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McElroy: Listening to Dan Patrick open up about his illness hit home yesterday.

DP's brave words about a road I've been down a time or two and what I've learned along the way.

Wes McElroy
May 03, 2019 - 9:22 am

Dan Patrick is one of the classiest people in our business.

Many years ago when I was just starting out, I had the opportunity to meet Dan and ask him what it took to make it in this business.

He was a straight shooter. He told me that I’d have to starve for years, work multiple jobs, and someday not be afraid to move away to wherever there was work. He told me there would be sacrifices and that, along with the grind, it might cost me friendships and even a girlfriend or two.

There was no nasty tone in his advice but rather honest truth.

In fact, all of those things have happened in the 16 years since our conversation.

I’ve always been grateful to Dan for that talk and have tried to pass it along to others who ask for advice.

My heart went out to Dan, while listening yesterday, as he opened up about suffering from polymyalgia rheumatica, which is an intense joint pain that he’s suffered from over the last seven years. “It’s like having the flu and you’re not nauseous,” he said.

DP also noted that he’d began taking the steroid Prednisone, which he described as a “wonderful and horrible” drug. Wonderful because it helped his pain and inflammation.

Horrible because it left him depressed and having suicidal thoughts.

Dan has said many things over the years that I could relate too, but nothing more spot on this.

Over the years, I’ve been an open book about living with Crohn’s Disease, which I was diagnosed with at the age of 12.

Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease(IBD). It causes inflammation to the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition

For many years, Prednisone was the only drug that could be described to control a flare-up.

Often times a flare-up would knock me out of work for a day or two and when I say knock me out, it was to the point where I couldn’t muster enough energy to get out of bed.  Food would not stay in my body, there would be intestinal bleeding, and my immune system would be totally wiped out.

Ohhhh but when the Prednisone would kick in, it was marvelous. My energy would quickly return, I could eat, and the energy was there.

As Dan said it was wonderful. 

Until the” horrible” would kick in.

Usually it would start within my joints, mainly in my hips where I couldn’t get up from table without a pain that would almost drop me back down to my knees.

The next would be the inability to sleep. Falling asleep was tough enough but then when your eyes flipped open at 2 or 3am, there was no going back to sleep. You’d pace, try to watch TV, but often times I’d sit, waiting for the gym to open at 5am just so I could burn off some steam because for lack of a better phrase, your body is going through ‘roid rage. You walk around with the constant feel that your body is shaking within you.

Then what’s next is the worse for the people around you.

You become moody, at times downright nasty. Quite frankly, I become an a**hole.

Luckily my wife has seen me go thru this multiple times and knows eventually the storm is coming at some point and it will pass.

Others don’t.

Weeks ago, during a cycle on Prednisone, I verbally shredded my producer Danny for some minor detail at work.

Last Spring during a different cycle of the drug, before my friend Jon Laaser’s wedding, I came home from the morning show—oh this is a good time to mention the constant sweating.  After sweating through my shirt during the morning show, I walked in the door at 9:30a in such an ugly mood (for no reason at all). That I got in a freezing cold shower for 30 minutes and then proceed to collapse on the floor for another 30 just to calm down my blood pressure because I knew if I couldn’t calm myself down with the rage in my body before driving to DC,I would be a danger to myself and those on the road. (Yes, your thoughts can become that violent).

Yet, my Crohn’s Disease was totally under control. 

Wonderful and horrible.

Also, like Dan said and while not proud to admit this, there’s been many a night while on the drug that I self-medicated with my buddy Jack Daniels because I knew it was the only thing strong enough to bring me down and to balance me out.

Listening to Dan, I fully understood why he wanted to get off this medicine and even understand why he was willing to try chemotherapy as an alternative.

Just three weeks ago I’d received news my condition had worsened and with that news, I am in the process of going on some new medicine that too will cause me to go through infusion treatment but also get me off the Prednisone, hopefully forever.

What Dan also noted on and I learned a long time ago, even with our diagnosis, as bad as it sucks, there are those in this world far off worse than we are.

 Having had this disease since I was 12, it was decades ago that I decided my condition wouldn’t define me because I realized I was lucky. I had roommates as a kid in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, some who weren’t going to make their teenage years and some who were never coming home due to cancer.

But listening to Dan yesterday, there was part of his story that hit very close to home.

Maybe it’s wrong to speak for Dan, but by opening up yesterday, it wasn’t a man looking  for sympathy nor am I, but rather understanding of what he’s going through.

What DP did yesterday in front of a national audience was brave.  It was a message to many that sometimes when people look okay on the outside; they aren’t always fine on the inside.

And it’s okay to talk about it, because we’re all going through something.

All the best and get well soon DP!