Living in Utah then moving to Texas was a very big environmental change for me. I thought my body was going insane a few years in because it was more than common for me to pass out. I had even once passed out in the shower and had to get an MRI afterwards.
It was interesting because nothing seemed to be wrong upon my hospital release. I blamed it on dehydration and the Texas heat. Interestingly enough, while looking back to the exam, the hospital actually ran tests only for drugs and other substances but nothing else.
MY NEW CAREER
Soon after moving back to Utah, I began working for a tanning salon, quickly being pushed into management. About 3 months into managing the salons, I began feeling the same symptoms as before. I naively passed these symptoms off as effects from the stress of a new job.
When I went to the doctor for my annual checkup and blood work, my doctor said my iron levels were very low and to eat more protein. I am a pescatarian, and this is fairly common if you don’t watch what you eat. I upped my protein intake and even took some vitamins high in iron.
3 months after this visit, I came in for a follow up and she said if I still wasn’t feeling well to see a specialist. I thought this was strange because I typically felt fine. I would often feel drained and sleep as much as I could, but I always thought it was from the stress.
I DECIDED TO SEE A SPECIALIST
I decided to go see the specialist, not knowing what was going to happen or why I was even there. After my blood tests came back, the specialist freaked out a little bit, saying “my doctor was horrible not sending me sooner”. It turns out there was less than 1% of iron in my entire body- less than 1%!! The words “internal bleeding” and “cancer” were swirling around throughout these conversations and it got very serious, very fast.
My specialist decided instead of a blood transfusion I would have to have 2 sets of Iron Infusions and advised me not to work the next few weeks. The infusions were actually very new and just out of testing phases. When I told my supervisor this, she showed some sympathy but told me if I didn’t work I would be fired.
I FELT DISTRAUGHT AND HELPLESS
At this time in my career I had no Idea what the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was. Although I would not have been eligible because of how few workers there was, many go through their lives not knowing this valuable resource. In summary the Family Medical Leave Act is a “United States labor law requiring covered employers to provide employees with job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.”
I had two sets of infusions, both two weeks apart. The morning of my first infusion I was at the salon 9 am sharp ready to work. Was I focused and did I sell anything that day? Of course not. I was all over the place trying to piece my life together.
The infusion itself was interesting; I am a bit (a lot) scared of needles and had to have the nurses put a blanket over my arm so I wasn’t so nervous. It was 30 minutes of ice cold liquid traveling throughout my body. “What if” thoughts began engulfing me as I sat in this room among many cancer patients receiving chemo.
I was able to schedule the day after my first infusion off, but it took telling the rest of the other managers about my cancer scare just to get sympathy to do so. My boss was absolutely relentless, emailing and calling the entire next day. Instead of returning these emails and calls, I slept the entire weekend.
The day after my second infusion I wasn’t so lucky. I was forced to work almost 10 hours and fell asleep multiple times during my shift. Don’t worry… no one noticed!
In conclusion, it’s extremely beneficial to know your rights about FMLA, because chances are you are covered. Also, read through your employee handbook for specific information about their status on situations like mine. A lot of companies have additional policies that protect your rights in a medical situation. I should have gotten out of this job at this time but I didn’t, and of course, things got worse.