Arriving to the college dorms sick and full of anxiety was not the best way to start my new journey into college but that’s where I was at. My Crohn’s disease was the worst it had ever been when I started college in 2012 at Cal State Fullerton but do you think I let that stop me? No way! College, schooling, getting an education is so important and I would like to share with you how I survived it and ways that made it easier for me to feel more comfortable.

I pulled up on campus with my car packed and ready to find my dorm, and my first concern was, where’s the bathroom? That was usually the main thing I thought about all day…every day. If you have read my past blogs I got my ostomy later in school so just to remind you I did not have my ileostomy yet. So, my day consisted of walking through campus and learning where all the restrooms were. After learning about the disability program when signing up for college I registered right away, and I never regretted it. I advise you to do the same because Crohn’s or UC or any chronic illness is a disability and the college will accommodate you as they should. I made sure to let all my teachers know my situation by introducing myself in person and through email. I had special privileges of leaving the classroom whenever and however long I needed to with no questions asked. As well as getting a note taker for days I had to miss class, and if I was absent I wasn’t penalized. These kinds of things really mattered to me because I did not think it was fair for me to lose points because I was home in bed sick from a flare, or from a bad day with Crohn’s. Do not feel embarrassed signing up for disability or for communicating with your teachers. They will understand and if they don’t, simply have the disability advisor take care of it.

First Year 2012
First Year 2012

After my surgery in 2013 many things turned around for me. I gained 50 pounds and I no longer was rushing to the restroom as often and now I could enjoy school and get out of bed. Throughout my years in college I did have several surgeries missing weeks at a time, but I still stuck with school. I had to take one semester off, but I did finish in 5 years. I advise those ostomates out there living away from home, on campus, or even at home, always have supplies with you when going to school. Then you are fully prepared for a possible leak and prevent any problems. I remember one day in class I had a leak and I had to up and leave. I remember the teacher glaring at me and I felt so rude for leaving but there was nothing else I could do. I ended up emailing him later that day to tell him I had a medical emergency, but I never really think he understood.

Graduation 2017
Graduation 2017

There will be a lot of people in your life who don’t always understand what you are going through. Some may be your peers, you teachers, managers at work, family, or close friends. It’s how you adapt and develop a sense of understanding that not everyone will accommodate or understand your struggles and how you go about overcoming them in your own ways. I am so proud of graduating college with this disease and I hope you will keep going and keep up the good work. It is doable to finish a 2, 4 or however many year university you choose to go to. You just have to believe you can do it and that will be your motivation to succeed.

Kristen Furey - Patient Champion
Kristen Furey
Patient Champion