Everything and everyone in the newsroom looked the same as they had more than 30 days earlier when I said goodbye as if I wasn’t going to return. However, I was different. I had changed.
Externally my co-workers noticed very little different. In fact, that’s something that surprised them. I suspect when they learned I hadn’t eaten solid food for a month, they expected to see a skeletal shell of the woman they knew. Hell, I’d check myself periodically to see just how much weight I’d lost. I, too, was shocked that the amount was very little. I couldn’t explain it. Actually, there was a part of me that was slightly disappointed because I hate when people say “you don’t look sick.” Or, shockingly announce, “You look good. You look better than I anticipated.”
I suppose the outside of me didn’t reflect the turmoil going on inside my esophagus, sternum, and stomach. All of them were still swollen, sore and often irritated me just to breathe, let alone eat and drink. I couldn’t sit up at my desk without a pillow behind my back. Even that did little to soothe my middle after a few hours. When the pain got too great, it was time for another Vicodin or Acetaminophen with Codeine.
I kept the liquids flowing during my nine hour shift, alternating between an Ensure clear nutritional drink, tea and water. My main sources of sustenance were applesauce, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and soft candy. Occasionally, I’d try to hollow out a muffin and eat the soft middle slathered in butter. But, once a few pieces got stuck, choking me, I gave up on “exotic” food while at work.
I thought the constant outpouring of concern for my health would continue once people learned about the meager amount off calories I was ingesting. I was wrong. By day two my workload was the same as if I hadn’t just had my gut ripped apart by a surgical robot.
I began to seethe with anger, thinking about how for once I wish I was treated like a person who was chronically ill doing my best to function as if I were not. Then, it hit me. Everyone was behaving just as I had asked and trained them to be, oblivious to my ailment, seeing only another co-worker ready and willing to work. With that realization, my hostility subsided and I went back to silently crafting my news stories without complaint.
About the Author:
Nika C. Beamon is the author of the medical memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House about my nearly 20 quest to get the correct medical diagnosis. In 2009 Chicago Review Press published her non-fiction book, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married. Beamon is also the author of two mystery novels.