It was 2009, I was fresh out of university and eager to start my career as a writer. I wasn’t sure quite where to begin so applied for any relevant job that would help me get a foot in the door, so to speak.
While applying for jobs and going to interviews I worked two jobs to help pay me way after moving back home.
It took about a year for me to land a job with a local magazine. Essentially, I was working as a telemarketer, but at the back of my head was the potential to write for the magazine and the wedding website they owned. After a couple of months of achieving the targets they set for me I asked to write for the wedding site, in my own time of course. They accepted my proposal, and I soon began writing for the site on a regular basis and shortly after I took on the management of the site, along with the social platforms and annual wedding magazine. But, that wasn’t enough!
I wanted to write for the local magazine too, which they were more than happy for me to do having shown my determination and skills on the wedding site. I was given the title as features editor and began working on more in-depth pieces of content. However, after just six months, I began getting these awful, painful lumps forming under my arms. I continued to work and the doctors just gave me antibiotics to stop whatever infection was occurring.
I was on and off antibiotics every few weeks, until one lump under my arm just wouldn’t go. It increased to the size of a golf ball. I couldn’t put my arm down or move too much without excruciating pain. I ended up going to hospital, but there wasn’t much they could do other than refer me to a specialist. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) – a painful, long term skin condition that causes abscesses and scarring on the skin. It’s a progressive disease that can be incredibly debilitating. Many things can trigger flare-ups including menstruation, weight gain, stress, hormonal changes, heat, and perspiration.
I was soon booked in for surgery to remove all the tissue under my arm, but the surgery went wrong. A hole formed, which needed to be packed by a nurse every few days. So, my career was on pause.
After a few weeks off I returned to work and was able to limit visits to the nurse to once a week, but I was exhausted. I was drinking energy drinks throughout the day to try and give myself a boost, but nothing seemed to help and the wound under my arm wasn’t healing. I had the wound cauterized every couple of weeks and still… nothing.
Due to there being very little progress, I went for a check-up with my surgeon, who decided to conduct another surgery on me right then and there. I left the hospital dazed, confused, covered in blood. Then I made the call to work explaining that I wouldn’t be back for the rest of the day, or for a few more weeks as I’d just had another surgery and I didn’t even know how I was even going to drive myself home.
Another surgery on and I ended up with septicaemia. It was relentless. But, I was determined to not let the situation bring me down. I went back to work as soon as I was able, but due to the amount of time I’d been having off the company decided to add further pressure by assigning me sales targets, along with working on account management. It didn’t help with my stress levels or exhaustion. However, I persevered. I would not let them get to me. I’d come this far, I wasn’t going to be beaten now.
I hit my sales targets and began looking for another job in the hope that a new job would give me a new lease of life and reduce my stress. I secured a job at a local digital marketing agency, but during my notice period I developed another satsuma sized lump in my arm. My surgeon decided to leave it, saying as it was internal and in the fleshy part of my arm it could be removed, but also cause further issues. We left it. I started my new job. The lump stayed with me for months, but in this time I set about making my mark. I was determined to prove that I was an asset and not easily replaceable.
Three months in I applied for a manager’s position that came available, but it wasn’t the job I wanted. I wanted to pitch to separate the content and PR department into two and for me to head up the PR team. And I got the job I wanted. Manager of the PR team. From then on, I continued to work hard to deliver on the projects we worked on. I was working in a high-pressure environment, but one it was a job I felt appreciated for, and I had a great team around me.
I didn’t even notice when the lump in my arm finally disappeared. It just went and luckily, I’ve not had any major issues since.
I gained a great deal of experience working for the agency, but essentially, I wanted to create my own agency. To provide others with a flexible and enjoyable work environment and to provide clients with real results. So, in 2016 I set up Quibble Content Ltd. I still ensure I pay close attention to my body. I monitor my stress levels and try to counteract any early warning signs that I may have another outbreak.
It’s an issue I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life, but as long as I’m happy in what I do and surround myself with those who’re able to support me I have no doubt that I can keep my HS at bay.
So, how did living with this health condition change me? It showed me that nothing is more important than remaining focused and determined. When you’ve had to survive off very little money it makes you appreciate what you have so much more. Further to this, the inability to move also made me more determined to maintain my fitness and change my diet to include healthier foods, including anti-inflammatory foods.
My tips to living with a health condition:
-Take the time you need to heal; your health is more important than anything.
-Listen to your body. Fuel your body and take steps you need to reduce stress, whether that’s a gentle walk, yoga or an early night.
-If you feel like you’re at risk of a relapse, speak to your employer, be open and honest that you need to reduce your stress or take a day off. They’ll appreciate the honesty and if they’re an understanding employer they’ll support you.
-Ask for flexible and remote working. If you want to continue working, ask your employer if there’s an option to work hours that suit you better or if you can work from home.
Everyone is different, as is every health condition, so it’s important to do what’s best for you.
About the author
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Most people would take the day off sick from work if they felt the way I feel on a good day. On a bad day, they would be in A&E. Working when you are sick can be hard but imagine how it would be if you had a debilitating illness like Sickle Cell. An illness where your energy levels are never up to normal standards, can trigger a crisis at any time and lose a day, even a month for a much-needed blood transfusion.
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