Winter Williams graduating
Illustration by Joules Garcia

“It was difficult to submit my application. I had a flare of UC that almost killed me, and I was in the hospital for 2 weeks. I had not finished my bachelor’s degree in years, and my UC was in a critical state.”

Thankfully, my doctors were able to find a treatment that helped relieve my symptoms so that I could take my education to the next level. I had a lot of questions. Would my dream of earning a Master of Business Administration be jeopardized by my UC?

I am happy to say that my diagnosis did not stop me from getting my degree, but it did make it difficult. I have some advice for getting through school and graduating with UC.

I was working full time and taking care of four children.

“When you add UC symptoms, it becomes more difficult to balance these responsibilities. I was unsure if I could do it all because people with UC don’t want their lives to be defined by their diagnosis.”

I didn\’t regret pressing “send” despite the fears, questions, and anxiety. I would never have known how much I could do if I never tried to go to school.

I received an envelope from my school after applying. I opened the envelope and read the first words: “We are pleased to inform you…”

I immediately dropped the envelope and cried. I was proud of myself.

“It’s not easy to get accepted to a school or earn high marks on an exam when you have a chronic illness. It is possible to get through all of the hard parts if you celebrate your wins.”

I had to start setting myself up for success after I was accepted into the program. I made a couple of calls to my faculty advisor and student support advisor. I wanted to learn the school protocols for helping students like me.

“There wasn’t much support or information available to me. It made me feel alone and frustrated. It is amazing how common this situation is. It is difficult to find support for someone with UC with all of the new technology.”

I was able to reach out to a nurse practitioners if I ever needed to, because I had access to the health center hotline. It is important to know the resources available at your place of education.

If it concerns your health, reach out for help.

Illustration by Joules Garcia

I made appointments with my gastroenterologist to make sure I would graduate from graduate school without being hospitalized.

My immune system was weakened by UC and protecting myself in large populations was important. My doctor prescribed a vitamins and told me to take it.

I felt confident enough to start my program, even though I had not yet reached my graduation destination. I knew there would be bumps in the road, but I had prepared so I could manage my health better in the future.

I knew what to do for my UC, so I put more of my focus on my studies.

The next few months were difficult. I was a working mom and graduate student at the same time, which made me feel stressed out. The stress caused some flares with UC.

I found ways to balance my stress by doing kickboxing andPilates. I found the energy I needed to navigate my schedule through those exercises.

I felt stronger after exercising because of my stress beinglieved. I needed every ounce of strength I had left to make sure I got my assignments in on time.

Even if your schedule is already packed, it is important to make time for stress relief like exercising, journaling, or spending time with friends. When you have activities that help you relax and feel good, you will be more productive when you have to work.

I was having trouble getting rest and was crying a lot. I saw a therapist and it changed the way I looked at my stress and diagnosis.

I believe that people with UC suppress a lot. We try to maintain a sense of normal in a world that ignores our diagnosis because we seem to be in good health most of the time.

My therapist helped me understand that my desire for normalcy was adding to my stress. It kept me from talking about how difficult living with UC can be.

I learned to focus on myself and my health more from those months of therapy, without fearing judgement from the outside world. I was given permission to live without feeling like UC was punishment.

I graduated from my program with flying colors and walked across the stage with a plump body. I graduated with my family and a community of support.

“I am proud to say that UC didn’t affect my career, and I realized what people with UC are capable of despite the diagnosis.”

UC is not the sum of me. I was able to navigate many obstacles on my way to graduation by knowing my resources, investing in self-care, and reaching out when I needed help.

I am in graduate school and I am looking forward to walking the stage again.

Winter Harris is an author, minister, speaker, conference host, and media personality who inspire her global audience by delivering a fresh message of hope. Winter has written eight books. Her most recent release is called The Obedience Exchange. Winter is a cast member in the first season of “Love and Marriage: DC.”