IBD & Grad School

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bookworm21
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Date Joined Mar 2008
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   Posted 1/24/2010 8:23 PM (GMT -7)   
I have UC, but I decided to post on the CD forum b/c it seems like those with graduate degrees on the UC forum got UC afterwards.


I'm starting grad school in the fall...

How do you guys handle IBD with all the workload? Do you tell your advisors about it? Do you register with the school's Disability Services? Do you also panic about loans + medical bills? Any input would be appreciated!

Aimee =)
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Date Joined Jun 2004
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   Posted 1/24/2010 9:19 PM (GMT -7)   
I was diagnosed with Crohns in my second year of graduate school. I won't lie - it was tough, BUT, once I had my disease diagnosed and treated I did a lot better. But during the testing process where no one knew what was wrong with me, I missed a LOT of class and did end up behind a semester.

My profs were all aware of my health issues for the most part. After my diagnosis process, I only brought it up if I was running into a conflict with my classes - like, I needed to schedule a Remicade infusion, I was really sick and couldn't get out of bed for a few days, or I was having a test or something. There were a few rare times when my illness got in the way of a deadline and the prof was always willing to give me an extension.

Now, my graduate school was seminary so it was a lot smaller than some grad schools and I had many of the same profs for several classes. Most of the school knew what was going on with me because of my tough "diagnosis" semester.

I did have the freak out with money. My inlaws actually pitched in to help us out, which I still feel uncomfortable about but they are family and they knew we were hurting to pay for my scopes and Remicade infusions. They got us through a tough period and then I ended up using part of my student loan money to help pay for medical costs. My husband worked FT, and I worked very PT when I was able (10 hours a week) so we didn't have a choice but to dip into student loans to help cover living expenses - such as medical costs.

I did not register with the disability services, never had an issue that would have been helped by doing that. If you are visiting with an advisor, I would talk to them about whether or not you should do that.

Good luck!

MMMNAVY
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Date Joined Jul 2006
Total Posts : 6927
   Posted 1/24/2010 10:39 PM (GMT -7)   
Part time PhD student here. I take it very part time and they have really worked with me. But I think it depends on your program...
Forum Co-moderator - Crohn's Disease/Thyroid Disorders:_All comments have the caveat contact your local health care provider.

I will find a way or make one. –Phillip Sidney 1554-1586

All that I am and all that I shall ever be, I owe to my Angel Mother.

The Bucket List- Have you found joy in your life?  Has your life brought joy to others?

Make sure your suffering has meaning…


ivy6
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Date Joined Sep 2005
Total Posts : 10404
   Posted 1/25/2010 1:56 AM (GMT -7)   
I was diagnosed at 16 and got about 3/4 of my way through a PhD. I didn't last: I got too sick to live independently, let alone study, and had to withdraw, though I do have the option of going back if I ever (ha ha) get well enough.

I think it's luck, personally: either you'll stay well enough to get through (though with some difficulties) or you'll get so sick you'll have to leave. It's hard to tell, in advance, which category you'll fall into.
Co-Moderator Crohn's Forum.

Medications for Crohn's ~~ Diet and Nutritional Therapy for Crohn's ~~ Dealing with Abscesses and Fistulae ~~


ivy6
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Date Joined Sep 2005
Total Posts : 10404
   Posted 1/25/2010 1:57 AM (GMT -7)   
ps. I think it depends, too, what your support network is like. If you're still living at home, or at least in the same town as your family, you might have a better chance of making it. If you're by yourself in a new town / state / city, you'll find it much harder to stay at uni, sick, than you would otherwise.
Co-Moderator Crohn's Forum.

Medications for Crohn's ~~ Diet and Nutritional Therapy for Crohn's ~~ Dealing with Abscesses and Fistulae ~~


lilcrohnieUK
Regular Member


Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 414
   Posted 1/25/2010 6:28 AM (GMT -7)   
Grad schools the same as uni yeh? Having a blonde moment....ironically because my brain is frazzled from the amount of work I've been doing lately!

I registered with the uni's disability services - IBD counts as a hidden disability. They helped sort me out with a free computer, I got an en-suite room in the halls of residence at no extra cost, I get extenuating circumstances with ALL coursework and exams (4 weeks extension on all deadlines, in exams I get my own room close to a toilet and am allowed to take rest breaks and theres a computer in there if I'm struggling with my hands and can type my exam instead, also I'm allowed to repeat any module as a first attempt so the grade isn't capped, if I have to repeat a year I don't get charged tuition fees for the repeat year) so yes yes yes - get yourself registered with disability services! They can help you so much! Even if you're in remission (like I am majority of the time) its worth doing so you know there are measures in place should anything happen, and I think it helps take the pressure off a bit which helps with stress levels.

I live 200 miles from my family and had one nasty arthritis flare up followed the next year by a nasty Crohn's flare up, but the huge support network here made it easy for me not to give up. With my arthritis flare I knew I'd failed the year but knew that I could repeat it with no penalties the following year, so even if you do get ill rather then drop out see if you can repeat or become a part-time student. I know in the UK a 3 year degree must be done in 6 years for a 'normal' student and a student with extenuating circumstances is allowed to take 10 years!

Best thing to do is contact the disibilty services and arrange a meeting to discuss and see what they can do to help you.
 
 


Illini
Regular Member


Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 298
   Posted 1/25/2010 8:42 AM (GMT -7)   
I was diagnosed later in my PhD studies, by that time I was only working in the lab and no longer taking classes. I recently completed my PhD "on-time" relative to the other students in my group. My adviser was aware of it and was OK when I needed to take time for doctors appointments. However, his expectations did not change.

Definitely contact disability services. You should be eligible for benefits vis-a-vis coursework and testing. I did not do that because I was not taking classes any more.

While you are in grad school, any undergrad loans can be deferred. So you do not have to worry about those. Not sure about other loans.

If student insurance is available, look at it carefully. In my case the annual out of pocket was only $1800. In the year I was diagnosed my bills were probably $50K+ and I only paid $1800. Only caveat to that is you may not have drug coverage. I did not and paid dearly for Entocort when I was on it for a few months... Again, read carefully. We also had a student health center where some drugs were free and I could have blood work done for no charge.

When the workload was tough and I was stressed out, I relied heavily on meal replacement drinks (Ensure, Nutren, or Peptamen) which kept me feeling OK and did not aggravate my system. Obviously they are also a lot faster than cooking. Definitely do not fall into the trap of eating out often, it'll mess with the IBD in my experience. You may be able to get access to campus food if you don't want to cook and sometimes they will subsidize the cost partially or totally if you only work a few hours in the kitchen.
July 2007 Drug-Induced Liver Injury
January 2008 Crohn's Ileitis
Currently trying... Enteral Nutrition, VSL#3, Primadophilus Reuteri, Folic Acid


dodger84
Regular Member


Date Joined Jan 2008
Total Posts : 37
   Posted 1/25/2010 11:11 AM (GMT -7)   
I was diagnosed with Crohn's at 17 and am currently in my 4th year as a biochemistry grad student.  In the summer before my first year here (age 22), I had a stroke and was hospitalized for a little over a month.  I'm now on blood thinners and need to have my blood regularly checked in addition to monthly Remicade and other Crohn's meds.  For me, I needed to let my advisors and professors know of my medical situation initially because I was frequently going to the hospital and missing classes to get my health in check. 
 
My department has been very understanding and let me stretch my first-year courses over two years.  My current advisor knows of my medical situation which makes it much easier to explain when I need to miss a few days here and there for medical reasons.  While my loans are currently deferred, my medical expenses make it difficult to live on the graduate stipend that I am given but I am getting by alright. 
 
I think it was a good decision for me to let my department and advisors know about my situation because it allows me to not worry when I need some time off for medical reasons which prevents me from becomming overly stressed.   

FitzyK23
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2005
Total Posts : 4219
   Posted 1/25/2010 12:40 PM (GMT -7)   
I did all of law school w/ crohns. I will post more about it later. It can be done!
27 Year old married female lawyer.  Diagnosed w/ CD 5 years ago, IBS for over 10 years before that, which was probably the CD. I am sort of lactose intollerant but can handle anything cultured and do well w/ lactose pills and lactaid. For Crohns I am currently on Pentasa 4 pills/4x day and hysociamine prn. I also have bad acid reflux and have been on PPI's since age 13. I have been through prilosec, prevacid, and nexium. Currently I am on Protonix in the morning and Zantac at night.  I take xanax prn for situational anxiety (aka no easy bathroom access). 


medchrt1
Veteran Member


Date Joined Sep 2005
Total Posts : 517
   Posted 1/25/2010 6:41 PM (GMT -7)   
if you are attended the same university that you did as undergrad then you have some experience with that. if you attend an entirely different university then I believe you are under that university policy. So what is policy now...I imagine you need to show insurance.

Utahprof
New Member


Date Joined Jan 2010
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 1/25/2010 9:10 PM (GMT -7)   
I earned two masters degrees and a Ph.D. while suffering from Crohns and even had an ileal-anal anastomosis while doing my research for the dissertation. As both a former grad student and current faculty at a major research university, the best advice I can give is this:

1. Plan your schedule according to your daily rhythms - I always needed extra time in the morning b/c of the disease, but was able to get T.A. assignments for afternoons. Make sure that you schedule your study times as well and keep up with them to the best of your ability. At one point, I placed a TV snack table in the bathroom just so I could keep up w/ my work. If you don't make keeping up w/ the work, hell or high water, a top priority, you'll likely lose momentum and not finish. It happens to many without IBD, it can happen more easily to you.

2. Definitely talk w/ your advisor. You don't need to explain to too many other people unless you're going to be working closely with them (such as if you are an R.A. or T.A.).

3. If you are going to change meds or anything else where you are making yourself vulnerable to increased disease activity, plan it around school breaks.

4. I can't speak too much re: disability services from a student perspective as I went through school before the ADA. However, I think it very much depends on the nature of your program and your relationship with your faculty. If you have a program where you have some flexibility built in - and a good relationship w/ faculty - there's little need for disability services as you should be able to work out proper arrangements w/ the faculty directly that better serve your needs. As a faculty member, I can tell you that most will be sympathetic if you come in with a plan that includes keeping you (mostly) on track. Disability services tends to come up w/ cookie cutter plans that stipulate some largely arbitrary accommodation (twice the time on exams, for instance) that is easily implemented, but often beside the point. Moreover, their plans tend to be largely about accommodating the disease, rather than thinking on alternative ways of reaching the goal. Be inventive about those alternatives - faculty can say "no" but it never hurts.

Hope all that is helpful. Best of luck.

bookworm21
Veteran Member


Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 1766
   Posted 1/25/2010 9:45 PM (GMT -7)   
Thanks for all of the responses!


I'm not comfortable about talking to people in my "real life" about IBD, but I suppose I could just do what I did in undergrad--just tell profs that I have an autoimmune disease. I did register for the Disability Services in undergrad, but that was just for housing. If I stay in remission, I won't need testing accomodations or anything like that. Remicade has kept me in remission for a year so far, and hopefully I'll stay in remission (preferably, forever/until there's a cure). But I will have to miss classes or whatnot on infusion days or if my IBS decides to evil.



I luckily don't have any undergrad loans, but I'm going to attend an unfunded Master's program. So I'm looking at $90-100k total for the two years. shocked It just freaks me out, especially given the fact that I'll be on expensive Remi for a very long time!



I'm just worried about how I'm going to handle classes + work-study + life + UC + IBS + allergies + major fatigue. I know it could be worse (like I could be flaring), but still...

Crohnie_Mel
Regular Member


Date Joined Jan 2009
Total Posts : 23
   Posted 1/26/2010 11:07 AM (GMT -7)   

Hey guys..funny how this post came up on the boards of all days today, you totally read my mind. I was accepted into a Master's program for social work last year and had to defer for a year because of the instability of my Crohns. I was in the hospital twice over the summer and was debating getting surgery so unfortunately I had to wait until this fall to start.

I eventually decided against surgery and now I am terrified that I won't be able to balance work and school. I am so fortunate that even with being sick on and off for the past four years my agency has been so understanding. If I didn't work for a non-profit I would probably be fired! I am currently on 6mp and just weaned off of prednisone. Today I am feeling such nausea, I threw up and I am so sleepy. I'm so scared that I am getting sick again. How do you guys do it?? I want to move forward in my life, I am actually planning on applying for a couple of scholarships, too. I am only 26 but want that degree so I can pursue more goals and make a greater impact! I'm not depressed but I am starting to feel really discouraged because there really hasn't been a time where I have been in a long state of remission since diagnosed in 2004. What's a girl to do? Thanks guys <3


Melissa -- New York City
Diagnosed with Crohn's in 2004


GDen
Veteran Member


Date Joined May 2009
Total Posts : 703
   Posted 1/26/2010 4:10 PM (GMT -7)   
i completed a four year professional degree program before I got CD. It was incredibly time-consuming (all-nighters were common) and very stressful (impossible-to-please professors and very competitive classmates), two of the biggest factors (lack of sleep and stress) that really seem to affect my CD. Graduate programs seem to be more individually tailored, so there may be more flexibility.
Cimzia, Asacol


jpnutritionfirst
Regular Member


Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 383
   Posted 1/26/2010 5:34 PM (GMT -7)   
It's totally doable. There are so many people out there with this disease that have gotten through school with little problem. I got through the first two years of medical school, had a flare that took me out for 8 months, but now I'm back in school and doing well. Of course I made a decision to be both on Remicade and organic SCD for extra security to get through school. So far it's working very well. I would recommend following a very strict diet because your education/employment is at stake here. Some people say these diets don't work, but it's worth a shot. If you highly control your intake, there's less variability and uncertainty in your disease course. I needed this confidence to continue with school. I needed that reassurance that I would not have a flare again, even though it may happen. But still, that belief that I am reversing the disease and am safe is very reassuring even if it may be a placebo effect (though I don't think it is).
Crohn's Colitis diagnosed 6/08
Organic SCD since 4/09
Remicade since 6/09
Boswellia + Natren's Healthy Trinity probiotic + Cinnamon + Wild Oregano Oil + vitamin D + zinc + Barlean's fish oil
Remission


Malkavian
Veteran Member


Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 1439
   Posted 2/5/2010 1:09 PM (GMT -7)   
I just got admitted to a Ph.D program for the fall and I'm waiting to hear back from the rest of the schools I applied to.

I was diagnosed as an undergrad in my senior year but was having symptoms two years before that...the docs thought the first one was C. diff and after that I got repeat diagnosis of gastroenteritis. Yet somehow, I've always managed to juggle work, school, a relationship and student leadership positions...then again my IBD is not as bad as a lot of peoples'.

On the other hand, I want to do special pathogens/infectious disease...imagine working in a space suit during a flare, lol.
22, female, diagnosed 3/6/2009, symptoms for 2 years beforehand
Mild ulcerative colitis from rectum to mid transverse colon
Currently on lialda 4x/day, calcium and d, B12, yogurt
Things that help: probiotics, omega 3's, oral 5-ASAs, low fiber when flaring, soluble fiber, low saturated fat diet
Things that hurt: insoluble fiber, fried or spicy food, caffeine, alcohol, rectal meds when not flaring


bookworm21
Veteran Member


Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 1766
   Posted 2/5/2010 6:58 PM (GMT -7)   
Just out of curiousity, did you tell your classmates or friends about IBD? How do you do it? I usually just leave it at autoimmune disease b/c I don't trust people that easily and I don't want to gross anyone out. But the grad school I'm leaning toward at the moment is a bit far from home, so I feel like if I do make friends, I should tell them about it just in case something were to happen (and it'd be nice to spread some awareness).

MMMNAVY
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2006
Total Posts : 6927
   Posted 2/5/2010 7:41 PM (GMT -7)   
I think it depends on your program.
Forum Co-moderator - Crohn's Disease/Thyroid Disorders:_All comments have the caveat contact your local health care provider.

I will find a way or make one. –Phillip Sidney 1554-1586

All that I am and all that I shall ever be, I owe to my Angel Mother.

The Bucket List- Have you found joy in your life?  Has your life brought joy to others?

Make sure your suffering has meaning…


Malkavian
Veteran Member


Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 1439
   Posted 2/6/2010 7:37 AM (GMT -7)   
Well, most of my friends were there while I was being diagnosed, so they knew something was up. As for classmates...we had really big classes, I think my physiology class was 500 people, so we really didn't get into conversations. I did let my coworkers know as I had to take a few weeks off work right before I was diagnosed. I told some of my professors, though. I also told some of my professors but not others...the not others being the ones that really wouldn't care.

On the other hand for all of my lab classes I had to announce that I have medical alllergies, just in case of a lab accident. It was embarrassing as hell.
22, female, diagnosed 3/6/2009, symptoms for 2 years beforehand
Mild ulcerative colitis from rectum to mid transverse colon
Currently on lialda 4x/day, calcium and d, B12, yogurt
Things that help: probiotics, omega 3's, oral 5-ASAs, low fiber when flaring, soluble fiber, low saturated fat diet
Things that hurt: insoluble fiber, fried or spicy food, caffeine, alcohol, rectal meds when not flaring

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