The most common ages for diagnosis of IBD ranges from 15-25 and this coincides with a rather important part of life for some:
Uni is great. You leave the safety of mum and dad for the first time, moving to a new city/area of the country and have the opportunity meet lots of new people. It’s all so exciting! You’re really let loose in the world; no parents, no rules, no constraints… The world really is your oyster!
You find out what ‘being an adult’ really means: Paying bills, food shopping, having to schedule your own doctors appointments because there is no way your mum will do it now when you’re 150miles away from home. You’re living with people you hardly know for the first time, having to get along even when they leave their washing up festering for weeks and it starts to grow it’s own eco-system. There’s clubbing, going a little crazy with all your new mates, getting pretty drunk every night and never making those 9am lectures. It’s starting a new way of studying and striving to be the best in a subject you love. It really is the best time of your life. It’s being an adult but you don’t really have any worries. The most concerning thing is what you’re going to wear on a night out or where you’re going for pre-drinks, or if you’re going to make the 9am lecture.
It’s all fun and games until your health becomes your primary concern.
Even though I’d suffered from problems prior to my second year of uni I was an idiot and decided to ignore it; wanting to go back to uni and just enjoy my next year I left my colitis without any treatment and this is probably why I’m in such a pickle now.
I had started my second year by moving into a new building full of people to meet and have fun with, but that all came crashing down when my colitis reared it’s head in full force. I got really unwell about two months into my second year and it all happened very fast. I lost two stone in two weeks, draped in my biggest jumper, I had no idea I had gotten so thin; every single bone was poking it’s way through my skin. My anaemia was so bad that I could only just about breathe let alone party! I struggled to muster enough energy to shower or eat dry toast (because that was just about the only thing I didn’t throw up).
I was completely bed bound from November to December.
And it didn’t get much better from then on either. In February I was rushed into hospital and missed another full three weeks of uni; one week locked up and being pumped with loads of meds and two weeks at home on the sofa recovering. While all my friends were partying, drinking and studying, I was stuck in my own little illness bubble just gagging to get back to uni!
Having IBD at uni hasn’t exactly been the easiest thing to deal with. The university have been pretty understanding with my hospital admissions and appointments; there are some opportunities where I’m too sick to go to lectures. My tutors have come to understand that I’m not just another hungover student (I wish) who doesn’t want to go to that 9am lecture because I didn’t get in till the early hours of the morning. I’m genuinely too unwell to make it.
I am very proud of the fact that I’ve spent more time at hospital than I actually have at uni and I’ve managed to come out with a pretty solid grade to move into my third year. Even though it has been unbelievably tough to try and deal with my illness alongside university work it does make me realise how much we take for granted. I was forced to sit on my arse, not able to stand let alone go to lectures, so to have even just a small thread of energy to be able to sit in a two hour seminar on a Monday morning is actually a big deal for me. I’ve spent so much time not able to go and study the subject I love that it’s a blessing to be at a stage where I can go to lectures/seminars.
But it isn’t over yet.
Although I’m a hell of a lot better than I was a 10 months ago and can now walk around, my body is still very angry. Back on prednisolone steroids, with the possibility of an IV drug change and still going into hospital twice or three times a month it certainly hasn’t gone away. Thanks to the medication changes it really messes with my head as well as my body; I find that I suffer from brain fog and being really muddled quite frequently so it can be a challenge to do all the reading I’m required to do, simply because I can’t retain the information as easily as I used to. Then there is keeping my stress levels to an absolute minimum and this isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do when you have deadlines piling up and a 10,000 word dissertation to write!
However, although I know that it’s going to be a challenge I’m not about to let my angry colon stop me from enjoying the best time of my life! I may have essentially lost my second year to hospitals but I’m determined to make the best of my third year!