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To My Professor When My Health Prevents Me from Attending Class


Hi, it’s me again. I wonder if your stomach gets all twisty when you see my email come through like mine does when I type it. I’m sure I email you more than most students that are actually required to take your lecture and I wish I had some sort of question about the material, but as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I don’t.

I wanted to start this message, as I’ve been starting most of them lately, by apologizing. I know it isn’t easy to have to handle a student with as many health issues as me. I know you’ve had students who skip your class and who do so probably without care or remorse, but I promise that’s not me. I can’t honestly remember the last time I just up and skipped a class.

I’m sorry that, once again, I won’t be able attend or have just straight up missed your class today. It’s probably weird of me to apologize for being sick again, but I wonder if you you really know how much missing your class affects me. To be completely honest, the guilt of missing class usually makes my pain worse. Not that I’m blaming you, that would be silly. I just I feel so terrible about it that the stress and anxiety literally adds fuel to my pain fire.

Now OK, cards on the table. I didn’t go to the emergency room or a doctor today. I know that the last time I had to miss your class for the pain, I went to the ER to try and get some relief, but that isn’t something I can do every time I flare up. Otherwise I’d be going in and out twice a week, and then the doctors would start to assume that I was looking for a, what do they call it? A quick fix?

What I mean is that it is hard enough to handle going to the emergency room for a condition that doesn’t yet have a cure, and trying to be taken seriously as it is. I know the first thing the doctors do is check to see how long it’s been since I was in and what sort of medicines I got.

The problem is, I’m young. I’m too young. That’s what everyone says, “You’re so young to have all that pain.” But because I’m young and because of this epidemic of drug abuse, I don’t look like a promising admittance. No matter how many times I go to the same hospital, I still have to go through the whole speech about my condition, how long I’ve had it, and how I tried to do everything I could to stop the fare so I could avoid going to the ER in the first place.

The ER visits can’t be something I do everything I get sick. When I have a flare-up that I know isn’t going to stop without heavy duty medications that I simply can’t get prescribed for daily use, I have to take the step and go. But this wasn’t that kind of day, so I’m missing your class.

I can’t risk losing my “last resort” option because of your attendance policy.

Don’t get me wrong. I know why that attendance policy is important. Without it, students wouldn’t show up and would never have to be held accountable for their decision. In the same regard, I know that if I’m not present in class that I’m missing valuable conversation and questions that come with your lectures. Believe me, if I could help it, I would be that student front and center taking detailed notes and asking stimulating questions. That’s the kind of the student I am.

Or rather, the student I was.

What I’m saying is, I don’t have a doctor’s excuse for today’s absence. I know that makes your job as a professor striving to treat each student equally and hold up the standards you have set for your classroom extremely difficult. And that’s why these emails destroy me when I write them. I go through all of the motions to avoid writing them at all.

I have to wake up a couple hours before I have to be at class, even though it isn’t that far a walk. It takes me about an hour to get out of bed on a good day. I have to weigh my decision of showering that morning because as much as I love to be clean and fresh for every school day, I lose a lot of my strength for the day in the shower. It might sound a little confusing because I do love to take showers. But all that time standing, getting pelted with water, reaching, bending…it takes a toll. So once that decision is made, I try to go about my morning like I’m sure most people do. I get changed, I grab something small to eat, and grab my bag to go.

But that’s on the good days.

On bad days, I can barely get out of bed by myself. Showering is erased from possibility. Getting changed, depending on which part of my body is causing the most discomfort that day, sometimes ends up with me stuck half inside a shirt unable to lift my arms any further. All my time spent trying to move usually eliminates any chance of having a substantial breakfast and I remove as much as possible from my bag to lessen the load for the day.

I’ve been to your class on bad days. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed. Those are the days I don’t participate and where I’m counting the seconds until I’m not in this ill-fitting desk…Where I can’t focus because of the pain. Where we make eye contact and I look away because I don’t want you to see the tears that stay in my eyes.

But today is an even worse day. I haven’t gotten out of bed and I don’t know when I’ll be able to manage that. This is probably too much information for you, but I’ve had to use the restroom for hours, but my body simply can’t function.

And to be honest, my mind is completely zapped as well. You may not tell because you only get this finalized email, but it took me a great deal of time to write. (Thankfully, speak-to-text technology is a lot better than what it used to be.)

If I sent you the first draft of the email you wouldn’t be able to understand it. Autocorrect can’t fix everything, unfortunately. And you know how I write. I’m polite and cordial. Sending a quick, “In pain won’t make it to class sry thx,” isn’t the impression I want to leave in your mind.

I’ll stay up on the syllabus and make sure I’m up to speed by the next class. Any insight on plans we could work out to make sure I’ll stay successful this semester would be great. Though, I do know that you’re busy and won’t always be able to make extra time for a student like me.

I look forward to (hopefully) seeing you in class next week!

That absent student again

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