Pictures of The Past

A picture is worth a thousand words along with a few dozen memories and emotions. Capturing the past the heartache of what once was bubbles over.  Sometimes, I avoid looking at my photos, but other days the temptation of a walk down memory lane wins. The days when laughter was plentiful and sleep was not vital.  Staying up half the night with friends was normal. And of course, anything seemed possible. Not knowing that all too soon minor aches would explode into full blown take over your entire life chronic illness.

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I look at the girl in those pictures overflowing with laughter and pure joy. The insecurities going through my mind as a teen now seem silly. Things weren’t perfect, but they appear that way. The past usually seems easier as we look back.  There are still days I miss the people who left me. The friends who said they would be there, but left.

 

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It’s true, you adjust to the chronic illness life, but little things happen that make you grieve your past. I try to not get carried away in the what if I wasn’t sick game or the things I miss. Everyone asks what you miss most, in reality, I doubt any of us can narrow it down to one thing. I miss how active I once was the energy. Being out in the sun or at the ocean. I miss dancing, hiking, and doing mission work. I miss my hair. Not needing to worry about passing out or running to the bathroom. I miss my old bad days.

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All in all most days I do well with being chronically ill emotionally. I have adjusted and know in my heart that God will use all the pain, symptoms, and every other little chronic illness thing for His glory. He has allowed Lupus and these illnesses to be a part of my life, therefore, I am okay with where I am. Yet, I am still human. I become anxious, overwhelmed, grieve, and ride the roller coaster of emotions. After last April, my emotions went on vacation, but they are back and we are learning how to live together once again.

To be honest, most days are hard in some capacity. Currently, this includes minor meltdowns, severe chest pain, dizzy spells, joint pain, and bladder pain. I have another halter monitor (I will do a review- if I don’t throw it in a lake first). A bladder infection with a side of kidney stones. To top it all off my summer class final is coming up. My liver is holding up though I am cautious due to the fact I need to taper off steroids.

This post is a bit long, but I will be doing a Bible Study update post to let you know more about online Bible studies, which I am excited about!

Can you relate to anything in this post? If so, let me know in the comments! You are the reason I share about my life as a spoonie.

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POTS

I am an expert at passing out, it’s a skill that not many people have. Then again most people do not need this skill. I can recall the seconds leading up to each time I passed out vividly. I have passed out well over a dozen times.  I know when it is going to happen. The warning sings are always the same first I feel dizzy, then my hearing fades, weakness increases steadily, then the vision leaves, and boom I pass out. Once the passing out shuffle begins I spring into action. Either telling whoever is around or by getting to the floor as quickly as possible. Usually someone says my name a few times and I’m back. No biggie. Extremely tiring but not tragic.

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October is Dysautonomia Awareness Month.  Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome is a form of Dysautonomia. What in the world is it? “Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used to describe several different medical conditions that cause a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System. The Autonomic Nervous System controls the “automatic” functions of the body that we do not consciously think about, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, dilation and constriction of the pupils of the eye, kidney function, and temperature control. People living with various forms of dysautonomia have trouble regulating these systems, which can result in lightheadedness, fainting, unstable blood pressure, abnormal heart rates, malnutrition, and in severe cases, death.” Dysautonomia is not rare, at all, it is just rarely diagnosed. Many people live undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

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The tilt table test is used to diagnosis POTS. Web MD gives this explination of the test: “The test involves lying quietly on a bed and being tilted at different angles (30 to 60 degrees) for a period of time while various machines monitor your blood pressure, electrical impulses in your heart, and your oxygen level.

The head-up tilt table test usually takes one to two hours to complete. However, that may vary depending on the changes observed in your blood pressure and heart rate and the symptoms you experience during the test. Before the test begins, a nurse will help you get ready. The nurse will start an IV (intravenous) line. This is so the doctors and nurses may give you medications and fluids during the procedure if necessary.You will be awake during the test. You will be asked to lie quietly and keep your legs still.”

From my experience the tilt table test made me sick but did not increase my pain. Overall I found the test extremely boring. I was only up a few minutes before I began passing out. They laid me down and pumped me up with saline with extra sodium. The tilt table test does need to be done in the morning.

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The most common types of Dysautonomia are: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Neurally Mediated Syncope, and Multiple System Atrophy.  POTS can develop in the adolescent years and some out grow it. In other cases it is a secondary illness and is a chronic condition. Some POTS patients are misdiagnosed with an anxiety disorder. POTS is not an anxiety disorder nor is it cause by one. The role anxiety plays is a symptom. I received my POTS diagnosis almost a year ago. The possibility of me having POTS was mentioned during my Reclast hospital vacation. I had heard of the syndrome, however my knowledge was extremely limited. Of course I researched POTS before my diagnosis was set in stone. Once I learned more about POTS I knew I had it. It was something I lived with, I just had to get the doctors as usual to see what I already knew. My doctor ran the tilt table test. My POTS presents many obstacles daily. It is an incontinence illness.

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Though I like the doctor who is in charge of managing my POTS, most times he is unsure how to help. POTS can be challenging to treat. There is nothing my doctor can currently do other then prescribe a beta blocker for high heart rate. Of course, he advises the normal things such as eat sodium, wear compression stockings, pace yourself, ect…

It has almost been a year sense my official diagnosis. My POTS has improved greatly. This is mostly because of Prednisone. One of the biggest challenges I live with currently due to POTS is various organs not getting enough blood. Again, no one really knows how to help this issue in my body. My balance is off still. Right now it’s great I only fall into walls instead of completely collapsing. Collapsing out of no where is inconvenient and unsafe.

Normal activities are challenging for people with POTS. Being up right, being on their feet for a few minutes, and showering are difficult and sometimes dangerous things.

I watched something on POTS where a doctor recommended anyone with  POTS to wear a helmet in the shower. Comical. And impractical. How would you propose washing your hair with a helmet. Yes, falling in the shower is unsafe but a helmet is not the best solution.

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A lot more research needs to be done in order for patients to receive better treatments. That is one reason raising awareness for POTS and other chronic illnesses is essential. Thank you for reading about my POTS journey. I hope it can help someone or that someone can learn something from this post.

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30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know

1.The illness I live with is: My main illness is Lupus. I have autoimmune and an additional half dozen.
2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2013
3. But I had symptoms since: Childhood.

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4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Not being able to be in the sun not being able to be on my feet for to long.
5. Most people assume: That I’m healthy, faking, or lazy. That I don’t do anything productive on a regular day.
6. The hardest part about mornings are: Being dehydrated. Dizzy spells.
7. My favorite medical TV show is: Diagnosis Me
8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My heating pad.
9. The hardest part about nights are: Getting to sleep & saying asleep.
10. Each day I take __ pills & vitamins. (No rude comments, please) Currently about 15. I also do chemo, self-injections, once a week. Please no rude comments, but feel free to privately ask me about my treatment plan! =]

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11. Regarding alternative treatments I: I have tried a lot of different treatments. Currently in regards to alternative treatments I maintain a healthy diet, aroma therapy, and keep stress levels down. A lot of ‘natural’ treatments can be risky for my combination of illnesses.
12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: I don’t prefer one over the other. Most days I my illnesses are 110% invisible. I have worn braces or used walking devices and some people are just as judgmental. You’re too young to use that.
13. Regarding working and career: It is difficult that I cannot work right now. I am a full time college student and patient.

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14. People would be surprised to know: I am busy despite my illness. I try to be transparent about it in hopes that others can open up about their illness. In no way am I looking for sympathy I want to encourage, support, and educate others.
15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: I need to rest and slow down.
16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: Achieve a 4.0 GPA.

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17. The commercials about my illness: Ha. They are great… now only if the TV would play them…
18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: I miss being normal. Doing normal activities like going out with friends, mission work, and being outside especially in the sun.
19. It was really hard to have to give up: Doing mission work and being outdoors for extended periods of time (AKA on a sunny day more than 5-10 minutes)
20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: Running a Facebook page, a blog, coloring, and crocheting.
21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Something outdoors, maybe visit the ocean…One day mission trip? So many possibilities!
22. My illness has taught me: To cherish every moment.

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23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: You don’t look sick.
24. But I love it when people: Listen. And are supportive.
25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: So many to choose from! I love, “The Lord will Fight for you, you need only to be still” Exodus 14:14

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26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: To educate themselves. Allow yourself to grieve and to adjust to Lupus. Learning to pace yourself is key. You will inspire so many people!
27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: How rude some people are, especially those in the medical field.
28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Spend time with me and being supportive. Don’t under estimate the power of a simple short conversation or a gentle hug.
29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Weekbecause: I feel obligated to share my story and assist others with chronic illness in any way possible. My hope is that others will be encouraged, learn, and find support through my openness. I am bursting with excitement for invisible illness awareness week. I hope you will join me in learning about invisible illnesses, celebrating those who have overcome obstacles their illness has presented, and sharing inspiring stories. Together we can put a stop to the assumptions of invisible illness. We can make invisible illness visible. https://chronicallyhopeful2014.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/invisible-illness-awareness-week/

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 30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: Excited.

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But You Don’t Look Sick

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“But you don’t look sick..” A saying that chronically ill people hear way too often. For those who have recently meet me I look like a normal 21 year old girl. But my family and church family are able to see the difference in me.

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The girl who stares back at me when I look in the mirror is someone I do not recognize. That girl is not me. She has a rounded face, pale skin, thinning hair, and tired eyes. I am…or in reality was a girl with dark olive skin, bight and energetic eyes, thin, and tall with thick dark brown hair that most people mistake for black. I have changed drastically sense becoming ill. I am not the same girl physically or emotionally. Not all the alterations have been negative. It is difficult sometimes to be so different compared to who I was before I became ill. Medications have altered my body somewhat, but the majority of the physical changes are due to Lupus. At times looking through photos is difficult. I like who I have become. But the physical changes are hard to grasp. My body doesn’t feel like my own… it is like borrowing something that doesn’t fit right. Appearance doesn’t matter as much as it use to. It is more about feeling healthy and functioning; living again. I try to focus on this and the hallmark of what inwardly make me, Victoria. Some days it works amazingly. With no make up and hair up I feel like myself and I feel pretty.  Other days, are more difficult after layers of make up and many spoons wasted tears of frustration wash it away.

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“But you don’t look sick..” is never a comforting phrase. People might think it is a compliment, but it is not. It makes us feel like you do not believe how sick we are. Our outwards appearance, does not reflect the war going on inside of our body twenty four seven. Thankfully the destruction is not visible.

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Those who are chronically ill learn all the make up, clothing, and hair tricks. She learns to fake a smile. To be a ray of sunshine. To pretend to be a healthy girl. Behind closed doors, everything is different. The make up comes off, the hair goes up, pj’s on, and the tears flow. With her head buried in her pillow she wonders how she made it through another day thankful no one saw though her mask. Insiting that she doesn’t look sick only adds to her struggle. Your words weigh more then you know.

Your world drastically changes in every way possible when you are chronically ill. It is like living on another planet in comparison to how thing were when you were healthy. Adjusting is difficult. You need to be patient with yourself. Allow yourself time to adjust to all the alterations your illness has imposed. Remember, that there is much more to you then the person looking at you in the mirror. Yes you might look different and that is okay, you are still beautiful. In addition to physical beauty, you have a stunning personality.

How do you cope with the changes your illness has caused?

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My Invisible Fight

If you know me, you know I am chronically ill. My illness does not define who I am but it is a part of me. I look at as a trait not necessarily positive or negative. Like having brow hair, an oval face, or having dimples. My invisible fight. Words that empower. Words that inspire. Words that sum up my life over the past few years.

Without a doubt I have become a fighter, in this invisible fight. Few people know the details of my fight. Chronic illness is much more than what is seen on the surface. The battle is within. Falling apart only behind closed doors.

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I had many encounters with terrible doctors. No one took me seriously (I still struggle with this today). Doctors downplayed any concerns. My mom was my advocate, my voice. Growing up I was dangerously shy. If someone were to look at me crossed I would shrink back into my shell. Hearing my middle name released a waterfall of tears. Speaking up, was terrifying for me. Gradually I began to find my voice and become my own advocate. I have educated myself on treatment options, my illnesses, and everything medical that is relevant. I have learned that I know my body and my illnesses better than any doctor. After all I am the one who lives with it every moment of every day.  I fought to find my voice. My mom and I fought to find good doctors.

My health began to spin out of control in high school. It became evident that something was really wrong. Little by little new symptoms would develop. A new rash, unbearable pain, sun sensitivity, collapsing, weight loss, hair loss, and that was only the beginning. Medical testing became the norm of my life. Blood work that included more than thirty tubes of blood, MRIs, x-rays, GI studies, CATSCANS, scopes, EKGs, EEGS, and other medical tests that I cannot recall the names to. In addition, I had five operations in high school. The operations ranged from removing my tonsils to removing cysts to explority surgery.I thought I had hit rock bottom my junior year of high school, after an encounter with a medication that caused seizures. Little did I know rock bottom was much further down. Little did I know that I would long to go back to those high school years and deal with that pain and those symptoms.

I felt like the pause button has been hit one too many times. I have been home bound many times over the past six or so years. Every time play was hit and I began to recover, get stronger, and move forward pause would be hit yet again. It seems like each time my life is put on pause gets longer and finding the play button becomes more difficult. 

My invisible fight was taken to a new level in college first due to pluricy. Then to finding bloody urine that indicated a sever double kidney infection lasting four months. I was taken off my Lupus medication which gave Lupus permission to recklessly attack. I began seeing doctors every few days, had medical testing weekly, and became a regular at urgent care. I landed myself in the cardic unit last September. I continued to get worse. More testing. More doctors. More pain. Hopeless.

My symptoms shifted. My abdomen began to give me issues again. This time it was worse. Abdominal swelling to the point of looking at least six months pregnant was my newest symptom.  I began to question how much more my body could take. How many more days of intense pain that sent me to bed screaming and doubling over. I was taped. Giving in to the fight was tempting. No one had answers. No one knew what to do.

Things were terrible. Eating was difficult and staying hydrated was nearly impossible. The fatigue was thick yet my body wouldn’t surrender to sleep. I had to rest going up or down the stairs. Breathing was a chore. Shower a hazard. Daily tasks seemed like huge projects. Some days I couldn’t bend down to put on my own socks.

Finally it happened. This past April, I hit rock bottom. I could barely move. The pain and fatigue were more intense than I can describe. I was admitted to the hospital for ten days. https://chronicallyhopeful2014.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/hospitalization/

Looking back I believe that being admitted was the best thing for my health overall. I was at rock bottom. It was more difficult to keep moving forward than I can describe.

When I received the message on Chronically Hopeful inviting me to help and participate in Invisible Illness Awareness week I was shocked and over joyed. I firmly believe that sharing our invisible fight stories is vital. Someone had shared the fight song. I immediately connected with it and shortly after fell in love with the lyrics. I feel like that is where I am in my invisible fight, taking back my life. Taking back life after dramatic pauses is difficult. At times it is painfully slow. Progress seems invisible.  Taking back my life and continuing to fight is a daily decision and struggle. I am mastering a new balance act with my invisible fight and the rest of my life.

My invisible fight has probably been the most difficult fight of my life. I know it will continue to be a tough fight. It has caused me physical pain, heartbreak, taken me on an emotional roller coaster, played tug a war with my faith, caused me to lose friends, and lose much more. Yes, there are countless negative attributions of my invisible fight, but I am sincerely and deeply grateful to be in this fight. First of all I am grateful because I believe that God will use my invisible fight for his glory. Through my invisible fight I have matured as a person and as a Christian. I have learned so much. I have meet some of the most inspiring people. I have had the honor of running Chronically Hopeful and helping with the Invisible Illness Awareness Campaign. My prayer is that my invisible fight will be a testomy, inspiration, and blessing to others.

Methotrexate Update

Beginning classes has been more demanding on my body than I had anticipated. College has sucked the spoons right out of my grip. New classes, new symptoms, and new challenges. The delicate balancing act is always being reshaped. Determining where the line is between pushing a little further and pushing to hard is complex, because the silly line keeps moving.

I am fairly certain this is the most stable my health has been sense I began college. By no means does that mean I am able to run a marathon or doing anything crazy. Realistically, daily activities are still a struggle. I saw my doctor the week I began school. The goal is to come down to 25 mg of Prednisone. Additionally, she increased the Methotrexate by 4 or 5 mg. For this particular medication that is a jump. This jump has it’s perks. I was moved to the self injection. Yes. You read correctly, I did say that the self injection medication is a positive thing. No I haven’t lost my mind and I do not like needles. My body goes through periods of times when it doesn’t absorb most of what is put into it. It has been questioned several times how much of my medication I am actually absorbing. Overall absorption is not a key issue currently.

The last time I had seen my doctor she wanted me to take some of the Methotrexate in the morning. It was to rough on my body to break in up over twelve or more hours. I could tell she was hesitant switching me to the injection. With my medical history I don’t blame her. At the same time, I know my body and the majority of the time what is best. I have complete confidence that the switch to the injection is what is right for me currently.

I did not receive a decent lesson on how to do the injection. I am not positive the person who showed me knew how to do it. She showed me how to fill the syringe. When we picked up my meds and supplies from the Pharmacy the well meaning pharmacist increased my anxiety. He told me the needle should go in at a specific angle. My first though was oh no, I am gonna mess this up, I am terrible at math! Needles? No big deal. Math? I’d like to run away.

I was nervous like any other person doing my first injection. I finally got up the nerve to get it over with and did the injection. I knew something was wrong. At first I thought it was an allergy to the needle. I got a bit puffy and yellow at the injection sight. Once the needle was out I got extremely dizzy. I laid down for five minutes and the dizzy spell passed. After worrying my head off I realized that I didn’t put the needle in deep enough which is why the sight was puffy and yellow (The medication is yellow. Someone said it looks like pee… which isn’t a lie lol). The following day I felt sick and extremely tired.

I did my second injection last Friday. It went much better. The meds sting towards the end of the injection. I do premedicate my self. The side effects were very minimal.

I have had a lot of medication changes with steroids and chemo. It is demanding on my body and emotions. Being ill is equivalent most times to having a full time job.

Disability Center

I am preparing to live on campus in a few short months. Recently I did all the paper work for the disability center.
It is best to register with the disability center at the beginning of the semester, even if you are in remission. You never know how the semester will unfold; being sick is unpredictable. It is best if everyone is aware that you are chronically ill. If you had a 504 plan it will follow you to college. If you don’t that’s okay, most colleges will still work with you. 
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Personally I meet with disability before any of my classes begin. We discus my health and what accommodations would be helpful for me. I sign some papers giving the disability center permission to speak to my professors on my behalf. In addition I e-mail all my professors. I know a lot of people hesitate telling administration about their illness. Personally I believe it is important to try to be open about being ill. I think being open allows others to be open and find encouragement as well. I share a lot of information with my college which you will see in the e-mail I sent to my professors this semester. I am open with my health for several reasons. When I do classes on campus I feel sharing everything about my health is for the best of my well-being. This way everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency. I do have a history of passing out. If for some reason I could not speak or could not remember basic information my professor and disability would know and be able to share it with paramedics or emergency room staff. Whenever I am not home I wear a medical ID bracelet with basic information on it. In an emergency it is important for those around you to know what illnesses you have, what medication you are on, what medication you are allergic to, and who to contact. The paramedics will  not look in your wallet for a list of medication without your consent. On my ID bracelet I put, “On meds, check wallet.”
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Sorry about that tangent, let’s get back on topic. I also share this information so my professors know that I will miss class sometimes due to flares, doctors, or treatments. I feel it is best to be up front about my health so that they can assistant me through out the semester as needed. Here is a sample e-mail: Dear Professor Name, I hope you are having a wonderful summer. My name is Victoria Guyadeen I will be in your online, Fundamentals of Nutrition course, BIOS 107, this coming semester. I am e-mailing you to inform you that I am Chronically Ill. Mrs.Smith from the disability center at the college will also be in contact with you before this semester begins. My main illness is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system becomes over active and confused. A person immune system should fight off bacteria and infections but when someone has Lupus it attacks the body. It can attack major organs, the skin, joints, and many other things. The symptoms vary from person to person, from day to day. A flare refers to when the disease is active causing increased pain and other symptoms such as fever. Lupus can range from mild to life threatening. I have several over lapping illnesses along with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. These illnesses are: Asthma, Raynaud’s phenomenon, Endometriosis, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Osteoporosis, Anemia, IBD, Supernumerary Kidney, Kidney Stones, and Migraines. I also have brain fog due to Lupus. Brain fog has to do with memory. It can range from mild to severe. Mine is moderate. I get lost frequently, forget words and basic information, and sometimes I forget who people are. I am still learning how to work with academically. Due to brain fog I might ask for clarification for certain assignments. Like anyone who is chronically ill I have good days and terrible days. However I never know when I will begin to flare or end up in the emergency room. I still see my doctors frequently and go through intense and time consuming medical testing. Currently I am under the care of four doctors. My doctors are about two hours from where I live. I have begun a new treatment for my Lupus, it is called Benlysta. Benlysta is an IV infusion; I receive it once a month on a Friday. Between the car ride and infusion it takes anywhere from six to eight hours. Of course I will do any assignments a head of time when my treatment is coming up. This is my third year of doing online learning. I enjoy online learning. The flexibility is priceless for me. I am able to work super hard on my good days which allow me to rest more on bad days. I normally work ahead to some degree in case I begin to flare or have doctor appointments. I also work ahead to keep my stress a level down which is vital. Despite my illnesses I set high academic goals for myself. One academic goal I have set for myself for this coming semester is to achieve at least a 3.8 GPA. I am extremely excited to be taking this class and I look forward to working with you. I will attach the letter my primary care doctor wrote for disability. Over the next few weeks disability will e-mail you a full list of my accommodations. Please give me 48 hours’ notice if you decided to change the instructions on an assignment. If you are willing to give me a copy of the syllabus for the fall that would be greatly appreciated, this way I can coordinate with my doctor’s appointments. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I apologize for it being such a long e-mail. If you have any other questions or need more information about anything please do not hesitate to e-mail me. I try to be extremely open about my health. I feel the honesty will help me succeed in college. Thank you once again. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.
Sincerely, Victoria Guyadeen
(*Note this is an old letter from a few semesters ago).
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How much you share about your health is completely up to you. Learning how much to share and how to balance college life and an illness takes time. Be patient with yourself. Enjoy your time in college.
Please: Let me know what else would be helpful for you. I could show samples of doctor notes to the professors and accommodation list. Or what other tools would be useful for your college journey.