A Day In My Life Photo Challenge for 30 Days Of RSD/CRPS Awareness, June 2013
Day 27 – A picture of your favourite triumph in pain memory
Okay, I’ve already mentioned the Tai Chi medals during the challenge, so today I’m going for the academic side of things.
On the 12th June I got the results for the final research module I’d completed in March towards my Masters Degree. I passed! Which also means that I have successfully completed my MSc. Hurrah!
Yes, I’ve got degrees before but this one was different. I studied for my BA Degree straight after school. I did it because I’d always expected to continue in education and back when I was 18 the UK education system did not involve scary tuition fees so the money we owed by the end of it could be just a few grand, not the devastating amounts that students find themselves owing these days. I was lucky. And I didn’t know how lucky I was at the time. I pottered along in life, got myself a job, met a guy, changed jobs to move to the same area as him, bought a house…. all that jazz.
By the time I studied for my BSc Degree I was in lots of pain. I studied it to retrain because I had a career path in mind, I wanted to make myself useful in the world and I’d spotted a niche that I could make a difference in. During that degree my health got worse, I went from crutches to wheelchair, I went from working to having to give up work, and I went from having no clue what was wrong with me to getting a diagnosis. The diagnosis turned up in the same month as my final exam.
My health was to scupper my career plans, but I didn’t know it back then so I rolled straight on into my MSc. I studied three of the four modules then had a major life rethink, and moved to a different county to be closer to my family. My family have always been most important to me in all the world so, unsurprisingly, my assessment of my new disabled life made me decide to change everything to be nearer to them. But I still could not give up all hope of following my career path, so I moved closer to my family but not right over into the same county because my hypothetical working future had more of a chance in the inbetweeny bit of geography. So, closer to my family and more of a chance of making a positive difference in the world. Ace, right?
But I had no money left to pay for the final module. As time went by my health got worse rather than better. By the time I’d saved enough money to do the final module (that took 6 years) the neuro’ symptoms were rife. My chances of studying to the standard I had done previously were seriously compromised. My viable study time was no longer ‘just’ affected by the chronic pain issues, but also by severe autonomic issues as well as brain fog that could render my brain pretty useless for days, and even weeks, at a time. I’d be a fool to spend the money on a venture like that, right?
So, fool or just plain determined maybe, I figured that my choice was to either a) try it and fail knowing that I’d at least tried, or b) not bother and always wonder if I could have done it. The second option didn’t appeal at all. So I went for option ‘a’.
Towards the end of the time period that I had available to get my research completed and written up as a dissertation… I lost my brain. For three looooong months. Good ole CRPS, thanks a bunch! So by the time I could comprehend things properly again I was three months behind. I was in a bad position but I wasn’t going to give up. The encouragement and belief in me from my friends online was phenomenal, plus my fellow students have been such a lovely bunch of people to travel this road with, of course Magic Dude did anything he could to help me healthwise so that I could concentrate on studying, not to mention the two amazing ladies who were my research reliability coders.
On the day that I completed my dissertation I took photo’s of the event. Whether I passed or failed would not detract from the achievement of just completing the challenge and doing the best I could for my fellow patients who I hope my research can eventually help.
But I did pass. And now I’m awaiting hardcopy feedback from the university so that I can address any issues before completing the paper for submission to an Open Access journal out there somewhere. I even entertain the thought of a PhD from time to time! But one step at a time. And each achievement should be celebrated rather than rushing on past it. Life is to be lived, good moments are to be savoured, and being proud of yourself is a good thing.
Completing the challenge was an achievement. Passing was a bonus!
P.S. If you’re thinking about studying despite your disability I say “go for it”! In the UK there is a Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) which can help you. It applies to all universities including the Open University (if, like me, regular attendance is not an option). Here’s a post I wrote previously about studying with the help of the DSA.