The Chronic Crohn's Life

Hi! My name is Patrick and I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease when I was in college at the age of 19. It had a devastating affect on me physically, emotionally, and academically.

I was diagnosed a year after my mother had passed away and believe the stress of experiencing that may have aggravated the disease and sped up its effects. In any case, I went from being a Dean's List/Honor Roll student to being placed on academic probation. After two years of hell, I woke up one day and just left college. I was exhausted, anemic, weighed less than 100 pounds, and depressed. I never filed for medical leave or went through any formal process - I just left. This was a mistake and would come back to haunt me.

I eventually had to have 2 feet of my ileum removed as well as half of my bladder (it had been severely damaged by a fistula). After my surgery, I adopted a new lifestyle and took up Yoga and began a religious physical fitness regiment. I went into a 20 year med-free remission and eventually returned to college to complete my degree.

I became a music teacher and in my state (New Jersey) you can obtain a teacher's certificate by going through the "alternate route" process. This means you earn a certification while working as a teacher. I was working in a district that was all alternative and special education. I taught music to children with autism; children with physical disabilities; high school kids with behavioral classifications; and high school kids from at risk inner-city backgrounds. I am a great teacher and was highly effective.

The problem was, the state told me my college GPA was too low for the alternate route requirement. I appealed to the state explaining that when I was just a sophomore (and young) I was diagnosed with Crohn's. I also had letters of support from my district superintendent as well as principals, teachers, and students. The state denied my appeal and told me I could not become a teacher unless I went back to school and received a Master's.

Well, I don't have the money for a Master's Degree. This was very upsetting to me. Who knew Crohn's Disease would effect me professionally? To make matters worse, I had a flare up in the midst of my appeal (I'm pretty sure it was caused by stress) and had to go back on meds for the first time in 20 years.

I have re-routed my career but I think my experience is the result of people not understanding what it's like to live with a chronic illness. I'm mad at the state, but I'm also mad at my University because I never received any advice or guidance when I was sick or when I returned.

I won't let this stop me though. In fact it's inspired me. I still teach music and do private lessons. I workout religiously 3 days a week (Tuesday morning I did 2.5 miles in 20 minuets and then did an hour of Yoga) and will not let Crohn's define me.

I think we must always remain positive. That's the key.

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