with Crocs with no socks.

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  10. When it rains, it pours. It seems. Who is driving you? Does your CCC offer transportation to Doctor appointments. Hopefully your restaurant can cut a sandwich in quarters and you can use your better hand ... at home! Growing old is not for sissies!!!

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    1. My niece is taking me to the surgical center as they need someone with your who can stay the whole time. They are not allowed to leave but the surgery center has a movie theater and a little snack bar and internet service. No to the CCC offering transportation, something we are hoping to change.

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  11. Oh goodness... I've had trigger digit and carpal tunnel surgery on both hands. Godsend for being able to use your fingers/thumbs/hands again without pain. Speaking of which, just love prednisone; as you say, it makes you feel like a million dollars! I've heard that it's hard on your bones, however. :/

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    1. I'm so glad to hear from someone whose had these surgeries! Glad yours was successful. Sometimes the aching keeps me awake at night. I'd love to get both hands done before winter but it's going to depend on how fast I recover from the first one and what kind of time my niece has to baby sit me.

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  12. Well you sure do have a big list of medical procedures to get through, but it will be so wonderful when it's behind you. Anyway, that has become my mantra when it comes to healthcare. Glad that the Reclast is working for you. Strong bones make a huge difference to our future, as we age. My daughter is always telling me about patients who fall, break bones, and how quickly their health can go downhill. I need to get a bonescan. I think you'll be very relieved to get the full use of your thumbs back. It might be a little frustrating trying to take care of yourself following your surgery, but you are surrounded by caring people who would probably be happy to help you out. I'll bet you feel relieved to be all settled in the CCC prior to having that surgery! May all go well for you, Jean! Please keep us posted.

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    1. It will go well, I'm not worried about that. I've known for a long time I need both trigger thumbs and the carpal tunnel surgeries done but I put it off until after I moved in the CCC because I knew it would be easier all the way around. I would have done it earlier in the summer but this was the best time to get it on my niece's busy schedule. She's in that sandwich generation who is helping family older than her and younger.

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  13. Thank you so much for sharing with us. I hope it all goes well.

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    1. Thank you. I always hesitate to bring up health issues so I figured why not do them all at once and get it over with.

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  14. The all medical month. Sounds draining, but I hope you have some good results from all of it. And I hope that derm biopsy heals well. We're all at the age of "patch, patch, patch", aren't we?

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    1. Thanks. It's not healing but I've got another two weeks before the doctor said to send him another photo. I'm hoping he'll let me make an appointment to look at it in person.

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  15. You certainly named this month appropriately. Next month sounds like a grunter on steroids.

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    1. I've had worse, so I'll manage and have some fun besides.

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  16. Well, you're going to have lots of blog topic material I expect. BA-5 seems to be slowly going down here, finally. Now they talk about monkeypox going up and stressing it's not just gay men. I resent that one blood workup test can't be more easily coordinated for several doctors but it's all about billing and which speciality codes and bills for which tests. Medicare could save money if they'd address that issue. I'm finding living alone and with no family here does begin to get complicated but I'm not ready to throw in my hat yet.

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    1. They could save tons of money if they'd figure out a way to share blood work! I'm getting the same tests for three different processors in the same damn time frame!

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  17. Good grief, Jean! The medical rigmarole... it's frustrating with multiple docs and tests. I'm glad you are getting it done (in the end) but no fun now. Do the labs put your test results on a patient portal that either your doc or you can access so they can be shared? Or can you request a printed copy? Mine are now on portal from a couple of sites the docs have access to but before they would send me printed results at my request and I could share them. Ah, prednisone. I'm with you. I know it's not good long term but boy, I love it when I'm on it. Truly a miracle drug. Hang in there, my friend. ANd keep us posted.

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    1. Yes, my tests show up on my patient portal and I can request paper copies which no other doctor seems to want because they have to scan them into their records and are missed somehow when they go to find them. Been there, done that.

      I don't like to do too many posts about medical stuff but I'm sure if something interesting or quirky happens I'll share it. My life is just one big bloggable moment. LoL

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  18. Since you haven't heard from others who have had the surgery: Years ago, I had one trigger thumb, so got 2 (separated) steroid shots. Then it was surgery time. When the other thumb started acting up, I went right to the surgery. Then a couple years later, I needed carpal tunnel surgery on one hand, then later, the other. I was anxious because I've luckily had so little surgery in my life, but all is good with my hands now. I never planted acres of tulip bulbs, but we all use and abuse our hands and fingers in many ways, including typing, gardening, and musical instruments. I bet most people will have had carpal tunnel surgery on at least one hand, when all is said and done. At least it's common surgery now, with very minimal scarring. You wouldn't see my carpal tunnel scars unless I pointed them out to you.

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    1. Thank you for this comment! I really don't know anyone whose had these surgeries although I know they are common. At my age I don't care about scars as much as function but I can see why someone younger would care. We do abuse our hands. Thanks again.

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  19. So sorry to hear it's been a Medically challenging Month already Jean! Today I see my new PCP and am hoping she won't require a Specialist Referral since the whole fiasco of Insurance Age Related BS transitionary Red Tape has already made it so I'm almost out of all my Diabetic Meds, which are crucial and I can't limp along rationing them with good results. On a Positive, her Clinic is very close by and near a great Lebanese Restaurant, so I hope she works out. *LOL* I also hope everything works out for you too my Friend, the stressors from Health related stuff are not conducive to good Health vibes.

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    1. My health issues are petty compared to yours and lots of other people's. Did you hear that the new bill they just past in the senate will give Medicare the ability to negotiate the price of our medications? Supposedly that will bring down the price of diabetic meds in a year or two because they are really cheap to make.

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  20. I have trigger finger, not trigger thumb, and I've had it for at least 15 years. It was in my right ring finger, and I worked retail, and sometimes when I would make change, my finger would get stuck, and I'd have to pry it up with my left hand. And it really hurts! Then after the stroke (nearly 10 years ago, now) it moved to the ring finger of my LEFT hand. Weird, huh? But a couple of years ago I was looking on Amazon for a splint for my left thumb, because being my only functional thumb, it was very overworked, and I was looking for relief. I found one, and it came with a couple of finger splints, so I started sleeping with one on my ring finger. After a couple of months, I noticed that I no longer had trigger finger, and as long as I sleep with a finger splint, it doesn't come back. I'm delighted that for me, the splint has worked so well and allowed me to avoid that surgery.

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    1. Wow! Thank you for sharing that! I will look for a splint for the thumb/hand that is not getting the surgery. It's actually more painful than the one that is scheduled but it doesn't get stuck as often. That getting stuck effects the quality of my life more than that pain.

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  21. Wow Jean! That's a lot! But you sound so organized and optimistic that it's no big deal, right? Uh-huh. I know it's a pain (literal and figurative), and I know you will persevere! And I'm with you on tech skills. I'm no tech genius, but I'm surprised by how many older folks refuse to learn or constantly are in a state of confusion and helplessness. The world we live in is the world we live in. I want to be able to participate in it.

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  22. Whoops, pressed send before typing my name just now, sorry!

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    1. Me too on being surprised at how many older people can't do even the simplest things on a computer.

      My head hurts from going back an forth with the specialty pharmacy, the infusion center, insurance and doctor's office. Several calls a day for nearly a month. So I'm not wildly optimistic right now.

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  23. You have my sympathy - all this stuff is so tedious. Your comment about the anaemia and blood draws made me laugh - I have longstanding iron deficiency anaemia....longstanding I think because of the amount of blood they've removed to investigate it...

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  24. Your observation about the prednisone made me laugh. I've taken short courses of it twice for pinched nerves in my neck causing muscle spasms and nerve pain radiating down my arm. The first time, when I took the first pill and the pain that had had me in tears for days instantly disappeared, I thought, "This is how people get hooked on drugs!"

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    1. Prednisone isn't physically addictive but the feeling it gives you does make you understand how easy it is for people to get addicted to prescription drugs, doesn't it.

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