Backstory Part 2: The Magic Pills Dressed in Sheep’s Clothing

The Fairy-Tale of the Magic Pills

Once upon a time there was a healthy young women who liked to help others and dance. One day she noticed that she was getting tired very easily, was sleeping all of the time and her skin had turned bronze. Everyone thought that she looked very healthy. “What a lovely tan you have” they all said.

But a niggling doubt gnawed at her. “I don’t feel right”, she thought. So the young woman set out to discover what was wrong. She visited many wise people. One said she was a woman doing too much and told her to slow down. Another told her that more iron was necessary for her constitution. But most commonly, she was told nothing appeared to be wrong with her at all.

Then she lost her appetite and started shrinking. “You look great, you’ve lost so much weight, what’s your secret?” everyone said. Still the doubt remained.

The young woman was right to doubt. Though on the outside she appeared to be the glowing, skinny embodiment of female health, on the inside her body was slowly destroying itself; permanently damaging her internal organs. She had multiple autoimmune diseases.

Eventually the young woman barely had enough strength to stand-up and she turned sickly-looking on the outside. She visited once more with her regular wise old woman who finally, after 18 months of visits, exclaimed “you don’t look right!” And sent her for tests. Whilst awaiting the results, the young woman’s body started shutting down and she was quickly taken to the infirmary.

At her bedside, the young woman was visited by Marvelous Man (endocrinologist #1). He told her that she had a rare disease which caused her body to no longer make enough cortisol to stay alive. “You’re lucky though”, he told her, “we can replace it with magic pills. You’ll take one magic pill a day and feel better than you have in a decade. All of your symptoms will magically go away.”.

The young woman returned home, took the magic pills, danced every day, and lived happily ever after.


The Alternate, “Bloody Marvelous” Ending

Except that’s not actually what happened. That whole last sentence needs to be scrubbed out with a black marker and rewritten something like this-

The young woman returned home and discovered that the fabled one magic pill was at least three magic pills a day with tablets taken a minimum of twice a day [spoiler: she is currently taking tablets 7 times a day]. Plus the magic pills needed to be taken at fixed times and with food for her to avoid feeling unwell.

Well that’s just marvelous fun.

On re-visiting Marvelous Man, he magically produced a new set of things the young woman needed to do in order to stay alive. Extra magic pills needed to be taken in cases of high stress. And for sudden stressors, she needed to use an injection kit filled with liquid magic pills and go to hospital for more liquid magic pills.


Marvelous Man also suddenly revealed that the magic pills were actually steroids! Surprise! Even though steroids are a natural replacement for the young woman’s missing hormones, if her dose of magic pills is even slightly too high, they can hurt her bones, eyes and teeth. Marvelous Man had fooled the young woman by dressing a wolf (steroids) in sheep’s clothing (selling them as magic pills).

How bloody marvelous. How bloody lucky is she.

The young woman took her 4 magic-ish pills per day, 3 times a day at fixed times, carried an injection kit for emergencies, took extra magic pills when experiencing stress to avoid dying, carefully monitored her health, and kept her dose of magic pills as low as possible to avoid awful side-effects. She lived happily and kind of healthily at least for a good while.


The Director’s Cut

The cinematic release of the Magic Pills Dressed in Sheep’s Clothing presented above is incomplete. The director, Charlie Parker shot several hours of additional scenes which provide a different interpretation of the ending. Here are those extra scenes –

Not only did the magic pills have long-term side-effects, they actually made the young woman feel worse. On the fairy-tale treatment of 2 or 3 magic pills per day the young woman’s body was infested with hideous symptoms-

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Shaking
  • Fatigue, weakness, malaise particularly after exercise
  • Diarrhea
  • Puffy ankles and face
  • Crying easily
  • Waking at 3am shaking, panicky and sick
  • Feeling hot and cold
  • Neck-aches
  • Feeling as though she was on the verge of unconsciousness
  • Weight gain

Returning once more to Marvelous Man, she sort help for the failure of the magic pills. But he simply retold the fairy-tale. “Everyone else feels better on the magic pills”, he said, “plus you are taking more pills than everyone else, so your symptoms can’t be caused by the magic pills”. He told the young woman to take fewer pills.

The young woman took fewer magic pills [she tried 6 times to lower her daily dose of hydrocortisone from 30mg to 26mg per day]. She felt like she was dying. She went to the infirmary twice to check that she wasn’t dying.

The young woman returned once more to Marvelous Man with a basket-full of ideas for making her feel better. It was “no” to taking more magic pills. It was “that’s unnecessary” to taking magic pills at night-time [spoiler: this would have helped her greatly]. It was “that’s a great idea” to taking a different kind of magic pill (the longer acting steroid prednisolone).

The young woman felt immediately better on the new magic pill. Marvelous Man said that she must have been allergic to the old one [spoiler: she wasn’t allergic]. The young woman finally returned to some of her old life.

Then she felt worse again [spoiler: Marvelous Man had forgotten to give her more magic pills after taking her off the Pill].

So the young woman sort out a new Marvelous Man (endocrinologist #2). Like the old one, he recited the fairy-tale and told her to lose weight or else he would take away some of her magic pills.

The young woman lost weight. She still felt worse. The Marvelous Men had run out of ideas.

The young woman visited other kinds of wise people. They poked and prodded her. Told her to eat strange diets, take herbs and perform exercise rituals. Little worked. Some things made her feel worse.

As a last resort, the young woman decided it was time to try the fabled magic pump. But her Marvelous Man said no. A Marvelous Woman said no (endocrinologist #3).

Determined, the young woman penned a letter to the London-based inventor of the magic pump asking for his help. He told the young woman of a Marvelous Man in Melbourne who was interested in magic pumps (endocrinologist #4). This Marvelous Man said that he gave the magic pump a 2% chance of making her feel better. She grabbed this slim chance with both hands and ran with it.

Here, on a cliff-hanger with the young woman still sick but full of hope is where I will leave her story for now. Look out for the stunning sequel in which our heroine turns cyborg in an effort to regain health, and a behind the scenes documentary that takes an in-depth look at the science behind the failed magic pills and the fabled magic pump.

To Be Continued…


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