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 suggests more serious lupus, such as lupus nephritis or kidney lupus.
As far as I knew, my kidneys were not involved, which was a comfort to me. Unchecked, lupus nephritis can lead to total kidney failure and be the dividing line between serious and devastating sickness. While I already knew I could handle a life marked by joint, heart and lung inflammation, I wasn’t sure what more I could endure.
That day in the office, the doctor asked how lupus impacted me on the job, and I told her the truth. I never called in sick.
Whatever she found in my blood, she told the company I was fit to work. So I began my new job full of hope. Continue reading