Making School Work While Battling Unexpected Medical Issues
Getting the Wind Knocked Out of You
It’s was October in 2014. Classes were going well, and midterms were nearing. I was enjoying the subject matter of what was supposed to be my last semester of my master’s degree. One morning, as I was showering before work, I noticed a lump on my left breast. I immediately scheduled a physical with my primary care physician who scheduled a mammogram and biopsy. Within forty-eight hours following the biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Within twenty days I had my first major surgery, however, my thoughts were on my finals that were scheduled to begin in less than a month. My first instinct was to request a medical hardship withdrawal, but the departmental advisor convinced me otherwise. She gave me words of wisdom and offered me options I never knew were possible. She highly encouraged me to consider speaking with my professors to negotiate extensions, and new possible assignment timelines. At the very least, she urged me to consider taking incomplete for my classes so that I could finish the coursework once I recovered from surgery.
After careful consideration, I decided to speak with my professors about my in-class options. My professors were extremely understanding, compassionate, and willing to help me in every way possible. They accepted assignments late, allowed for me to work at my own pace, and altered assignments that played to my strengths and abilities, given my limited mobility post-surgery.
For example, one professor allowed me to give a class lecture/presentation via conference call instead of writing a long paper explaining the content. They shared resources that I had never heard of,and helped me get through one of the most difficult times of my life. Because of my professors , I was able to finish my degree while fighting breast cancer.
Things I Learned and Things to Remember:
- Remember your professors are human and are there to help you in any way possible. They want you to succeed in school and beyond. Talk to them if you ever have issues or self-doubt with the coursework.
- Take advantage of educational resources, such as paper critiques and writing centers, to help you when you are struggling to tie your thoughts together.
- Know that perfection is not the ultimate lesson. It’s okay to make a “B” when you know that you poured your entire being into the class, and worked your hardest to get that grade. It may not be what you wanted, but you worked hard for it. Relish that.
- Whatever your situation may be, seek out on-campus and community support groups. The connections and relationships you form within those gatherings could help you in more ways than you thought possible.
Keep going. One class at a time, one assignment at a time, just keep moving forward. You are still working toward your goals, while fighting your own battles. It’s ok to step back to take a breather, but don’t quit altogether. Regroup, recharge, and then jump back in. You got this!!!