When Your Chronic Illness Delays Your Ability to Graduate From College


This week is an especially hard week since I should be just about to graduate college. However, this is sadly not the case. I have tried to complete my junior year of college twice now, and next year when I am off for medical leave, I will return to try junior year a third time.

Let me tell you that it is hard to watch people do things that you are never going to be able to do, or be able to do “on time.”  Graduation is just one of these many events that I am unable to fully participate in. Yes, I am determined to graduate one day, but it will not be with the peers that I started with, or in the field that I intended.  Chronic illness hurts you in more ways than just one. When you are little you are told that you can be and do anything. You are told to shoot for the stars, and when you cannot, it hurts. Chronic illness forces you to change your entire life to accommodate it.

This week I have seen more pictures and posts about graduation than I would like to count. Pictures of happy soon to be graduates with their caps and gowns. Many of these people I started college with, but come graduation, I will be in a different state, studying a different field, currently on medical leave. While they are celebrating their freedom from college, and the fact that their future is bright, I am trying to find any way to finish my junior year.

With every picture that I see, I am reminded of the fact that I am home on medical leave. I am reminded that I cannot do what I originally wanted to do, and that apparently the second semester of junior year is cursed (at least for me anyway).  While I am happy for my friends who are graduating, I cannot help but be a little sad and disappointed at the same time. If everything went to plan, I would be graduating. Sadly, my life decided to take a few too many detours on the way to this point.

I first dreamed of becoming a pediatric cardiac nurse.  I was in nursing school and doing pretty well, however, with all of my medical conditions that is no longer a viable option.  One reason being that I now have started to have muscle spasms, which is not safe, and is a liability. Imagine having to do basically anything when all of a sudden a muscle spasm happens. To me, that is terrifying and something that cannot happen. I do not want to have someone’s life in my hands when I have the possibility of this happening. With all of my other symptoms and conditions, nursing is no longer something that I can do.

Imagine if I dislocated while doing something, or if I had to run to answer a call light.  It would be a nightmare for everyone involved. My lifelong dream was destroyed because of my medical conditions. I was lucky, I was able to find myself a new career path. A career that will give me opportunities to grow, and not limit me because of my medical conditions.

There are other little dreams that have been taken away because of my medical conditions. For example, I will never be able to study abroad, or travel a lot. Imagine having to sit through class after class where amazing experiences are gone through in detail. Imagine being able to have no limits, and being able to go pretty much anywhere. However, I am unable to. I am tied to my insurance, my medications, and my doctors. This means that I am tied to my home. It hurts when you are told that there are all of these amazing opportunities out there that you will probably never get to experience. I want to be able to have these amazing adventures – school related or not. I want to be able to see different countries, try new things, and forget for a minute that I am chronically ill.

I cannot help but ask, what would I be doing if I was not chronically ill? Where would I be living? Where would I be working? Who would my friends be? Would I be dating someone? Would I be happy? The questions are endless, and even though you try to be positive, there are always going to be these questions that eat away at you.

The unknown is terrifying, and when you do not know what is going to become of your life, you have no idea where to turn. It is a simple fact that your life will change because of your illness, it does not give you much of a choice in the matter. However, you do have the opportunity to decide if you let it dictate your happiness.

While I am disappointed that I am no longer going to become a nurse, or be graduating this week, there are still some good things. I mean, I have a support system around me, and I am lucky enough to have my service dog by my side. With these things in my life, I am lucky. Maybe not lucky enough not to have a chronic illness, but you win some and you lose some.

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