Person throws graduation cap in air

College and Cystic Fibrosis

One of the best things about growing up and finishing high school is the excitement of going to college. It was a different path for me because I did not graduate high school, I got my GED. I had to drop out of high school because I got too sick to make it and I missed a good portion of my junior year being sick and in the hospital.

Deciding to go to college

Once I got my GED, I had already made a decision for myself that I wanted to graduate college. Even if I was too sick to work for a long time or even really have the kind of career I always wanted, I wanted to accomplish this for myself.

I had doctors telling me not to attend because I would be exposing myself to a lot of germs that would further compromise my body and I was already very vulnerable. My family was a bit on the fence about it because I was very sick; I was coughing up a lot of blood and I was weak. But, mentally, I was already planning on finishing college. I wanted to do it for me and I wanted to make myself and my dad proud.

Cystic fibrosis and college accommodations

The first thing I did was pick a school that offered both online and on-campus courses, and a school that had a great disability department. I was living at home so I did not have to go to a dorm, which minimized any exposure to germs.

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Once I enrolled and got my finances all set up, I set up an appointment with the disability department for accommodations. My college gave me several accommodations due to my cystic fibrosis. I was allowed to live stream any on-campus course that I could not attend, and I was given extra testing times and allowed to test in private, away from classmates due to safety and immunity concerns. Additionally, I was given extra time to turn in projects and assignments due to hospitalizations and such. I was also given additional time between classes because I could not walk fast enough due to my oxygen.

In my chemistry and science classes that dealt with chemicals, I was allowed certain leniency because I was on oxygen and we did not want any harm to come my way or any other classmates. I was also given disability parking and access to elevators. These accommodations were given to me while I studied online as well.

Just remember when you are asking for accommodations to have any medical paperwork on hand to provide as evidence of your disability due to CF.

Easing the financial burden of college

Having cystic fibrosis also means you can have access to many grants and scholarships for college that you might otherwise not know about. A lot of places offer scholarships for us with CF, and I highly recommend learning and applying to as many as you can to ease any financial burden college may cause you.

College, for me, was the best time of my life. I met so many wonderful people with whom I am still very close to now. College was scary and exciting, but I don’t regret any of it because, even taking my oxygen with me and having IVs on, I still finished and got my degree. I did it for me and I took my time.

It took me 7 years because some semesters I had taken 1 or 2 classes because I was sicker than usual--but I did it! Anything is possible if you keep at it!

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