Today I am so excited to share with you all a post from my friend Jamie of Sweetened By Nature! She is a true boss babe! Juggling 4th year Medical School, Crohn’s disease and her Health and Nutrition Blog, is not easy! So, today she will be sharing with us all 5 pieces of advice on managing university with a Chronic Illness.
So, without further adieu here is 5 things you need to know about university with a Chronic Illness!
1. College doesn’t stop when you’re sick
No matter what, you will be stressed at times, which can trigger or exacerbate a flare. Do what you can to stay on top of your health. This includes seeing your doctor regularly (finding a local doc if necessary), eating healthy, sleeping enough and exercising. Avoiding procrastination is huge, as illness often strikes at the worst times (like when I developed a 103 degree fever the week of freshman year finals).
Your professors are human. If you are struggling, be honest with them. Obviously, don’t abuse this, but if you are not well, talk to your professors about your options to keep up with the material as well as your health. A few times in college, I was forced to take a short medical leave. Spending some time at home was often enough to get me well enough to complete the semester. I felt embarrassed, ashamed and even guilty for being so sick, especially when no one truly knew what I was going through. There were times that my professors would take one look at me and send me back to my dorm to rest. As humiliating as it was, it showed how much these professors care about the students.
2. There are resources available for students with disabilities
A chronic disease is a disability, and schools are required to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities. Think about what you could possibly need in case of a disease flare, and talk to your school’s disability counselor. My biggest concern was the possibility for missing more than 3 classes a semester, which could bring my grade down a whole letter or even fail me. Having a document in writing saying that I had a chronic condition that could cause acute flare ups that significantly interfere with daily activities, including my ability to attend class and exams was a great safety just in case I did have a bad flare. Again, this is not something to be abused, but in general, if you are sick and have not slept in days, you probably shouldn’t take an exam and sacrifice your grade. More often than not, your professor would rather you wait and take the exam a day or two later when you are healthier.
3. You do not have to eat normal cafeteria food
Most if not all schools have an allergen friendly section that has more basic foods with fewer ingredients. I had it set up that at one dining hall, I could text the manager with what I wanted to eat and what time I would be there. The cafeteria could prepare essentially any food for me. I usually went with some type of chicken stir fry.
Certain schools have dorms with kitchens or apartment style housing available. Look into medical housing if you would like the option to cook your own food as an underclassman.
4. You are not alone.
Chances are, there is someone (or multiple others) with the same condition as you, especially if you attend a bigger school. Some schools even have support groups for your condition. All schools have free counselors for which you can discuss any struggles. I remember learning that one of my professors had ulcerative colitis when I was in a big flare. He told me how he had it rough in his 20s but has been relatively asymptomatic since. He had a family and had completed a doctorate degree. That gave me so much hope to know this very successful person had a bad disease but was thriving.
5. It will be the time of your life.
When else do you have the chance to hang with your friends essentially 24/7, study anything you want and live semi-independently? There are endless clubs, sporting events and social activities to attend and always new people to meet. As always, there will be ups and downs in school. Positivity and mindfulness are huge and will allow you to get past any hurdles you may face.
For more information, check out my post, Tips for Success in College with a Chronic Disease.
I hope you all enjoyed this post from Jamie! Make sure to check out her blog for more nutrition, health and lifestyle content!
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Your trusty, gutsy gal,