College graduation – May 2008
My plan to take 20+ credits a semester was derailed as I contemplated dropping out of college all together. In the end I decided to try to stick it out by cutting to 13 credits, just enough to stay full time and keep my academic scholarship.
Navigating our small old college campus in the Wisconsin snow and ice proved to be extremely challenging. I found routes I’d never considered to find elevators to replace stairs and hills. I couldn’t do my own laundry, grocery shopping was an all out exhausting process, the mall was unthinkable. I even remember going to the movies and realizing it required altering my seat choice to avoid stairs. Needless to say, my college roommate was a saint.
I can vividly remember one fight she and I had. It’s the only one I remember, but it wasn’t pretty. The ultimate driving force was that I was unhappy, miserable, in pain all of the time and she had essentially become a caretaker in my life because there was so much I couldn’t do. My compromised immune system meant I got sick often and so many daily activities were now not so ordinary or simple.
The months and years that followed included a series of medication trials and errors. Some didn’t work. Others caused other health problems to spring up. And others I had extreme adverse reactions to. One of the first they tried was called Imuran. It was fine at first and then I started throwing up…often. Without a fever or other symptoms, I was convinced it was my medication. I remember going off of it and finally being able to keep food down. But my doctor’s wanted me to try it one more time…you know, just to be absolutely sure it was the medication. My roommate and I decided Cracker Barrel sounded amazing for dinner one night and afterwards the medication ruined that meal. I still can’t eat their corn or chicken to this day.
I’ve only been hospitalized once in my life and it was the Fall after I first got diagnosed. They decided to try a new treatment called IVIG (a helpful acronym for intravenous immunoglobulin) After an initial five day hospital stay with two infusions a day, I visited the infusion clinic two days in a row for four to eight hours a day about every three weeks for almost the next year. You can see how keeping up with college might become difficult.
Three years, one year longer than planned, and a modified student teaching placement that ended me in bed with the flu for a solid month later, I graduated from college. I look back at pictures from college graduation and it’s hard to believe it’s me. I had never been a particularly healthy or in shape person, but at the time I didn’t realize how out of control it had gotten because of my medications and lack of movement.
Teaching was all I had wanted to do my entire life. Sure, other ideas had momentarily passed my mind, but I always came back to teaching. But, thankfully my passion for teaching had fizzled somewhere along the way because I couldn’t have physically been a full-time teacher.