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  • Writer's pictureSati Rampersad

Making Cents Of It All

I Need This Job

Before I continue on with my journey of the seemingly continuous physical and emotional onslaught of Crohn’s disease, I’m going to go a little off topic. I need to backtrack a little and explain what was going on behind the scenes during the year when I first got sick to when I received my diagnosis and was hospitalized. You see, I believe it’s important to make people aware of another crucial factor that greatly impacts the lives of those of us with Crohn’s in a way most people don’t really think about. And that is financially. We live in a two-income society, and have since the ‘80’s when I migrated to Canada with my family. ( Plus it’s costly to establish life in a new country when you're starting from scratch). So unless you’ve won the lottery literally or by marrying someone who’s loaded or you're lucky to have family inheritance ( sadly, I was out of luck on all counts ), you NEED to have a job. Employment is not an option. That can be quite a dilemma when you get body-slammed by an unpredictable, debilitating disease like Crohn’s. Let me tell you of my experience with this particular predicament, and yes,I have quite a story to tell. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had an eventful life and I wasn’t joking. If I rant occasionally please excuse me because even though it's been twenty seven years, this is still a bit of a sore topic for me.

Doing My Best

As I mentioned in my website, within months ( about six I think ) of starting my new job, I began getting sick and growing progressively worse within a short period of time. During those sick-free months, I got along great with my supervisor; I’d go so far as to say we became friends. We even socialized outside of the office on occasion. In other words, all was peachy. When I first started experiencing symptoms, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea etc., I thought I had food poisoning or a stomach flu. I obviously had to miss a few days of work because it was so bad. Of course I got a sick note from the doctor, and all was good with my supervisor. I returned to work but the truth was I still felt like I would keel over at any moment, but being the newbie, I sucked it up as best as I could and stuck it out. I was barely eating and sleeping, surviving on three or four hours sleep a night because I was in so much pain and spending hours in the bathroom. I worked in the city and lived in the suburbs, and to get to work for 8:00am, I had to leave home at 6:30am and travel, first by bus then subway. Let me tell you, that daily commute was physical and mental torture. Many a time on my way to work, I would have to get off the bus or train to go frantically looking for a bathroom. So obviously on those days I’d arrive late to work. I would share my predicament with my supervisor but I could see she didn’t believe me. She thought I was just making excuses for my late coming. To make matters worse, I would make frequent trips to the bathroom while at work and that didn’t go over too well either. I tried to explain my situation but, not really knowing what was happening myself, it can across as vague. I knew I looked like the walking dead; I owned a mirror. But for whatever reason, she clearly wasn’t buying my story. I knew she thought I was faking or at the very least exaggerating my condition. She couldn’t SEE anything physically wrong with me other than I’d lost weight. And those of you who know me, know that I always try to look my best regardless to how I feel. There's a reason for that but that's a story for another time. Anyway, friends we certainly were no more! In fact, she grew very hostile and rude towards me, and because of her position of power, she felt she could get away with it. And she did. It became quite unbearable but I just hung in there for dear life.

Take It To The Top

For that entire year, not only was I physically sick, I was stressed out to the max and overwhelmed with guilt for being sick all the time and missing so much work, as well as the additional burden on my coworkers when I was absent. I don't even know how I was functioning. My supervisor became the boss from hell. If I missed work for a day or two, sometimes more because I was too sick, on my return she would pile a ton of work on my desk “to make up for the time I missed”, more work than I could manage. Some of my coworkers would secretly offer to help but because I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble I’d refuse. Others were too afraid to even offer. I too was afraid to complain because I couldn’t afford to lose my job. I was new to the job, new to the country; I didn’t think I had a voice nor did I know my rights. Of course the stress of this situation caused my condition to worsen rapidly. I often wonder if all this added pressure actually contributed to the overall severity of my condition. I honestly believe it did. One day, unable to take it a second more, I marched into the head honcho’s office and just off-loaded! I explained my condition to her and that I had done a zillion tests to figure out what was wrong and was awaiting results. I informed her about my supervisor’s bullying and harassment. I made her aware that while I fully understood that my illness was an inconvenience and somewhat disruptive from a business perspective, it's not like had I a choice. More importantly, I wasn’t sick when I was hired so I shouldn’t be treated as such a pariah now that I was. And all the while as I (respectfully) stated my case, I was scared sh**less not knowing how she would react, if I would be walking out of the office unemployed. I went weak with relief when she told me she would look into the matter, and I should do whatever I needed to do to look after my health. Whatever she did worked because the supervisor from hell went from terrorizing me to completely ignoring me which suited me just fine. And wouldn’t you know that, days after I got this resolved, I received my diagnosis and ended up in the hospital the same day. Ah well. But my life’s drama didn’t cease for very long, it just continued not long after I was released from the hospital.

Just A Few Words Of Advice

So, my fellow crohnies, the morale of the story is: don’t be a wuss like me and suffer in silence until you’re ready to implode or worse. Try to look as sick as you possibly can. Just Kidding!! Stand up and speak up for yourself, don’t let yourself be bullied or victimized like I did. If you’re capable and need to work, you should be given every opportunity to do so. If you're not, there should be some program or plan in place to help see you through this tough time. The world does not hit pause for you when you get sick; you and your family still have to live and meet your financial commitments. We’re (supposedly) living in the age of political correctness and inclusivity. Disability comes in different forms, many of which are not visible. Don’t seek pity or sympathy but rather understanding and acceptance. Don’t allow yourself to be defined by your disease.

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