UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Chronicles of a chronically ill student

Education is known to be very difficult, and there are situations that all students can resonate with regardless of their background and circumstances. School requires a lot of perseverance and willpower, as it can be hard to stay caught up with the workload. However, as someone with a chronic illness, these obstacles can be just the tip of the iceberg.

In spring of 2022, I was hospitalized for three months due to a bilateral pulmonary embolism triggered by COVID-19. I was incapable of breathing without supplemental oxygen, and my recovery was one of, if not, the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. This situation then triggered a lifelong autoimmune disease called antiphospholipid syndrome, and I have had to alter my life to properly maintain it. While this was an extremely difficult situation to deal with, I’ve come out stronger because of it.

Some of the symptoms I experience are major fatigue and muscle soreness. I still feel the pain in my lungs sometimes, even after a year, and my sore muscles often cause pain when it comes to simple things like walking and doing chores. In these situations, attending school can become physically taxing. I don’t have enough energy to do the things I’m supposed to do, and the frustration that comes from this is something I’m still trying to work through.

However, there are times when the best thing to do is to simply listen to my body. Even when all I want to do is what’s expected of me, I know pushing myself will only cause further damage. So, I’ve had to learn patience, and this is something that I’ve lacked throughout the years. I’ve had to become patient with my own newly created limits, and while this may never be easy, it is necessary.

When it comes to education, I become exacerbated with my illness frequently. There will be times where my pain is too much, and I’ll get migraines triggered by my body’s pain response. As an English major, this can really affect me staying on top of my reading and writing assignments. However, the world is rarely expected to bend the rules for those with disabilities. Those of us with limitations are still expected to accomplish the same things required of all the other students.

Something that I try to do in these moments when I need to put my health first is work on my time management. There will be days where as much as I want to do my assignments, I simply can’t get to it without suffering. This is when I make sure to do what is possible, even if that means only reading a few pages or emailing a professor to let them know my assignment may be late. Then, on the days where I do feel capable of giving my all, I make sure to catch up on everything I need, plus some assignments ahead of time to relieve some of that anxiety. The good days are the majority for me, but I know this may not be the case for everyone.

This is why resources are so important. Just having an amazing support system is so helpful on days when I can’t give 100 percent, since they help meet me the rest of the way. There are so many other options for finding additional help for those of us that may need it. A good starting place would be the UMass Boston Ross Center for Disability Services. I highly recommend getting your medical documentation to them if possible, as they’ll be able to better assist you in the ways that you think would help you succeed.

Also, just communicating with my professors helps a lot. It was really hard for me to advocate for myself at the beginning, as I felt singled out if I asked for accommodation, but I realized that teachers can’t help me if I don’t first express my situation. I found that most of the time, but not always, professors are pretty understanding if I email ahead of time to let them know I may not be capable of coming to class or that my assignment is late due to a last-minute doctor’s appointment. Of course, there will still be absences or missing assignments, but professors are much more willing to help me catch up on what I missed if I let them know what’s happening.

It’s so important for me to find the necessary help, because as much as I wish I could be independent again, the reality is that I need extra help now. This is a vulnerable state to be in, and while I never expect exceptions to be made for me, it doesn’t diminish the fact that everyone needs a little extra help sometimes, and I am no different. Sometimes when my body and mind interfere with my capability to stay on top of the things that I need to do, it’s easy to feel guilty for falling behind; especially in a society that idealizes “hustle culture.”

I’m simply not capable of all that I used to be, and while I may still mourn the life of my old self, this world will never wait for me to finish mourning. I have to face my responsibilities with confidence and make sure to advocate for myself. Sure, it may be an extra hurdle to overcome in my day-to-day life, but sometimes the necessary things to succeed are also the hardest to obtain.

This isn’t to make excuses for me not being able to attend my classes and sometimes handing in homework late. This is to speak to the people who understand what this battle is like. The ones who wish people saw how hard they’re fighting and who want to feel acknowledged for persevering every day, even when their body and mind try to slow them down. I’m extremely proud of us for fighting through this, and even if it takes us a little longer with a little more help, we still make it to the finish line—and that is an amazing accomplishment.

Our disabilities, whether invisible or not, are an extra obstacle that not many other people understand, but that’s why building a community was so essential for me; I needed to surround myself with people who see my struggles and how hard I fight just to keep myself afloat. But if you don’t have that, I’d gladly be the one to tell you that I’m amazed at how far you’ve come, and I find your perseverance inspiring. Remember that we’re all just doing our best, and our best is worth celebrating.

About the Contributor
Mercy Moncada, Opinions Writer