Chronic Health Conditions

A young woman facing the viewer, sitting on a sofa looking downcast, with her arms folded across her abdomen, looking like she is physically uncomfortable.

7:30 a.m., November 22nd – Kelsey’s alarm buzzed insistently. She groggily rolled over and hit the snooze button. She needed 15 more minutes of sleep before tackling the school day. The previous night had been rough. She had been up several times throughout the night crippled with excruciating cramps. This ‘flare up’ of her Crohn’s Disease started two weeks ago. It came at the worst possible time and was probably triggered by the stress of trying to complete term papers and prepare for her exams. She had been staying up late working on assignments and she’d also gotten a bit lax with her diet. Usually she was very careful about what she ate, but when under stress, Kelsey sometimes drank coffee and ate junk food—things she knows will cause her to have attacks.

8:50 a.m., November 22nd — Kelsey slipped into the back of her class, late again. She had already been running late when a cramp hit, causing her to spend 20 minutes on the toilet. Normally, she would just stay home and rest, but today she really needed to get to class. She had missed two classes last week, and although she received notes from her note taker, she did not fully understand what was going on in the course. She wanted to ask her instructor some clarifying questions. Kelsey was thankful that her instructor posted the Power Point slides after each lecture. She should be able to get the gist of things when she reviewed the lesson at home later in the evening. It took every ounce of Kelsey’s concentration to focus for the remaining half hour of the class. She was exhausted from her bout of cramping the previous night and she was still experiencing some pain. Fortunately she was able to find a seat close to the exit and that the washroom was just a few steps away. She never knew when she might have to rush out to the washroom. To Kelsey, all of this was embarrassing and humiliating. Kelsey lived in fear that she might actually have an accident in class someday. She was tired of being sick and some days she felt like quitting university. Maybe it just wasn’t worth all the effort, especially since some of her classmates and instructors treated her as if she was just lazy or not really serious about her studies.

9:20 a.m., November 22nd — Kelsey waited for the rest of the students to leave the lecture hall. She wanted to have a word with her instructor without any other students around. Finally, the student ahead of her left the room and she had the instructor to herself. Kelsey took a deep breath and mustered up her courage. Her disability services advisor had been coaching her on how to advocate for herself. She started off by reminding the instructor that she was registered with the Disability Services Office and that he had received a letter explaining her accommodation needs. She went on to explain that she had been going through a flare up the last couple of weeks and that this was causing her to be late or absent from her 8:30 a.m. classes. She asked him if she could meet with him at the end of the day for a half hour or so to clarify some of the unit material that she had missed. The instructor looked at her kindly and said that he could meet with her at 4:00 p.m. Kelsey was relieved that he didn’t give her any flack or make her feel like she was faking – sometimes instructors acted as though they didn’t think she had a real disability. Maybe today would be a good day after all! Kelsey thanked her instructor and headed off to her next class. Her intestinal pains were subsiding and things were looking up!