I went on my last business trip of 2013 last week.
It was only to St. Louis — a one-hour flight from my area — but when you’re sick, any sort of trip is equivalent to running up the stairs at the John Hancock Building and then painting a three-story house.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, overall my job has been seriously amazing in regards to accommodating my needs since being struck with excruciating pain last February.
My boss has allowed me to work from home about 90 percent of the time, he has let me have modified hours if I’m not feeling well, and he’s allowed me to go to each and every one of my 14,285 doctor’s appointments over the past year without docking my pay for a single one of them. He even sent me get-well plant when I had to spend a night in the hospital.
But even when your boss is the only boss you’ve ever met that’s actually worthy of a gift on “Bosses Day”, working while sick is hard.
My day job stills involves lots of business trips, which usually leaves me feeling like I just got out of a boxing ring by the time my plane lands back in Sweet Home Chicago.
I confess that in the past I got through a lot of these trips by downing slightly more than the recommended amount of prescription pain pills than any of my doctors would really want to know about.
Not, like more than anyone should take, just, you know, more than the prescribed amount.
Look, when you literally feel like someone just dropped a cinder block on your right rib cage and you’re five states from home and you’re staring at a day filled with 17 meetings, sometimes you have to make hard choices.
And it’s not even that I take the pills to get through the meetings. It’s more that the pain I end up in while I’m out of town on business — work days that start at 6 a.m. and go until 11 p.m. — cause such unbearable pain that I’m willing to cut into my lungs, pull out my rib cage, and slam it on the table if it would give me even the slightest relief.
So yeah, in the past I’ve taken whatever pills I needed to get through the day, and then I’d just plan to make it up at the end of the month.
What would really happen though is that I would try to ration the pills when I noticed I was getting low, and for the last few days of the month, I’d have one, maybe two a day to get me through — enough to keep me from going into withdrawal, but not enough to help with the pain.
Or, I’d run out five days early and I’d have to beg my doctor (dealer?) for an early refill, lest I have to go through full withdrawal.
The only thing worse than excruciating pain in your right ribs? Excruciating pain in your ribs, plus opiate withdrawal.
Due to this and many other factors, last month I switched to a new pain pill while I was at the doctor.
It’s one of those magical 12-hour pills that supposedly release a new dose into your body every four hours with some form of digestive and pharmaceutical voodoo.
Here’s the thing about these new pills though — I don’t know how to take an extra one here and there when I feel like death.
Good because it means I should come out even at the end of the month.
Bad because it means that when I have to go on a business trip to St. Louis, I don’t have a backup plan when I find myself in the middle of a factory tour, and the pain is literally so bad that I want to just drop down onto the cold cement and lie there until I die.
Anyway, on my last day there, I got up to get ready for my last meeting and I took a shower.
Did you read that?
I got up to get ready for my last meeting and I took a shower.
That’s a totally normal sentence in the world of the well. But when you’re sick, showers are rationed like unicorn horns.
When I’m talking to strangers, I like to say that I shower every other day. But my family knows it’s more like twice a week.
They drain all of my energy, they leave me in horrible pain, and I only take them when I know I’m going to see someone important.
To give you an idea of what qualifies as “important” even my boyfriend doesn’t always make the cut.
I like to pretend I’m still a little classy though, so on business trips I try to shower daily. So, like I said, I got up to get ready for my last meeting and I took a shower.
But between that, blow drying my hair and packing my suitcase, I was done for the day.
Except, of course, I wasn’t.
And as I went to walk down to the front desk to check out, with my carry-on bag in tow, I was in so much pain that if it were a year ago — a.k.a. the magical time before I had to endure a life with daily pain — I literally would have gone to the hospital.
Instead though, I went to my last meeting.
And familiar thoughts started running through my head.
How much longer can I do this? How much pain can I really endure during a business trip? What happens if I can’t do this anymore?
I’m working a job I love, for a boss I love even more. And most of the time it’s stupendous. Except when I have to go on a business trip. Or drive into the office. Or take a shower.
I don’t want to give it up. I have no intention of giving it up.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that sometimes pain doesn’t really care want you want.
Crystal Lindell is journalist who lives in Byron, Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, “Burn Notice” reruns on Netflix and Snicker’s Bites. She also has been diagnosed with intercostal neuralgia, a painful disorder of the nerves running between her ribs.
Crystal writes about it on her blog, The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.