Tag Archives: invisible chronic illness

Drawing Seven Things Not To Say To The Chronically Ill

People with chronic illnesses get a lot of weird comments and strange advice.

Here’s my Top 7 list of what not to say, along with some advice on what would really be helpful.

My blog, The Sick Days, started as an assignment for my Digital Strategy course at the University of Toronto, where I’m earning my certificate in Strategic Public Relations.  In addition to the blog, we had to make a short video. Check out mine:

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

Who’s afraid of the wolf? (Part 3)

If home is where the heart is, what about the hurt?

Would it follow me there, too?

Upon my return from university, I sat in my straight jacket of pain watching my parents take action.

My dad pulled out the plaid sofa bed in the basement so I could sleep upright by leaning on the back of the couch. He moved the TV close, pushed the shuffleboard out of the way.

My mom brought me warm towels to pack around my chest. When that didn’t ease the hurt, she wrapped her arms around me, trying to minimize the ripping pain that came with each breath.

They’d booked me an appointment for the following day with our family doctor, but I was without hope. After five doctors and 18 months, I already viewed the medical profession with doubt and disappointment.

But as I unspooled my story to our GP, he didn’t take his eyes off of me, or scrawl a prescription for sleeping pills. He put a stethoscope to my chest, probed by tender joints and then leaned close.

“I think you have systemic lupus,” he said.

I remember thinking, ‘Lupus, like a wolf? What an awful name for a disease.’ Continue reading

While pills spelling out the word sick

Emergency pit stop: the search for a cause continues (Part 2)

The guerrilla attacks of pseudo paralysis continued, random and stealth.

Like when my left arm — I’m left handed — went completely limp while playing pick-up, and I couldn’t dribble a basketball or take a shot. That lasted for a few days. Or when I was door-knocking for a candidate in the federal election and I had to use crutches because my legs felt like they’d run a marathon. I worried my friends thought I was crazy. I worried, too.
Continue reading

Before the pain. Fighting for a basketball at Carleton University.

Mystery Illness: In search of an oil can (Part 1)

On Easter Sunday, when I was 19, I awoke from panicky dreams of missed j-school deadlines and failed foul shots to find that I was encased in a body bag of pain.

Before I consciously understood that I couldn’t move, my first thoughts were of a feature story due the next day, an air ball I doinked in the last basketball game of an inauspicious season for Carleton University, and a gnawing hunger for carbs.

I imagined crumpets, discounted and day-old, from the thrift bakery around the corner. My roommates and I survived on its discards.

It was like having a beer store on the block if we were a house of 18-year-old guys with new fake  ID, instead we were… Continue reading