Category Archives: My Story; in pieces

A serving of self-loathing, with a dollop of death wish—the rise of autoimmunity? (Part 10)

Before I knew I was the proud owner of an immune system that couldn’t tell self from invader, doctors pushed sedatives on me.

They hypothesized that my buffet of bodily dysfunctions — stabbing pain around my lungs, clawed hands, ruddy and hot joints — were provoked by overwork and exams, stress or anxiety. Something of my doing, or my response to something of my doing.

Then I found out I had an autoimmune disease. And if we’re going to get all psychological about it, it’s like having the mutant spawn of Hannibal Lecter, the self-cannibal of all illnesses. We sufferers allegedly have an acute case of self-loathing with a side order of death wish.

That’s a metaphoric sledgehammer with which to clobber the ever-increasing number of sufferers.

Why do I need this illness?

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The press was powerful and intoxicating (Part 9)

After the latest issue of Monty’s Mouth was distributed, our junior high school’s collective of burnouts, jocks and nerds would spend five minutes smelling the paper it was printed on, hoping for a high off the pungent smelling mix of isopropanol and methanol — the duplicating fluid used in the ditto machine. This was the era when cooking sprays like Pam were huffed out of plastic bags and kids hung out near the pump while their dad filled the gas tank.Working for

Working for Monty’s Mouth was like school-sanctioned substance abuse. Continue reading

The skirt, for a win (Part 8)

After jumping out of the Poison Dwarf’s car to escape his lust-dressed-up-as-apology — which I paraphrase here as “I behaved badly, it’s your fault, and I will make you pay” — I realized I better apply for jobs at other newspapers. Continue reading

Dressing like a lady and other lessons for a cub reporter (Part 7)

In journalism school, we learned how to shape a story into an inverted pyramid, ask open-ended questions and be fair-minded. What if we wanted to get a big important man to talk and we were female?

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Sweet Young Thing Seeks Star Job (Part 6)

Does it matter more who we were then or what we went on to do?

Graduates from my summer reporting program at the Toronto Star became Editor-in-Chief of the Globe and Mail; a best-selling author of crime fiction; a prominent columnist; foreign correspondents; a journalism professor; a rock critic; and a Pulitzer Prize winner.

But almost three decades ago, we sized each other up around a long table in the Print Room, the bar on the ground floor of the Toronto Star building at One Yonge Street. Continue reading

Prednisone 101: What doctors didn’t tell me (Part 5)

15 prednisone-fuelled moments from journalism school

1. I’d only been back in Ottawa a few days and my face was like a pregnant woman’s belly. People couldn’t keep their hands away.

Walking with a purposeful bounce across the Bank Street bridge, I waved at an approaching  classmate. She looked at me oddly and didn’t wave back. By the time we were face-to-face, she leaned in, squinted, and then gently poked my face with her finger.

“Shelley? What’s the matter with your face?” she squealed. “Are you sick? Did you have your wisdom teeth out?”

I imagined my neo-cherubic cheeks popping, squirting prednisone juice all over her. Continue reading

Getting the scoop of my life (Part 4)

This is how the cover-up began.

I showed up for my summer newspaper internship, signed some papers, found a desk, took an assignment, only cried in the bathroom.

And after writing 1,000 words for a sidebar on a school board matter that should have been just 400 —the Province is a tabloid – I slipped out to await my mother, driving up Granville Street in her Ford Pinto.

That first week, and many after, my mom spent three hours each day as a chauffeur driving to and from the Province. She deserved a medal for driving; me, for acting.

I didn’t tell anybody, editor or the veteran journalists sitting on either side of me, that I’d just been tentatively diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease.

Operating instructions, please

The truth is, I had no idea how a sick person was supposed to act.

Should I tell people my problems? Or would that make me seem weak? If they knew I was sick, could they send me home? Maybe I should be sent home? Would my diagnosis taint me for my dreamed of future as a journalist? Continue reading