I was so excited when I found out that I was going to university and I was able to study the degree I wanted, BSc Adult Nursing. To become a qualified nurse was only three years away. I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis shortly before I set off on my personal journey and head out into the big wild world of living independently.
I always had major symptoms of my colitis through my course, I just managed to deal with it, going to the toilet before lectures, running to the toilet in the middle of lectures and hiding it away from everyone I knew. Who really wants to talk about bowel habits and admit that they have a problem? It wasn’t me for sure; I hid this away from the university staff, students and even the people I lived with.
One big relief when I started university was that I had to myself a private en-suite. Everyone is conscious of going to the toilet and when you can go 20+ times a day that consciousness turns to paranoia.
It was difficult at university and I had days when I called in sick so that I didn’t have to leave my accommodation, too afraid of not making it to the university. This was impacting my ability to study. I was missing lectures and not turning up to placement. My grades were not great and I was missing out on many experiences. I was struggling physically and mentally and looking back now I saw myself suffering depression. I was in such a state and was becoming financially in debt.
After two years of my health fluctuating, it always caused problems but sometimes to the point of housebound. I was about to complete my second year and finally be on the final year to graduation. I had completed all the academic work and I was finishing my final placement on A&E. I was becoming so ill and missing so many days that there was not enough time for me to complete the required skills and be assessed to accomplish all the competencies that I was called into the university to see the programme manager. They didn’t know that I had colitis and was concerned about how much time I was having off.
I told them everything; I explained all about the condition and what was happening to me, that I was finding it difficult to carry on with the course. Because of all that had gone on I had no choice but to step off the course as it was not possible to complete within the time I had left. I left the course feeling disappointed and perceiving myself as a failure.
My health got worse and hospital visits were becoming more frequent and the length of stay was getting longer. I was spending so much time in hospital it was like I was living there. My health was at its worst and causing more problems. 5 months after leaving the university I was at a point of my life where I had a decision to make. “Have a bag or be in a bag”. This was the dreaded decision that I did not want to make but looking back now was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
There may be a stigma around having an ostomy but I would not be here without having one and I would not be able to do the things I do today without it.
6 months later
I have finally recovered from surgery and have got control over my life. I felt a lot better than the year before even though throughout that time I developed more chronic conditions which affect my life.
Looking forward, getting back to university.
I knew I wanted to go back to university and considered attending a university which was closer to home so I could have support from family members. Unfortunately the local universities were not accepting transfers so my only option was to go back to where I was studying. Finish of the last placement prior to starting my third year.
Because of all of the problems I occurred throughout the last year I decided to approach this year differently. Due to having Ulcerative Colitis and my ostomy alongside several other conditions I was deemed as a disabled student. This may be hard to accept for some and it feels like you are being labelled.
I approached the disability department of the university and told them of all my conditions, they were so supportive and offered to help straight away. An assessment was done to assess how my conditions impacted my life, the ability to study and what support measure and strategies could be put into to place so that I could get the most out of my final year and make sure that I had the support behind me to complete the degree and get best grades I can.
There were several things that my conditions impacting on my life. I needed constant access to toilet facilities and may need to use them in an emergency. I now had reduced mobility and I needed to drink more than before along with other needs that become noticeable after returning back to study. This helped a lot and allowed me to get back to university and make sure that I was supported.
I am now back studying and working in the hospital which is taking up all hours of the day but I’m grateful to have that opportunity and I could not have done this if I had not made the decisions I had made.
Top 5 Tips:
- Make sure the university are informed of the conditions you have so that they can help you in any way they can.
- Make sure that if you have difficulties at university that you speak to someone, it doesn’t matter who but never suffer alone.
- If you have been off due to ill health or you have had surgery, make sure that you take things slow. You don’t want to rush yourself back in. Especially if the degree is physically demanding.
- You may now have to also deal with an ostomy. Make sure that you have enough supplies and that your supplier knows where you live. It’s also good to make sure you are familiar with how your accommodation accepts delivery and the process of receiving your parcels.
- Make time for yourself, you need to get your head down and concentrate but don’t forget about time away from study. Enjoy your time there and make sure you make the most of it.