This past winter semester, I got pneumonia in January. I was tired and drowning in my own lungs at times, and was coughing up a storm! I missed a lot of classes but somehow managed to remain in all of them, except for ice hockey. That I had to drop--as an asthmatic, with pneumonia in winter, in a cold place like Utah, I had enough at risk without moving around like crazy in a cold ice rink. I had to rest and take it as easy as possible.
In early March, I finally started to fully recuperate from the pneumonia (the bacteria cleared out from heavy antibiotics, but the swelling in the lungs persisted for quite a while). I started training for a triathlon. I planned doing one to raise money for a charity called Equality Now. They fight for women's rights and protections internationally, helping to end such practices like FGM, abuse, rape, etc. etc.. It's a great charity and I wanted to raise money to contribute. I trained like mad for about 10 days. I would bike about 20 miles, run around 5 miles, swim a mile--I'd do two exercises a day. I was quickly toning and felt amazing! The exercise gave me extra energy to resume my classes, I was attending regularly, and I felt illness was behind me. Having pneumonia was really hard and getting healthy was great.
However, one day, while sitting in my philosophy class, if felt an odd 'pop' sensation in my belly. That felt strange. What was that? Within minutes I was in total agony. Cramping and burning like mad. When I began to cry, I took a pain killer and made an urgent appointment at the women's clinic. Somehow I knew it was a cyst. I missed classes until my appointment. I went to the ER the Friday--I ruptured a cyst and had a moderate amount of fluid in my belly. I kept missing classes. Then I started having intestinal cramping and pains. My parents flew me home April 15th, when the pains and internal chaos made it impossible to either leave bed or the toilet. It was a week before finals, and I had to drop out.
The consequences of my decision had more implications than I imagined. My doctors, with no idea of how unhealthy I was, told me I'd probably be back to school in a week. In a few weeks. In a month. Two months. Three months. Because of the lack of information, I merely dropped out of my spring term rather than deferring my enrollment and my scholarship. Spring and Summer term are grouped into a single semester scholarship-wise, and you cannot split the funds up. As I had an apartment at school and it would be too complicated to go back to school in the fall, I merely decided I'd take a heavier load in the summer term so I could still use my scholarship and not need to stay through the Fall.
However, because my colitis flare prevented my surgery for several weeks, I did not get my operation until about 10 days before summer term started. When I returned, weak and still sore and ill, I couldn't do my classes. But I had to or else that meant I had to stay an extra semester to graduate. On top of that, I still had incompletes and independent credits to finish. My schooling was an absolute mess and my body wasn't cooperating. I tried to force it to perform for summer term, but it wouldn't. I dropped out again.
But it occurred to me, because I dropped out both times before tuition deadlines, shouldn't I be able to keep my scholarship? Why hadn't it been refunded to me? I spent the last several weeks finding out why. I had to write essays, get physician verifications, and essentially document my entire illness to probably a dozen people in my school's petition office. My scholarship had been funded by donations by kind patrons of my school. Shouldn't I be able to use it? Why did my school keep it, unused? It wasn't until last week, that the petitions office saw I had a valid case and returned to me my scholarship.
Now is where the real complications begin. In about five weeks, I get to start school. In about 6 weeks, my independent credits are due. Originally, a couple of my incompletes were due in 2 weeks, but I was able to get extensions. For the past 4 months, the drugs and hormonal treatments I've been receiving have greatly hindered my ability to not only work at school but also to remember things. Honestly, I have no idea how I will be able to handle the upcoming pressures of this fall semester.
But illness doesn't accommodate anyone for these type of things. Whether you've got a cold, a migraine, colitis, pneumonia, endometriosis, or cancer--you can't stop your work, school, family, or whatever your responsibilities may be. Which sucks. All your body wants is to rest.
How do I manage it? That, I'll have to say later. I don't really know currently how to manage all this. The best strategy I've found so far, was first I rested until my body was ready to move. Then each day, I have pushed it to move a little harder. A month ago, all I could do was sleep and rest. Now, in the past 24 hours, I've done yoga, a bike ride, and my first run (though brief) in almost 8 months. I'm exhausted. My body hurts--my abdomen kills and I've been having some intestinal problems. But by pushing myself a little harder each day, I'm building up the endurance I need to function in normal day-to-day affairs. Funny enough, casual things like being on my feet for several hours is much much harder than going on an 18 mile bike ride.
But now that I've built up the basic health and light endurance to start on school. I now need to build up mental endurance. It's hard to get back into the heavy studying required for a competitive school like mine. But we'll see how it goes. So, for those experiencing physical or mental health pain/problems, when you get to a point where you can live again, take baby steps but continually move forward. There may be days where you take a couple steps back and you're exhausted, but focus on goals and move forward. Write down lists, priorities, goals and schedules. Eventually you will feel normal again.
Six weeks ago, the doctors cleaned out my insides of foreign tissues and a tumor 4 cms big. Now I'm up on my bike and my feet. It bewilders me that some women have endometriosis and don't even feel it, while others can't even exercise or are bedridden from the pain. Endometriosis, just like illness in general, falls on a spectrum and is a different experience for everyone. So rather than focusing on how you 'should be' or where others are (most of my friends graduated), you need to focus on just moving forward. Every day you feel a little better is an accomplishment!