Being a Student With Lupus
Managing university when you have lupus can be an extreme challenge — and even that is kind of an understatement.
I made it through my university career with lupus and though it wasn’t easy at all, it was doable. So doable, in fact, that I ended up getting two masters degrees and I’m now pursuing a PhD on top of it. I guess I am kind of a glutton for punishment.
As part of my PhD, I sometimes teach students and have had chronically ill students in my courses. So, as someone who has been there and done that (and purchased many university t-shirts) I have a few tips for helping you stay on top of your work and college life when lupus is in the mix, from the perspective of both teacher and student.
Keep Communication Lines Open
Don’t go into a class and hide your condition because you’re embarrassed. Your lupus may not be something you want to shout from the rooftops, but it is better to disclose early than let it become a problem later on in class.
Most teachers and professors are understanding about things like this, as long as you’re able to get the work done, but telling them early is important. Excuses begin rolling in near a due date, and even if yours is legit it will be overshadowed by all of the others coming in.
It is easy for a teacher to be less sympathetic when they’ve already dealt with eight other people with “grandmothers in the hospital” or “a two-week case of food poisoning.”
I have always been much more accommodating to my students who reveal they are having family difficulties or health struggles early on in the course, or when these issues appear. If a student tells me after a test has already been graded that they are battling an illness or something else is happening in their personal life, it is unfair to make concessions for them — no one else was granted leniency or a second chance.
But if he or she is upfront with me about what is going on, I’m always willing to give extensions or help in any way I can. Teachers are only human, and they can’t help you if they don’t know what is going on.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
If you’re returning to school after a lupus flare-up or are newly diagnosed and quite ill, it may be a good idea not to take a full load of classes. As lenient as teachers can be about deadlines and absences, you also won’t be able to pass a class if you can’t keep up with the work.
Don’t stress yourself out to the point that you become sick again, making you have to either take an incomplete or drop out altogether. I often took less than a full load to accommodate my extreme fatigue, and then would take one or two classes over the summer to keep up with my classmates. This allowed me to catch up on my sleep and not over extend my reach.
As a teacher, I have also had students who have, regrettably, had to drop out of my courses when it became apparent that they were too ill to handle the workload. With the sheer expense of college, you definitely want to avoid that if you can!
Next page: the importance of resting and keeping a schedule.