Attending College w/Lyme...any advice?

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Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2006
Total Posts : 186
   Posted 1/6/2009 9:22 PM (GMT -6)   
Right now, i can't handle the load of full college classes anyway, but was wondering how others have dealt with having Lyme and trying to attend college.  Has everyone just given up on making it to a regular campus and decided to do the online route?  Have you taken advantage of any "disability status", and were school officials accomedating?  I realize it's going to vary from college to college.  Advice and experience on this subject would be much appreciated.

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.  

Henry Ford

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”
Thomas Jefferson 

New Member

Date Joined Dec 2008
Total Posts : 13
   Posted 1/10/2009 5:15 PM (GMT -6)   
So here is the secret... Always sit next to the really smart kid idea hehe. Actually my advice would be to seek out your students with disabilities dept. and speak with them about your situation. 9 times out of 10 they will be able to work with you and your instructors to give some sort of aid in your situation. Most times talking with your instructor no matter how nice they are just doesn't get you what you need. This way, if you need extra time for an assignment or need to reschedule a test due to a bad day of Lyme fog. Maybe they can even run off a copy of notes for you if you were unable to be in class that day or just having a hard time. I think this would be very helpful for you. Its not going to make it a whole lot easier but at least easier to deal with. You can do it though.

My fiance' is the one with Lyme. She was diagnosed with Fibro at 14 and we just got the diagnosis a week ago. Although she had to drop out of High School and finish at our community college, she was still able to get her Masters Certification in audio engineering and protools, run a record label, freelance makeup artist, and finish her real estate license in 2 1/2 months. She has it pretty bad, days where she cant get out of bed, and others when we had to rush her to the hospital, but I guess if you want something bad enough you will find a way to do it. Not only that but because its harder, and you put in so much more, you will tend to be 100 times better than everyone else around you. Don't give up. Simply know when to tough it out and push, and when your body needs to rest.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2006
Total Posts : 1173
   Posted 1/13/2009 12:53 AM (GMT -6)   

Hi Sweetie,

I just read your post to Heth (stretched out on the couch out of necessity!) :)

She said she would write to you on FB.  You might have to remind her of your ? here!  :)  :) 



"God loves with a great love the man whose heart is bursting with a passion for the impossible." ~booth -click "Lyme testimony" and "Lyme Disease" for a panoramic view of the truth.  Lyme disease - coming to a tick near you!

New Member

Date Joined Oct 2008
Total Posts : 12
   Posted 1/13/2009 2:28 AM (GMT -6)   
I am in college (well currently I am on a leave of absence) but all last year I went and got through the whole year even with good grades. It took a lot out of me and I have kinda paid for it. I believe the only way to do it is to go on disability. That is what I did and it was very helpful. I also met with a counselor twice a month that followed up with me and my health. If I was ever in the hospital or too sick to attend class or make it for test I would let her know and then she would proceed to tell my teachers. When it was coming from her they were a lot more understanding and they knew I wasn't just being a slacker. They also gave me more time for papers and test. In fact some teachers were so understanding that they didn't make me do certain assignments and never counted off points for not being there (which was quite often).

It took a lot for me to take the leave of absence this year (I felt like it was giving up and letting the lyme win), but my mom told me what is the point of stressing out your body. She reminded me that I need to focus on my health first. And with extra stress you only feel sicker. So don't beat yourself up too much if you just can't do it. Try disability and if it is still too much then go from there. When I go back next fall I am going to stay on disability because it really was so helpful.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2006
Total Posts : 1161
   Posted 1/13/2009 1:31 PM (GMT -6)   
A lot of your decisions depend on your level of illness. I would not be afraid to sit out a year or two and concentrate on your health. You really aren't going to miss much, and this isn't a race. The economy is rather trashed at the moment so i wouldn't be super excited to graduate at the moment because the job market is rather brutal.
If you must go to school. I would cut back on classes and take what you can handle, not what a non lymie can handle. And i often think that taking information in, with the first year of lyme treatment and the brain fog, anxiety and memory issues that come along with it, learning could be rather difficult until the later stages of treatment.  
I'm not sure what you insurance situation is but some family insurance packages require the child to have full time credit hours in order to be under the adults insurance plan. That could complicate things. Almost like being forced to take full time so you don't lose the insurance from your parents. Maybe this does not pertain to your situation.

Veteran Member

Date Joined May 2005
Total Posts : 2671
   Posted 1/13/2009 3:50 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi teenlymer,
If you do decide to go full-time, make sure you get enough sleep. And if you live in a dorm, watch out for those late-night snacks!! I just remember the RA's bringing boxes and boxes of cookies to every dorm meeting... :)
Lyme and co-infections since approximately 2002. Diagnosed in 2005. Treated for two years solid. Diagnosed with Lymphomatoid Papulosis in October 2007. Currently back on abx.

Moderator for Lyme Disease forum

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2006
Total Posts : 186
   Posted 1/15/2009 5:33 AM (GMT -6)   
thanks for the responses everyone!
i did successfully complete (and pass!) 2 college classes at a local junior college campus this past fall semester.  the classes were "easy" classes for me though.  An American Red Cross First Aid/CPR class and a Begginning Piano class (i've taken piano lesson for 10 yrs. rolleyes ).  Both classes didn't give very much hmwk, either.  But i could still tell my body was stressed. Making sure i didn't forget assignments, getting to class on time, feeling crummy and not wanting to miss class, etc.  I didn't really use any "disability status".
This semester i've decided to focus on my health. trying to get more doc appts. in, and getting more disiplined about taking supplements and avoiding foods i'm sensitive to.  So no classes this semester. 
JRuff84--funny you say sit by the smart kid...what's depressing is that i used to be considered that "smart kid" everyone wanted to sit by. yeah  Now, i'm joyous when i spell my own name correctly.  Your fiance's story is encouraging and inspiring to know she's succeeded in life even w/her struggles.
sojourner--i totally forgot to ask Heth about it on FB.  like that's a surprise.  lymie brains tend to do that. tongue
ShelM--thanks for the advice about meeting w/a couselor often.  makes sense that professors would think twice before labeling you a "slacker".  yeah, i kinda cringe at the thought of maybe having to get a leave of absense someday.  but what will be, will be.
phsinvent--yeah, taking time off from the idea of college has crossed my mind.  i don't want to "overload and blow out" what little brain curcuitry is working now.  i know even when i get to feeling slightly better, i still plan on going to the junior college for the next 2 yrs. anyway.  And i think my parents are just now having to deal w/the insurance difficulties.  Especially since i'm now legally an adult.  it's gonna get complicated.
alfers--get enough sleep, eh?  HAHAHAHA....*falls over from exhaustion due to fatigue and extreme insomnia*  Yup.  i still suffer from insomnia that makes it even more difficult to get homework done.  it's like i'm too fatigued to read the assigned pages, so i try to go to bed early, get some sleep, and finish reading in the A.M. before class.  Seems like a reasonable plan.  Except that the sleep part rarely happens.
And i have so many food sensitivites i'm likely to literally starve while away at a dorm.  like all the "snack" foods on the planet have cane sugar, wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, etc.  Things i can't have.  but i'll remember to be aware of the boxes of cookies, and perhaps suggest some fruit to be brought instead.

New Member

Date Joined Jan 2009
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 1/31/2009 3:56 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi --

I'm only recently diagnosed as Lyme, but I am a college proffie type (or was, I'm on leave now while I deal with the worst of the treatment). A lot of people have already given you good advice -- ESPECIALLY about working with your student disability office, and taking a reduced load. But here's a couple of ideas I have, from the prof's point of view.

(1) Make good use of any online resources associated with classes, like Blackboard. In some cases (depends on school and options their online systems offer) you can customize your account to send you reminders about assignments and when they are do.

(2) Consider taking a class or two that are all online, if your college offers them. I find that I get more done if I work in bed or while lying down. If I try to go to my office to work -- even though the work may just be some reading or research -- that I get much more worn down and have to quit very early, just from the stress of getting to campus and having to sit up at a desk!

(3) From the professor's point of view, their main hesitation in giving students extensions or letting them miss assignments is that they want to be fair to all students, and giving some favors while expecting others to tow the line and penalizing only some for late assignments is not fair to the group as a whole. (It is also more work for the proffie if he/she has to do lots of make up exams and homework assignments!) Legitimate emergencies and disabilities are the exception -- but they must be well-documented! If you show the instructor that you are serious about your work, and treating your illness, then you show that you are not "making it up" in order to get out of work. (You would be surprised just how many "dead grandmothers" there are around midterms and finals!) So here are some specific suggestions.

- Explain the situation to each instructor on the first day of class, so that they realize you may have problems due to illness. It may be best to do this during the proffie's office hours, so you can do so in private and have enough time to ask about each one's policies regarding late/make-up assignments for people in your situation.

- Ask your doc to draft a letter on his/her letterhead for profs, explaining that you have Lyme, what your symptoms are, and how it might affect your performance. Having an outside opinion from a person with an advanced degree will make more of an impression on a prof. This may also be something included in your file at the student disability office.

- Use a site like LymeLog ( to track your symptoms. Once you register at that site, you can enter your symptoms every day and that way create a day-by-day log of how tired/achy/etc you are (you can add the symptoms that are relevant in your case). Not only will this help you in the long run in understanding what your pattern of illness is, if you have a "flare up" that causes you to miss an assignment or exam, then you can print out your results for that time period to show the prof, so "prove" that you really were sick. Us lymies can't go to the doc every time we feel sick, since we would be there all the time, so a doctor's note specific to every flare is probably not possible. However, presenting long-term documentation of your physical status will impress the proffie and show that you are not trying to cover for missing class because you were hung over, or too busy on facebook, or doing any number of things that us old farts think you kids are up to!

(4) If your disability office does not offer note-taking services for students when they can't make it to class, try to make a new friend in the class right away, explain your situation and see if you can arrange to get notes from this person ahead of time, in case you have to miss class.
Wildlife biologist working in tropics since 1997; multiple tick bites in Nicaragua in March 2007 but without any rashes, started getting sick May 2007 with waxing and waning of symptoms; significant worsening of symptoms since June 2008; diagnosed with Lyme based on serological testing in Jan 2009; treatment starting Feb 2009. Wish me luck!

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