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When My Health Made Me Take a Leave of Absence From High School

I’m 20 years old, and I just graduated from high school.

From the time I was in elementary school, I remember signing into the computers in computer lab. First initial, last name, and the year of my graduation from high school: 2015. Those four numbers quickly became a year that I looked forward to from the time that I could fully understand what it meant, and what it implied. Accomplishment, success, freedom, college.

When I reached middle school age and moved up a level in the pyramid of educational “rank,” high school graduation seemed just a bit closer, and as I continued to log into the computers at school, the year “2015” followed me wherever I went. I easily transitioned into high school, with freshman year rushing by. Three years now stood between myself, and seemingly, the beginning of my life. Sophomore year soon followed, and in May of that year, just one month away from summer, chronic illness and I were introduced to each other.

Symptoms consumed me. I drifted into a haze, quickly leaving just a shell of me behind, making it evident that it would be medically necessary to excuse me from school for the remainder for the semester.

“She’ll be back in September, she just needs to recover for a few months,” my mom told the administration of my school.

We all thought that I’d be OK, and that the school path that had been set out for me so many years ago would stay completely intact. Up to this point, it was if all of the puzzle pieces had fit together perfectly with not one piece missing. In my mind, as well as my parents’, everything would be done to continue laying those same pieces until we reached June of 2015 and completed the long awaited puzzle, only to begin a new college puzzle a few months later.

“There can’t be anything standing in my way, this can’t be happening,” I found myself often thinking.

My perfect puzzle didn’t happen and I watched 2015 come and go while remaining a high school student. It was devastating. A one month medical leave turned into a year and a half leave, with many futile attempts for re-introduction to the school setting during it. My friends moved on, while I became well acquainted with doctor’s offices. Instead of submitting essays, I submitted paper work to doctors pleading for their help. While my friends were analyzing Shakespeare, I spent my days trying to piece together basic sentences in order to communicate. My path of schooling had been so perfectly planned and anticipated, yet I had no choice but to stray from the path that I so desperately wanted to follow… and I’m OK with it now.

Today, my supposed-to-be graduating class are now juniors in college, and I have just graduated from high school. As my friends enter their second semester of junior year, I’ll be entering the first semester of my freshman year. Things are different than I would have expected them to be, or hoped for them to be. With that being said, I truly believe that kids who are pulled out of school due to chronic illness continue their education, just in a different way.

Because of chronic illness, I have learned how to effectively communicate with my doctors and other professionals who are many years my senior. I’ve learned how to “adult” before my time, and to be totally responsible for myself and my healing. It has been far from an easy education, but I truly believe that I am better equipped now to handle the “real world” than I would have been had I not walked this journey.

So here we are. It’s December of 2017. Thirty months later than my intended graduation date of June of 2015, and I am proud of what I have accomplished. I am far from alone in this struggle of facing the difficult dilemma of school versus health. If I had anything to do with it, schools would place a medal around each chronic illness warrior’s neck, and make sure that they know that their 24/7 job of taking care of their health is an absolutely incredible feat. Without a strong mind and body there cannot be a strong student. Your hard work in chasing health is more than enough for now.

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Gettyimage by: lewkmiller