Study Abroad

Life Doesn’t Always Give You Lemons

Well, it has been way too long since my last blog post, and quite a lot has happened in the past year or so. As I return to blogging and improving my website, I came across a common theme in my head that I wanted to address this time around – life doesn’t always give you lemons.

Today, I finished my last final for the Spring 2019 semester. When I was leaving campus, I couldn’t help but admire all the beautiful green trees, the rare silence, and the rain clouds in the sky. I thought back to the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester and remember being so excited to be back in school and couldn’t wait to see what was in store for me. Unfortunately, this past year has been one of the hardest on me personally. Each year of college brings about its own challenges, and this year’s challenges were probably the most difficult. In November, my father had shoulder replacement surgery the week before Thanksgiving. Following the surgery, he began to experience pain on the left side of his abdomen and had trouble breathing. The day after Thanksgiving, my mom ended up taking him to the hospital. After a couple of x-rays and scans, the doctors determined that he had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot) in his left lung. This was heartbreaking news to my family and I, because this is something that can actually kill you if left untreated. Thankfully, we got him to the hospital in time and he was back home within a couple days. Regardless, it was a scare.

Immediately following this incident, I began to experience minor stomach issues. It escalated and turned into severe abdominal pain, blood in my stool, and weight loss. I had multiple doctors appointments throughout December and tests taken to see if I was allergic to any food I may have been eating. Everything came back negative, and my overall condition began to worsen. At the beginning of January, I had a colonoscopy and an endoscopy done to check my colon and my esophagus for any abnormalities. When I woke up from the procedure, the doctor came to tell me that he found ulcers covering my entire colon. He diagnosed me with Ulcerative Colitis.

My world turned upside down. I was told I had to stay on a strict diet, I had to take pills for the rest of my life, and reduce my stress levels. Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic condition, also considered an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the large intestine. More than 200,000 people are diagnosed with this disease every year. It is much more common than you think. At the time of my colonoscopy, I was considered to be in a flare-up. After starting the medication, I began to improve after only two weeks, just in time for Spring semester to start (not to mention I also took a Wintermester class amidst all this chaos). I was in remission and I felt great! I had forgotten about all the pain I felt and that I was even diagnosed. Sure enough, in the beginning of April I began to show symptoms again. This time it felt different; I experienced chills, a fever, and extreme dehydration. I quickly made an appointment with my GI to try and get a handle on this. I ended up taking a steroid for about four weeks to clear up my inflammation which was the fastest solution. Bad news: steroids have a plethora of side effects. The first week I took the steroids, I experienced every one of the side effects I was warned about. I had a lingering headache, my body ached in a different spot every day, I felt weak and thin from losing weight, and my mood was all over the place. After two weeks, I started to notice improvement and couldn’t wait to be off the steroid.

The tricky thing about Ulcerative Colitis is that it can come back at any time, or it could also stay away for a very long time. We don’t know the exact cause of the disease, but in my case genes and stress play a large factor. My uncle was diagnosed with this disease when he was my age and still suffers from it to this day. It is different for everybody. My fear in all this is the unknown. I tend to stress about small things and get overwhelmed by schoolwork very easily. This semester was hard for me to focus on my health, while also staying on top of school, work and my social life. I have to thank my family (especially my mom) and my boyfriend for being my confidants throughout all of this. My mom has always been there to take me to every doctors appointment, to give me Pedialyte if I’m feeling dehydrated, sleep next to me when I’m feeling sick, and even to drive me to my classes when I physically can’t. She is a real WonderWoman. My only goal for this semester was to get my health under control because next week I am heading to Santiago, Chile to study abroad once again!

As soon as I got back from my study abroad in Spain last summer, I immediately started searching for new places to travel to. In September, I applied to study in Santiago, Chile for the summer of 2019. I planned this trip way before I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, which made it hard to make a final decision on if I should even go or not. My second flare-up was very unexpected and gave me a wake-up call. There is a chance this may happen to me abroad, but I just cannot get myself to give up on the idea of traveling and experiencing a new place. Another example of me being way too hard on myself and pushing through it. I refuse to let my condition debilitate me into no longer pursuing the things I want to do.

On Sunday, I will be heading down to Silicon Valley with some Business Student Council members to tour companies, and then on Thursday, I will be flying down to Chile for four weeks. I will definitely be doing a blog post about my trip to Silicon Valley and what I learned, and you can definitely count on me doing a weekly blog post in Chile. I am excited for these adventures and a bit apprehensive, but hey, I’m gonna live my life to the fullest. God will protect me and guide me every step of the way.

As I look back at this past year, I can honestly say that you will not always get what you want in life. Things won’t always go your way. I didn’t ask to be diagnosed with this debilitating disease, but I did and that is something I still have to come to terms with. I have to learn from these lessons and realize that life is a roller coaster. The advice I would give to those who are struggling is that the best thing you can do is roll with the punches. This is not just a philosophy to follow in your personal life, but also in the workplace. Be the bigger person, take care of yourself first and know your limits.

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