The real cost of chronic illness

Any of you who also follow me on know that I have struggled with a chronic illness for 31 years.

It involves major surgery about every 10 years.

And my next one is looming August 20th.

As I sat in the 6th waiting room at the hospital Friday, I got to thinking about the cost of having a chronic illness.

Aside from the thousands of dollars spent-over $25,000 out of pocket to date, there is an emotional toll on me and my loved ones, and an extra burden on the coworker who has to pick up the slack for about 4-6 weeks. The time away from work has been incredibly damaging in my 23 year career. I was so hopeful as a bright-eyed 20-something geologist many years ago. I was unstoppable.


I thought that my purpose in life was to help pave the way for other lady geologists.

Someone with a multitude of doctor visits, surgeries, pre-post op care and lost time has to lay down the torch for the “cause” and does not become a senior leader let alone a CEO.

I have had to swallow this jagged fact.

And left a former employer because some didn’t understand. This disability is not so visible:

Estimated costs of replacing a professional are 2x salary.

These days, I’m fortunate enough to have a fabulous boss and team who are incredibly understanding. What that buys me is confidence to face this horrible disease and return to work, feeling good and ready to help my team meet our goals. What that buys my company is ownership-a team member dedicated to her team and the project.

The kindness of my boss and coworkers who see that this scientific mind is trapped in this diseased and drugged body is not lost on me. One remarked “you are an incredibly strong person to have had to deal with this with such grace. Man, I can’t imagine.”

I had to bite my lip as I said “thank you”.

I remember a former coworker geologist who was blind. He came to work without fail and inspired me to keep going. To suit up and show up.

So that’s what I do.

As hard as it has been to accept God’s role for me (teacher) and not mine (super scientist with a cape) I will do it.

I will keep fighting.

I will keep writing.

I will keep teaching.


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