My relationship between work and illness has been complicated.
Just four days before I was set to start my first job as a cub reporter at the Vancouver Province newspaper, I was diagnosed with lupus, a serious autoimmune disease. I had inflammation of the heart and the lining around my lungs.
Somehow I made it through that horrible summer and went on to score a coveted job at the Toronto Star and then the Ottawa Citizen, where I was science reporter, city and lifestyles columnist, feature writer and writing coach. During this time, I’ve been clobbered with multiple flares, the most serious involving my kidneys and brain. I’ve also been bombarded with numerous immune-suppressing chemical cocktails.
My passion to be a journalist carried me far, but there are many stages one goes through when diagnosed with a serious illness just as they’re about to take the first steps in a new and sought-after career.
They include Fear, Denial, Double Denial, Guru Seeking and Meditation, Bargaining, sometimes Sick Leave and eventually Wisdom.
After 27 years, I left journalism for a more flexible workplace in order to get the accommodations my doctor said I needed following a period of disability.
Almost every day of my work-life, my success-focused nature has competed with my health. It took me far too long to connect my driven mentality, overactive lifestyle and my declining health. I was unable to choose between career and health.
I now make better decisions for myself. And my health is significantly better.
While it’s only in the past few years that I been much more preemptive in my efforts, I believe others can succeed where I deluded myself. Your long-term health depends on it. I counsel other newly diagnosed patients in better, more enlightened choices. Learn from my mistakes, I say! I also write about health and wellness in mainstream media. And I hope through this blog, you’ll appreciate why certain choices exacerbate your illness and how future choices can promote wellbeing.
My path to better health has been meandering and sometimes, blocked by a big pile of rocks. On the way, I have learned to conserve energy, alter my work conditions, build alliances, take naps and sometimes work from home. I’ve also learned that sometimes, you’ve got to quit your job if the conditions aren’t right. Success doesn’t matter as much as I once thought it did. However, sometimes, I’ve forgotten all of the good advice above in pursuit of a big story. And I ended up getting really sick. For a scoop.
This blog is about working with chronic illness, the good, the bad and with fat cheeks from prednisone. It’s about working with the sick days.
This blog was started as a requirement for the Digital Strategy course I took at the University of Toronto in the spring/summer, 2015.