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When a Radiology Technician Told Me 'It Must Be Nice' to Miss Work

Snide remarks started before I was even diagnosed.

I had just consumed 32 ounces of chalky barium contrast, and was concentrating on trying to relax my stomach while the radiology technician inserted the contrast IV into my left arm. I knew what the CT scan was for. I knew that we were checking for signs of lymphoma, and I was scared out of my mind.

“Thank God it’s Friday, right?” he said to me.

“Actually, I hadn’t noticed. I’ve missed eight weeks of work because I’ve been so sick for so long, so I honestly hadn’t thought about what day it is.”

“Must be nice,” he said as he left the room to begin the scan. I inhaled deeply, following the instructions given to me by the mechanical voice, preparing to hold my breath for the scan.

I would have given anything to be at work that day, instead of where I was.

Not everyone with fibromyalgia has this experience, but a specific event kicked off my illness and lead to a diagnosis. I caught what I initially thought was a bad flu. It was the sickest I had ever been in my life. It soon became apparent that whatever I was dealing with was not the flu.

I ultimately ran a fever every day for over three months. It was physically trying, but the worst part was the constant terror. I never did get a label or specific cause of those fevers. (My medical team ultimately hypothesized that it was a very nasty viral infection after other potential causes had been ruled out.) I was put on three rounds of antibiotics. I lost weight. I had been through an enormous battery of tests spanning months, investigating the possibility of autoimmune disorders, as well as hematological cancers or other malignancies. I spent my birthday numbly awaiting the results of that CT scan. I spent a lot of time wondering if I was dying, terrified that I would end up passing away before anyone figured out what was wrong with me.

Eventually, after months, the fevers slowly subsided. My appetite came back. But my energy remained sapped, I was still dealing with unexplained pain, and using my once lightning-sharp, doctoral student brain felt like pushing a stalled pickup truck through mud. After visiting seven different doctors in my home state, doctors at the Mayo Clinic finally gave me the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and I was given a treatment plan. With their help, five months after the initial onset of this “viral infection,” I am just now attempting to re-enter my work environment. I still don’t know if that is going to be successful or not.

But at no point was my unexpected hiatus “nice.” There was nothing pleasant about what I went through. I spent most of that time bedridden. There were days when I went to bed dreading waking up the next morning because the thought of surviving another day was so daunting. At first, the comment from that tech didn’t really penetrate. I was busy worrying about whether or not I had lymphoma and trying to follow the breathing instructions from the machine. But as I’m recovering, and spending more time reflecting on the diagnostic process as a whole, I find it bothers me more the more I think about it.

I am certain it was not said with malicious intent. I am pretty sure he was tired after a long day at work, and looking forward to going home for a relaxing weekend. But being so ill that I found myself out of work was not, and is not, “nice.” I would encourage anyone who feels that those with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses have been dealt a “nice” hand to stop and think about what you are actually implying.

Again, in that moment on that Friday afternoon, I’d have given anything to just be at work.

Getty Image by Victoria Estelle