woman climbing devices and things she's using to help her in college

Back to College and Pursuing a Degree Despite UC

As I talked about in a recent article, ulcerative colitis robbed me of my education. I decided to register for college on National College Signing Day.

After a chat with my doctor, then my friends, my son’s father, and then my son, I made the decision to finish what I started. Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) & ulcerative colitis (UC) be damned. I’ve been waiting on my body to cooperate for too long. It’s time I realize it just doesn’t wanna act right and I have to continue to live the life I want to live within reason. For me, finishing school is a calculated risk that is within reason of being a single mother with a chronic condition. However, as I undertake this journey, there is a set of rules I’ve created for myself.

Healthy communication with HCPs

My doctors and I have a relationship built on healthy communication. However, at the start of this journey, it’s important they understand my environment. One thing I’ve learned about living with UC is that it evolves as your body and environment change. This could affect treatment options. It’s also important that your gastroenterologist and all your specialists understand your current mental health status. Being a mother and a patient is stressful without adding on the pressure of college. But I look at it this way: if I have time to update my status on social media, I have time to inform my medical team who is working to keep me healthy.

Starting with online courses

I’ve decided to start by getting my feet wet at Community Classes and doing mostly online classes. I haven’t been in a classroom in 15 years and I just started a new biologic treatment. I’ve decided to begin my journey slowly. I will work toward transferring to a university, directly into a school that encompasses my focus. But in the meantime, I’m still able to keep all my doctor’s appointments, advocacy meetings, travel, and volunteer hours at my son’s school.

Making use of the disability office

I am aware that there are a lot of people who do not consider themselves disabled while living with Crohn's or Colitis and that is totally something I respect. For me, these diseases have and does prevent me from living my life to the fullest as a normal, able-bodied woman. There are days that I may have to miss class because of hospitalizations, procedures, or treatments. When my IBD & AS flare up, it is harder for me to walk, read, and function overall. It’s important for me to go through school this time around secure and covered. So, I’ve made sure I contacted the disability center at my school to receive accommodations IF I need them.

Focus on a major and career that reflects my new life

My original college plan needed to be readjusted. I will never be a television producer. I will never be a constitutional lawyer. But let me tell you what I can be as a single mother living with UC, AS, psoriasis and a handful of other chronic conditions: I can be a policy advisor. I can be a healthcare lobbyist. I can be a political consultant. So, I’ve changed my area of focus and my university plan. Going back to school doesn’t mean that I have decided to ignore the fact that I am a patient. It’s because I am a patient that I’ve decided to go back to school. I’ve got to prove to myself that within the confines of this disease, I can still live the life that I want to live.

I recognize that not all patients have the opportunity, strength or financial means to go back to school. But if you feel that this is the right path for you, you should take it. There is a way for you to safely and comfortably achieve your goals.

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