A Letter From A Student With A Chronic Illness

Written on April 20th, 2016

Dear Professor,

I understand that you are busy, and that teaching jobs are often accompanied with hectic schedules. I understand that you teach large classes, and often loose track of all of the students that come through your classroom doors. I understand that you have been teaching for quite some time now and that, due to the inevitable stress wrought by countless years in this field, teaching students may not still be what it once was to you. Yet, I beg of you, please do not just look at me like you only see another number on your roster. If I am struggling in your class, please do not talk to me like I am some stupid sorority girl who stays up and parties all night. (to be honest, I am a sorority girl and, no, I do not party). Although contrary to what you may think, please consider the possibility that I may actually have big dreams. Please understand that I am an actual person, and deserve to be talked to with respect. Please understand that not only am I an actual person, but I also happen to be a person living with an extremely painful nerve disorder. I know you, as well as most others that I come across, are not used to seeing a young woman walking around with a cane. I know that when you usually think of a disabled person walking with a cane, a hunched over elderly man comes to mind. I know it may be easy to overlook how my pain so regularly impacts my learning. Please understand that this does not make me unintelligent. I assure you, I am adamantly attempting to listen to every moment of your lectures. During this time, it feels as though a knife were jamming into my leg and being pounded with a hammer. So if I come to you later asking you to review a certain topic that you covered in class, please understand that it is not due to my lack of interest in your teaching, but rather I was trying to keep from bursting into tears from the pain in the middle of class. This pain I experience does not only happen during your class, but twenty four hours a day, every day of the week. I wake up constantly during the night as a result, which affects my energy level throughout the day. My memory is altered both due to my focus being constantly adverted to the pain, not to mention the number of medicines I am on. Speaking of medicines, they have their own side effects as well, ranging from blurred vision to constant shaking to drowsiness. Though these are a few of my daily struggles, my goal is to live my life as ordinarily as possible. No, actually, I do not want to live ordinarily. I want to live a life beyond that. I fight my body daily, along with all of the other struggles that regular students fight. In spite of all this, I know that I am made stronger because of it. So please understand this: I ask for no special requests. I ask for no special attention or exceptions. I simply ask that you see and treat me as a student who is trying to learn and make an impact on this world.

~ A Student With A Chronic Illness

Natalie Baugh