I can relate to many of you in dealing with AS and going to college. I was hoping to be finished at the age of 26 or 27 with my bachelor's degree. Up until the fall of 2005, I was very healthy and active. I did very well in my classes (except math). I had my first iritis bout diagnosed on Nov. 4, 2005. At the time, I was taking eleven hours of classes. Fortunately, I was also taking online classes. I also had to instill eye drops every hour (including at night) in addition to taking predinsolone pills. I felt tired and did not have energy for anything.
When I was not studying, eating going to class or my eye doctor, I napped. The eye doctor told me my left eye cleared up on Dec. 2, 2005. Trying to finish up a semester when I was not feeling well was not fun. But I managed to pass all of my classes.
The only time I was sick in 2006 was when I had a really bad cold and I did not have to go to the doctor that year at all. I did well in my classes and was going to get my associate's degree the following spring.
Shortly after my 25th birthday in Jan. 2007, my joints started to ache, I started feeling weak, my hair was falling out, I had lost a lot of weight. I was also having ankle and foot swelling around spring break.
I was also taking yoga and dance areobics at this time for my P.E. credit. I went to the doctor who took x-rays and they could not find any broken bones, but he told me to take it easy. My yoga and areobics teacher was very understanding and let me modify my exercises and watched me like a hawk.
It was a miracle that I finished off my semester in my yoga and areobics classes and my other two classes. I made A's and B's for that semester. On May 12, 2007, I graduated with my assocaite's degree.
Summer 2007 was not a fun one for me. I finally was encouraged to see another general practice doctor, who ran a bunch of tests on me. I was tested for thyroid issues, RA, lupus, and everything but AS. I was anemic and my vitamin D was very low. I was referred to a rhemy and had to wait until Oct. 2007 to see her. During this time, I was accepted at Houston Baptist University.
During the years I was there, they did not offer any online classes. I started feeling a little better with the vitamins. HBU was on a quarter system until fall 2008. This meant I had classes that lasted for nine weeks and a short ten day break and classes started up again. Anyway, back to my health issues. The first rhemy tested me for everything but AS and gave me pills that did not do anything for me.
I had to cut my hours and take fewer classes because I still did not feel like I can keep up with a full time load. During that time, I also had to take physical therapy (I would go to physical therapy about two hours before I was to be in class). I still had problems with my neck and feet and actually begged my rhemy to send me in for MRIs and more X-rays of my spine.
She told me that these tests were just overkill and refused send me in for more tests. At that point, I was ready to fire her and go to another doctor.
During the summer of 2008, I decided to see an orthopedic surgeon. He ran more X-rays and sent me for some MRIs, which revealed some arthritis, but the doctor was more concerned about my neck mobility. I had more physical therapy and I got a TENS unit. I finished physical therapy in the week classes started up again.
Fall of 2008 was interesting. I still did my exercises and was doing my field work in a second grade classroom which I served as a teacher's aide to the teacher and learned about lesson planning. It was frustrating about the fact that I had to have someone drive me to and form class and field work. Spring 2009 was good because I got to work with first graders and read to them for a month. I was not feeling up to taking the fifteen hours I needed for a quicker graduation, so I took twelve hours or less.
In the fall semester of 2009, I was ready to take a full load of classes with sixteen hours so I could get closer to graduating. Just when things were looking up, my right eye started to bother me. Back to the eye doctor. I had another bout of iritis and had to take eye drops every hour at first (during my waking hours) and gradually lower the frequency of the dosage. My eye doctor told me that my iritis was likely the cause of an autoimmune disorder and the next time I had a problem that she would refer me to another rhemy. I tried to talk her into refering me to the doctor then, but she did not want to put me through that. I wished I had pushed harder. I had to tell some of my professors that I had to leave the room to take medicine (some of my classes were an hour and a half long). My professors were very understanding. I remember how my Math for Preadolesents professor would ask me about my eye, she cared and was very concerned. That semester was when the swine flu and other nasty bugs were going around. A number of my classmates got sick and were coughing and sneezing. :
If things could not get worse, I came down with a bad case of brochitis and had to miss several days of classes.
My professors were understanding. In addition to my eye drops, I had to use an inhaler, take antibiotics and other pills. My energy level slowed down and I managed to push though the semester. My eye was finally better on Nov. 7, 2009, but my cough lasted until mid November. I managed to get caught up and finish my assignments. It was a stressful time because I still did not have energy from being sick and had to make sure everything was turned in and finishe on time. I made only one C and A's and B's in my other classes.
I was proud of myself for sticking it out.
I was disappointed in the fact that I could not be like a healthy college student and enjoy hanging with my friends as much as I wanted to.
Spring 2010 was a busy time for me and I did well in my classes, but still had aches and pains. I had to take summer school classes that summer so I could graduate the following spring. I was starting to feel tired, my hair was falling out, my joints were starting to swell again.
I managed to stick it out for my summer classes. One session lasted five weeks and the other session last four weeks. During the last week of my second session of summer school, my eye was bothering me again. I waited until I was finished with my finals before calling my eye doctor.
She was able to see me the next day and I told her how my joints were swelling, my hair was falling out, and how tired I was in addition to my eye problem.
I also told her that I was going to be going to do field work at one of the schools in a few weeks and I needed to have my health issues taken care of. That was enough for her to finally refer me to the rhemy that she works with. My eye problems was just simply a scratch in my eye. A few weeks later, I saw the new rhemy, who ran x-rays, blood work in addition to evaulating me. He also did x-rays of my spine, because I could not bend over to touch my toes.
I also started my fall semester during that time. Field work didn't start until the end of that September. I still did not feel well.
Between the time of my first visit with my rhemy and the day I had to go back for my follow up, I ended up in the ER during Labor Day weekend with my left knee swollen and could not even bend it. My first thought that I had a blood clot.
I did not injure it because I did not have the energy to exercise or could recall falling or twisting it. The ER doctor x-rayed it. I simply had too much fluid on my knee and had to have it drawn out a few days later. The doctor told me to stay off of it as much as possible. Well, that was not an option. My Statistics professor assigned homework for that weekend the Friday before and wanted it turned in the next Tuesday and take a quiz. Since I could not use the computer to show how I solved my statistics problems, I had to do it all in pencil and paper. To get the full credit for my homework, I had to show my work. That meant that I had to go up to the college and turn it in. Tuesday, my mother had to take me to the school just so I could turn in my Statisics homework and and tell the professor that I had to leave. I had to limp my way to the classroom.
A number of us waited for fifteen minutes only to learn that the professor was absent, but would be back on the following day. I was ticked off.
It would have been nicer if he had his secretary call or leave us a message on our answering machines to let us know that he was not going to be there. The next day, I had to have the fluid drawn off my knee and the doctor wrapped my knee in an ACE bandage. I was again, told to stay off my knee as much as possible. The next day, I went back to school anyway to turn in my Statistics homework, take two quizzes (the professor should have had us take one quiz that day). I will never forget how that fool professor behaved toward me that day. At the end of class, I waited for all of my classmates to leave the room so I would not be in their way. As I stood up and started limping out of the classroom, that fool walks slowly in front of me.
It was obvious that my knee was bandaged up and I was limping, that professor was rude. I even sent him an email the day before that there might have been the posssiblity that I had to miss class because of my knee problem. He should have either let me pass or walked around me.
The next week, I got the news of my AS. I was glad they found out what was going on, but sad that my AS would change my life. I started feeling better with Remicade and methotrexate. I had to miss some field work time, but I made the time I missed by staying in my field work an extra week. My mentor teacher and my supervising professor were understanding and I even had doctor's excuses to prove that I had a medical reason to miss some classes for treatments. I had no idea of what to expect out of my first treatment, so I told my Statistics professor the possiblity of my absence the next day in his class. Well, you know what he said? He said that he hoped my treatments would help my allergies and coughing (I did have a cough from my ragweed allergies) and had to tell him that the treatments were for an automimmune disease. You'd think that he would have brain. He actually had the nerve to tell me that infusions were expensive and that my treatments were not working. I was glad to get out of his class with a C in Statistics. I still laugh about how brainless I thought he was.
Anyway, I had to change my degree plan because student teaching did not work out for me and I graduated on May 14, 2011 with my General Studies degree.
Maybe in a few years, I may go for my master's degree and maybe, try to go for teaching again. As of now, I may settle for clerical work, or substitute teaching. I still have not heard from the school districts yet, as I sent out some applications. I hope to hear something soon about a job possiblity.
For those of you who are still in collge, you can be successful if you are persisitent and do not give up. Good luck to you.
Thank you for taking the time to read my very long story about how I got through college and how my AS afffected me during that time.