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I chatted with an old supervisor at Sam’s Club today.  Such a conversation would have been quickly forgotten under most circumstances, had she not brought up a new employee who called off due to foot and leg pain. The former supervisor quickly speculated that the new employee was too young to have such pains.  She probably didn’t catch the look in my eye until I reminded her that she might want to be careful before continuing this conversation.  The former lead tried to brush it off by saying I had a medical reason for the pain.

I have never met the employee in question. I also understand that supervisory staff tends to be suspicious of new employees calling off for any reason.  However, the core assumption was that someone has to be older than their late 30s or early 40s to experience that kind of pain.  If I’ve only learned one lesson from my own experiences, it’s that people who are my age certainly can experience chronic pain conditions.  People who are much younger than I am have fibromyalgia, and more severe conditions like Lupus, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not a single one of these conditions cares about someone’s age, although middle-aged women are more likely to suffer from them than people of other demographic groups.

It seems that I am at the awkward stage of life where I am both too young to have the problems I am having, and I’m having the same problems because I’m getting older.  Some of these pronouncements have come within a few days of each other.  Either I have a great idea for a new Chronic Illness cat meme, or people really need to make up their minds.

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Even with both of my feet in casts and in surgical shoes, I still have to submit a reasonable accommodation form to Human resources to get a stool to sit on.  I realize the HR people aren't at the work site, but the managers need to have some discretion in these cases. 
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Last week, I was having a day at work I could have done without. Crab cakes do not normally bother me, but they smelled particularly fishy and I was having a hard time dealing with them. Although the smell was an overwhelming, it was a minor issue.  The pain, as it almost always does, got worse as the day wore on.  Normally, I can push through this, but I went into a flare by the end of the day.

Towards the end of the day, a nurse, who happened to have Lyme disease. She saw my expression, and she did not buy my usual statement that I’ll be all right eventually. I eventually told her why I was feeling pain.  It might have ended there, but if it had ended there, the story would have been unremarkable.

About twenty seconds later after the first customer came to my stand at Sam’s Club, another customer came. She had worked at the store before. The new customer started to give me unwanted advice about how to do my job, including when to put things in the oven.  I had said, in her presence, more than ones, that I needed to go sit down for a while. The new concerned-for-my-job customer would not shut up however, even as I clearly packed things away, in an attempt to single that I was going off the retail floor..  

Because I was trying to be polite, I said nothing. Eventually, it was the nurse who spoke up and said, “Ma’am, she’s not feeling well, why don’t you giver her a break?”

The helpful customer replied, “If she’s not feeling sick, why doesn't she stay home?”

To which the nurse replied, “It’s not an illness, it’s a condition.”

I think the debate continued for a few seconds more, but I was able to get off the floor and sit down for a few minutes.


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