[Image shows a sepia colored background of a wooden table with notebooks laying on it stacked on top of each other. Overlaid is a clip art of torn white notebook paper with a red paper clip with a pen in two different shades of red. In red text on the paper it reads, “Making First Impressions: College and Disability” and in the lower left hand corner is the logo for Thee Crohnie Grace Blog.]
Last Monday was the start of the new semester, due to errors with registration I was a class shorter than I had originally planned which made my schedule pretty light. I was hoping for an easy week, but for people like myself sometimes the first week is more stressful than even finals week.
The first week I always have to meet with the disabilities office to sign off and give a list of my professors, for they all will receive a letter about how I have various illnesses, various medical devices, and that they should try to be accommodating to those things.
Typically when teacher’s receive this, they tend to all think the same thing: sick girl who will miss class a lot, struggle, and expect the teacher to hold their hand and walk them through things. I’ve seen the way teacher’s have treated me in the past and I know that this tends to be the conclusion some harsher teacher’s will come to, while others will be extremely kind and accommodating or even the occasional “Yours story has inspired me.” or “You’re such a brave girl.”
I have discovered a way to combat this over the last few semesters though, and it basically comes down to trying to look and act as abled bodied as possible the first week, talk to the teachers before they get the disability office’s letter, and prove that I am ahead of the ball game by working twice as a hard as other students.
[Image shows school supplies on a hard wood table. Sticky notes, a binder, notecards in a plastic container, notebooks, etc.]
So come Monday when I went to my first class (U.S. History) I had already got my books, notebooks, highlighters, pens (that you don’t have to push down hard to use), and had tried to make myself relatable to the Professor. I had heard about the professor from other people, I knew he was very down to earth, liked comics and geek-y things, and little did I know that I had actually met him at a convention before.
So I put on my Xavier’s Institute shirt and a nice cardigan and khakis and braced myself. Luckily once I had arrived and saw the Professor I remember that I had met him at a college comic convention in October of 2016. The class went smoothly and afterwards I did my usual routine.
“Hi, my name is Grace. I always like to let my professors know ahead of time that I have a handful of medical issues. I have Crohn’s and I have an ileostomy so sometimes I leave to take care of it, but it rarely causes issues. I also have Gastroparesis, basically my stomach doesn’t work, this is my NJ feeding tube, the pump sometimes beeps but it’s nothing to be alarmed about and I can take care of it. I also have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, my joints dislocate a lot, sometimes I use a wheelchair but on good days I can manage with a cane. And I have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, so standing long can cause me some issues with dizziness and passing out.”
“And I sometimes miss class for doctor’s appointments but I try to schedule those around class if possible. Last semester I did miss a week for kidney stones, which also happened the semester before that, but hopefully this semester will be kidney stone free! But I just like to be upfront and honest and let people know so that if something arises it isn’t a surprise.”
Luckily since my Professor had met me previously and followed me on some social media he was already a bit informed about my health and conditions. It made it much easier and far less intimidating.
Luckily Monday I only have that one class. Tuesday I only had attended painting but had missed my very first anatomy and physiology lecture.
The previous art teacher had retired and was also my previous advisor. So when I made it up to the art room, I was anxious to meet the new professor and to see if they would be covering for the advisor position as well since I was changing my major to genetics.
The best part was that our new professor was not only a hilarious woman, but she too had previous interest in genetics and science before deciding to be a teacher. She had moved from Richmond, Virginia and was in fact taking over as advisor. I was so anxious about finding out that the college didn’t have the painting supplies for the class, and also that I needed to pick up my Anatomy and Physiology lab book that I forgot to talk to her before fleeing the class.
So she instead received an e-mail but she was extremely understanding. And I had to message my Anatomy professor and explain why I missed the first class (doctor’s appointment) and she seemed to be understanding as well though a bit more formal about it, so it was hard to tell tone.
Wednesday was Anatomy Lab and History again. It would also be the first time meeting with Anatomy professor who also was the professor for the lecture hall. The class seemed to go smoothly, there was a girl in the class who I had known from a few years back. My passion for science made the class go by quickly.
I went up and talked to the professor and was giving my routine speech when I noticed that my feeding tube was leaking formula not only on me but all over the floor… which made things a little bit more awkward considering it made for a poor first impression and left a lot of things out due to my panic of trying to fix my tube.
On top of that I noticed my ostomy had started leaking in history class but luckily it wasn’t until the end of class and I was able to get home and change it.
And Thursday was my final day of classes and first day of Anatomy and Physiology lecture hall. Seeing as how I had already met with the teacher I decided to just stay in the back and try to avoid people. I have discovered that when you are visibly sick in a class full of nursing students, people love to be nosey. Sometimes I don’t mind and will answer questions with no problem, but other times people would ask questions while the teacher was lecturing and then I was annoyed.
Luckily it has been a long weekend with plenty of time to study, make up notes, and keep ahead of the classes. Hopefully the rest of the semester will go by with minimal issues, for me and for everyone else out there. Being chronically ill is hard, and being a chronically ill college student is even harder, but I can do it.
And it’s thanks to biology and my biology professor last semester that I finally discovered what I’m passionate about and what I want to do with the rest of my life: Genetics 🙂
[Image shows me in a white t shirt with a green alien and the shirt says “Don’t be sad, be rad.” and I’m wearing a mint green skirt with suspenders and have my backpack over my shoulder, glasses on, feeding tube, make up done, etc.]