Unfortunately, when I got sick last winter, I had to drop out of everything, including school. After a few months, I started home-school to try and pick back up where I left off. Thankfully my school was beyond understanding of my situation and made every possible accommodation for my education.
After the summer, I was able to attend Sinclair Community College as a dual-enrolled student. This meant I got high-school and college credit. The school program PSEO (post secondary enrollment options) payed for the tuition, classes, and books. This was easier for me because I only had to go to class 3 days a week for a few hours. I registered with the disability services there, and they made sure my situation was understood by my professors so it wouldn't affect my grade. I took a math class, a chemistry class, a sign language class, and an online english class. It was full-time and it kicked my butt.
For the students and professors who first met me, they would never have known I was ill. They didn't see how hard it was for me to get out of bed that morning and drive myself to the college. They didn't see me struggle to walk to class and carry my backpack. They didn't see me taking my medications in private to avoid weird looks or conversation. They didn't see me throwing up in the bathroom from the nausea and sickness. They didn't see me crying in the bathroom over the physical and mental stress of trying to be a normal student. I got to experience the first of what I fear and know I'll have to deal with for the rest of my studies.
Example 1: The Professor.
I walked in to my first chemistry lab after my exhausting and longest day at school. I immediately noticed that there were no chairs or stools for the 2 hour long lab. I had 3 other classes before this one, and I knew I would also be exposed to chemicals which would irritate my sensitivities. It's impossible for me to stand that long without passing out or collapsing from the pain in my legs. I walked up to my professor, an older man who thought he was funny, and pulled him aside before class. I explained to him I had a condition that causes me to pass out if I am standing for too long. I said that I would fully participate in the lab, I just needed a chair or stool to sit down if I felt faint. He then turned to the class, and made a joke about me fainting. Specifically, said something about "fainting goats" (which I think is a youtube video). He then dismissed me, and walked away. I was dumbfounded. I am always surprised at adults who don't act respectfully. I thought I had left high school... I then walked back up to him and firmly said I was registered with the disability services and if he had a problem he could contact them. I stated that I needed a chair or I would be a liability. He then obliged. This was only the beginning of the struggle I had with this professor! I had to jump through ridiculous hoops to be able to even take tests and to get the grade I earned. It was so frustrating to deal with his lack of cooperation. Thankfully, the disability services were in my corner and handled the situation appropriately. The worse part was that he saw me parked next to him in the handicap spot every morning. I once told this story to my nurse... her response was very fitting and made me laugh! She said, "Well, what's his handicap? Ignorance?!"
Example 2: The "Friends".
My handicap parking was a huge blessing for me. I got to park right under the building where I had most of my classes in the professors' parking garage. This limited the distance I had to walk. My backpack was heavy and my legs were weak. The more walking I had to do, the more pain and fatigue I had. One day, I ran into some old "friends" from my high-school who were also apart of the PSEO program. I had grown up with these girls and once considered them my best friends. When I fell ill, I was tormented and teased by them while I suffered through my last days at my high-school. They even spread rumors that I was faking it when I couldn't attend my class. These girls were mean and I separated myself from them. I consider this disease a filter for the people I don't need in my life. This filter makes a barrier between me and those who are toxic and insensitive to my situation. I cannot waste my energy and time on people like that. I try not to be sad for the loss of this "friendship", but I truly pity their lack of perspective. As I ran into them, I smiled and made small talk like I would do with any stranger. They then asked why I was walking toward the teacher's parking garage. I explained that I was parked there under this building. I started to walk away, again, and they continued to question me. I faced them. I told them I had handicap parking now. The girls laughed in my face and said, "You're really milking this, aren't you?"
Example 3: The Confrontations.
I didn't want to be the sick girl at college. I hid in the bathroom often. I took my medication in private to avoid any confrontations. I was thankful for the disability services, but they couldn't save me from everything...
One time, I was sitting in the cafeteria by myself. I opened my backpack which held my medications, and discretely took my pills. Apparently, some guy still saw. He felt the need to pull a poster off the wall and he placed it on my table as he walked away. The poster read, "Abuse Support Group" with promises of saving my life from destructive decisions. I laughed and thought to myself, if only I had the luxury of making a decision like that.
On my last day of classes, I was leaving the parking garage. This one attendent asked me every time if I had the handicapped parking... and every time, my sign was clearly hanging off my mirror. Thankfully, she was rarely there when I was leaving, and she was the only attendant that continually questioned me. She asked me again if I had the handicap parking.
I smiled at her. "Yes, ma'am." I handed her my ID.
She then made a "hmph" at me.
My forced smile parted... "Excuse me?" I questioned.
"Well," she handed back my ID, "You just don't look, handicapped."
"And you don't look that ignorant."
I'm not usually a confrontational person. The anxiety makes situations like that even worse. But that quarter taught me to stand up for myself, whether I had to face professors, adults, or peers, and to just stop caring about what other people thought. I have a supportive family, a best friend and boyfriend, and a few others who take time to help me out! The best thing I've learned is to just laugh and move on. These examples are just a few of many situations I experienced.
After the quarter, I was wiped out. I got my first B in a class, but I got all A's otherwise- including chemistry! I applied to some colleges and tried to relax during my break. Unfortunately, my break has also wiped me out.
Starting at the beginning of December, I got a kidney infection and possible kidney stones. Immediately after, I got cellulitis in my face. I crashed on Christmas, and now I'm suffering from another upper respiratory infection. I've been basically house-bound this whole break, but I'm surprisingly happy!
I got accepted to the university of my first choice! The University of Cincinnati accepted me to their Pre-Medical Biomedical Sciences program! I also just received my first scholarship if I attend there! The only thing keeping me from going would be my physical limitations of being independent and living on my own.
This disease is limiting. It's debilitating. It's a disadvantage I'll have for the rest of my life. But I know that I can get through this. I want to be a doctor. I want to study the very thing that has taken over my life. I smiled through this. I'm getting through this. And now I'm moving on!