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'I'm Sick and I'm Scared'
Lyle Alzado
July 08, 1991
The author, a former NFL star, has a dread disease that he blames on his use of performance-enhancing drugs
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July 08, 1991

'i'm Sick And I'm Scared'

The author, a former NFL star, has a dread disease that he blames on his use of performance-enhancing drugs

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I was working out so hard. Every day, long hours, long days. I remember every workout. I was tested for drugs along with everyone else in camp. I lined up, signed up and took the test, with everyone from the Raiders watching. And I passed. My teammates all were saying, "How did you pass that test?" I had been told to stop the cypionate a month before the test, that this would be enough time for me to pass. And human growth hormone can't be detected by testing, so I kept taking that. I passed with flying colors.

Did the Raider coaches know I was taking stuff no matter what the test said? It was just like it was when I was playing with the Broncos and Browns. I think the coaches knew guys were built certain ways, and they knew those guys couldn't look the way they did without taking stuff. But the coaches just coached and looked the other way.

My comeback hit a snag when I injured my knee. I had arthroscopic surgery, which went well. A month later I played in an exhibition game against Chicago. I came off the ball so fast, so hard. Oh, god, it felt great. I was working so hard. They cut me anyway. I think the only reason they didn't keep me was because they figured I was too old. I could have made it. I know I could have.

So I was out of football again, this time for good. I kept taking human growth hormone, and I was still doing the steroids. One day last fall I was on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles in a yogurt shop with Justin. I felt a big cough coming on so I went outside so I wouldn't spread any germs. I fainted. The next thing I knew I was getting up off the sidewalk with all this blood pouring from my face. I had fallen right on my face, on my nose. I broke the nose so bad they had to use plastic surgery to put it back together.

I stayed in the hospital four days while they fixed me up and ran a bunch of tests. They couldn't find anything. But I think that was the start. I think the tumors were beginning to fester in my head. In February I started to get a little dizzy. At first the doctor told me it was an inner ear infection and gave me some medication. For a while it helped.

Kathy was getting on me pretty good about the steroids I was taking, and I promised her I wouldn't take anything more after our wedding. I started tapering down even before the wedding. I think I was so excited about marrying Kathy that I didn't allow myself to notice that I was starting to get sicker. When I watch the video of the wedding, I see that, when I'm walking back down the aisle with her, I'm almost limping, listing to the right.

Two days later, in the apartment in Marina del Rey where we were living at the time, I started feeling dizzy. I couldn't talk. And I was seeing double. They put me in the hospital and took all kinds of tests and they told me I had some sort of virus. I went home and got worse and worse. I didn't eat for four days.

Finally, Kathy insisted to the doctors that I go back in, and they did a brain biopsy. I woke up the morning after, and they told me I had cancer. I couldn't believe it. I was just so weak. They started me on the radiation treatments, and I went home. Then I got an infection. But Kathy's dad was there. He saved my life. I wasn't breathing. I was purple. Kathy called 911, and her dad gave me CPR.

They took me to the hospital, and I kept having brain seizures every 20 minutes. It was so bad they put me in intensive care for two weeks, and I don't remember it at all. I keep trying, but I don't remember anything. They said I looked like I was just fading away.

On top of everything else, I'm told that my name has come up in various steroid cases. And, oh yes, my medical bills are enormous. But there are plans to have a benefit for me in the next few months.

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