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Why I Won't Be Enjoying the 'Typical' Spring Break as Someone With Chronic Illness

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As March comes marching on in, this means that college students are about to make their travels to exotic spring break hotspots like Miami, the beaches of Cozumel, Mexico or hit the slopes of Colorado and Utah for some fantastic skiing. Some may head home for a visit and some may take an alternative spring break service trip. That’s probably the plan of a typical college student. Drinking, partying and listening to loud concerts on the beach or hitting up the local restaurant for some partying after skiing.

What I described above won’t be me or many other college students with debilitating chronic illnesses. Some may use the week for a planned hospitalization to regain control of their illnesses. Others with chronic illnesses or learning disabilities may use the week to catch up on work from the semester they are behind on or to get ahead in case something happens. For some, there may be a surgery/procedure and a recovery involved.

There will still be medications that need to be taken up to four times a day or more, physical, occupational or aqua therapies, important appointments scheduled months in advance, weekly infusions and other IV treatments necessary for maintaining the “status quo.” If one with chronic illnesses chooses to neglect the necessary treatments for even a few days to a week, the payback can be catastrophic and potentially even result in requiring medical leave for the remainder of the semester. For me and many like me, it’s just not worth it.

Let’s entertain the idea that I or another person with currently uncontrolled, debilitating chronic illnesses had the physical ability and financial resources to go and enjoy a spring break vacation like the typical college student rather than a “staycation” at home or college. How would I pay for it? College students are notoriously “poor” until spring break comes around and paying for all the shenanigans, alcohol and other excursions comes around. With treatments and medications vital to life not covered by insurance that I can’t or can barely afford, where’s that $2000 for a cruise through the Caribbean going to come from? I surely don’t have that kind of money laying around and even if I did, I’d be spending it on treatments, medications and copays. That would cover a fair amount of copays or a few months of medications for me, bearing in mind that that is just the cost upfront and more expenses will be accumulated as the week goes on.

I’ve just described my week as a person with over 20 uncontrolled, debilitating and progressive chronic conditions. This week, I’ll take my medications, get my weekly treatments, do my physical therapy exercises, try to get ahead on my summer internship and homework for the next few weeks ahead, while trying not to overdo it and set myself way back. Already, I can say I’ve spent more time attempting to catch up on lost sleep from weeks and weeks of poor sleeping conditions. Hopefully this all will be enough for me to finish my semester strong and with a 4.0 despite the circumstances I find myself in.

No matter how much I want to take a vacation over my week-long break, there won’t be any alcohol over my spring break or loud music, migraine-inducing headaches. As a senior, I realize this is my last opportunity to partake in the legendary “college spring break” and that I haven’t done so thus far. Honestly, I’m OK with it. It just simply isn’t safe for me to have my medications and alcohol in my system at the same time. But still, who really wants to spend the week in a hungover state with a wicked headache and a bunch of vomiting thrown in there? Not me. I have enough vomiting and headaches from my illnesses alone, I don’t feel the need to throw gas on the fire. I realize this won’t be everyone’s break, but it is a common, stereotypical spring break and it is one that many with chronic illnesses won’t be able to enjoy.

Now, individuals with chronic illnesses will find their own ways to find joy in the midst of the situations and circumstances they find themselves in. We simply have to for the sake of our mental health and enjoyment of life. This may be as simple as spending time with family or catching up with a friend from high school that has decided not to take a vacation.

This article isn’t intended to gain pity, but rather to inform why you may not see your friend with chronic illnesses joining you on your adventures. Trust me when I say that many of us want to, but in many cases, it would be severely detrimental to our health.

Getty Image by kieferpix

Originally published: March 6, 2018
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