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What You Don't Know About My School Absences

Growing up, I never missed school. Ever.

Every year, on the last day of school, I would proudly hold up my perfect attendance certificate, feeling like I was queen of the world. The free pizza from Pizza Hut or the minor league baseball tickets were totally worth coming to school daily, even with the occasional stuffy nose or sore tummy. When I got to high school, I refused to miss a day of school because I needed to make sure I didn’t fail my finals.

During my freshman and sophomore years, I missed a day of school per year. But then the diagnosis and junior year came. I was put on a 504 special education plan that allowed me to miss as many days as needed for doctor appointments. And so the once “perfect attendance queen” was no more.

Many days, I would come to school for two hours, leave for an appointment, and come back for the last two hours of the day. Other days, I would miss half a day, or even an entire day. I’m sure other students noticed that I was only at school three or four days a week, or I was constantly late to class due to being in the nurses office. But most kids didn’t say anything.

However, on two occasions I was confronted about my absences.

I walked in to my seventh hour biology class with mascara running down my face. I quietly took a seat in the corner and pulled out my text book. I looked up to see the girl sitting across from me whisper, “Where have you been?” I shook my head and continued working, hoping she would get the hint.

“Hey, was it your fibro-me-al-jah?” I shook my head yes. “I swear you just make that up to skip school.”

I forced a laugh and pretended to continue working.

On a cold winter day, I snuck in to my history class when out of the blue a boy shouted out to the teacher, “She comes late to class every day, and you never count her tardy!” I looked down and mumbled under my breath, “Did you just have to take two pills and be brushed with a sensory brush?”

A year later, I am still questioned about my absences and I will give more information, yet I do not tell the entire story. But now I will.

Do you know what it’s like to wake up at 4 a.m. to drive three hours to the hospital in morning traffic? Have you ever wished to be at school instead of in the hospital with dozens of acupuncture needles in your back? Do you worry about your dropping grades, pile of make-up work, and having to teach yourself the lesson? Have you ever sat in class biting your tongue to hold back to tears because your pain is flaring? Do you stay home some mornings to sleep in because you were up all night, due to a a medicine reaction?

No. No, it’s likely you don’t know what it’s like to be the chronically sick teen who misses 350 hours of school in a year to attend doctors appointments – all while she still makes all A’s, holds an officer position in FFA, and has over 60 dual credit hours. You don’t know what it’s like to do homework with IVs in your arm or write a paper in a waiting room. You don’t know what it’s like to come back to school after sitting in an emotionally draining counseling session. You don’t know what it’s like to be me, so please don’t judge me for missing school. Trust me, I’d so much rather be at school.

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Thinkstock Image By: Artsiom Kireyau