The Sick Days: Part 22
After toughing out the chronic pain of inflamed joints and fever flashes, a young reporter hits the wall and lands in the hospital where hiding the truth about her illness is no longer an option
By Shelley Page
An ‘X’ was drawn on my back to mark the spot where the biopsy needle was to be plunged. That’s when the nephrologist executed the bait and switch. “Ok, how about you do it?” “The biopsy? Me?” Hovering over me — face down, backside up— the attending nephrologist discussed the procedure with the resident, who’d been at his side since I met them the previous afternoon. (It was a teaching hospital). “Yes, you’ve watched enough of these. You’re ready.” “It’s a straight shot?” “More or less.” One of them touched my shoulder. “How are you feeling?” Uh. I lifted my head, twisted my neck to look them both in the eyes. I’d read somewhere that you’re supposed to make eye contact with ...
The Sick Days: Part 21 - Hot and Bothered
Moving from The Toronto Star to The Ottawa Citizen was supposed to reduce symptom-inducing stress, but once installed in the national newsroom, Shelley Page starts feeling like a lobster
By Shelley Page While I never told the editors who hired me at the Ottawa Citizen that I had a serious chronic illness, I confessed my secret to the doctor performing the employer-mandated medical exam. I had to. Otherwise, my blood would betray me. A routine white blood cell count (WBC) would reveal I suffered from neutropenia and leukopenia — chronically low numbers of white blood cells which left me highly susceptible to infection. Lupus often attacks and destroys these disease fighting, workhorses of the immune system. A normal WBC is between 4,500 and 11,000, mine hovers around 1,800. If the doctor requested more sophisticated tests, she might also have seen extremely high levels of anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies, which ...
The Sick Days: Part 20 - Into the Frying Pan
When I was a young reporter, there were no “self-help” books about how to manage your workload, ask for support from your employer, or even disclose an illness.
By Shelley Page I’d like to torque my personal narrative and claim that I left my ‘dream job’ because I’d had an epiphany: journalism would never be a cure for lupus. Except, I wasn’t that clever. These days, there are many books written for the chronically ill about how to scale back your dreams and still find career success: Despite Lupus, written by a former NBC producer who quit her job to control the constant flares of her illness, which eventually attacked her kidneys, arguably the most serious manifestation of lupus (a stage I didn’t yet have to worry about). The writer encouraged readers to work smart, or in bite-sized chunks, and sometimes not at all. Fabulupus (yes, that’s really the title), is filled with similar advice. When I was a ...