My path to my degree was a confused one. I was once predicted to be a dancer, and as far as career is concerned, this prediction appears to be coming true. Metaphorically my future has seemed to be turned on its head more often than I would have ever liked. There was a time, until recently to be honest, where the completion of my degree foretold a settling down of this topsy-turvy life. What can I tell you? I was wrong. My life will seemingly be lived in a way I could never have expected? Yet how can I talk about these things, when I have never really discussed what degree I am studying. The impetus that brought me to university, as well as how this is deeply intertwined with my disease, have been hidden from you. Until now.

The Decision to Move to a Degree

After a few years of working in an office job, living the yoga lifestyle, I became so pleased with my body I honestly thought I was handling my Lupus. This was about the time that things began to unravel. The job I was in was good for my body but not the rest of me. I was unhappy. Using my mother as motivation I began studying a certificate course in Education Assistance. She had been in this role for many years and was so inspirational that I felt I could follow her in her footsteps. Thinking that my personal experience with ill-health would give me a great perspective and enable me to empathise with students, I made the change. By the time I had completed the course, however, I knew this was not for me. No, I did not want to be the person working with one child. What I wanted was to be the one directing the class. I wanted to be a Primary Teacher.


Starting the Degree and Disease

As a mature-aged student, I applied for and was offered a place at Murdoch University to begin a Bachelor of Education in Primary. Within no time my classes were due to begin, the start date was mid-July 2013. It was within the first few weeks of my first semester that my black-outs and Cerebritis symptoms started. I continued studying, there seemed to be no reason not to. By the time end of year exams came around, brain scans indicated the first dozen lesions were found. A week into December the doctor called and admitted me to Fremantle Hospital. During Semester 1, 2014, following discussions with my folks about how much I had enjoyed a placement period in a Pre-Primary class I expanded my degree. Now I was enrolled in a Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood and Primary. During this semester I collapsed once during a children’s theatre performance and it was decided I needed an Equity Learning Plan (EQAL Plan). We realised this thing may be sticking around, but were unable to reach a diagnosis on what it was.


Disease Deepening as Degree Stresses Increase

There were no Placements in 2014, which was fortunate as this was the worst year for medication impacts. The doctors officially ruled out the possibility of Antiphospholipid Syndrome but nothing further was decided. There were three more seizures this year and an estimated 20+ brain lesions. Even so it was not until 2015 that the ante was really upped. The first seizure (May 17) took me from a class to Fiona Stanley Hospital. On August 5th I had the biggest and worst seizure to date. It began in a lecture, and I didn’t want it, so I ignored it. Sitting in my third tutorial of the day, I excused myself for the toilet and collapsed in the hall. That was the first time someone has saved my life. This was when I realised how dangerous and serious the illness in my brain was. That it occurred to me that I may not make it through the degree and into the career. Suddenly my degree was a lifeline to keep me afloat. I no longer thought, “Once I have graduated…” and now thought day-to-day, week-to-week.  My ultimate mantra was my light at the end of the tunnel, “If I graduate, I will be a teacher.” To be honest, my grades indicated I could to do it too.


The Depths of my Degree

After this seizure I lost some memories. Dad took me to the shops and I freaked out. When you have epilepsy and have seizures, it doesn’t just affect you at the time. For days afterwards, the information my sight was receiving was misinterpreted in my mind. I knew everything was in the right place, but I still felt it had been moved around. My speech and memories did not come back the same way and I could not follow conversations. I began to forget some things I had recently learned in class and information I had learned a while back. Everything moved quickly this semester. I collapsed 5th August, was discharged a few days later. Was admitted to Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) 16th August and was booked for my brain biopsy 28th August. I started my second placement 12th October, began chemotherapy 16th October, finished placement 26th October and finished chemotherapy 30th Friday. This was not something I would ever recommend another to do. It was one of the most irresponsible things I have ever done and if the chance came again, I would not do it. Yet I had the proof that I could handle the pressure of the classroom.


Forgetting my Degree

The year of 2016 saw more of the same: seizures and symptoms. My life seemed to be slowly leveling itself out though, which was a big relief for me. Of course, we all know how 2017 followed. The only saving grace with last year is the fact that I had no placements. We thought me being out of the classroom may not be such bad. Of course, we were wrong. This year is my last year. My 2018 studies started January 5th. I had a break from January 23rd to January 28th. Then I went straight into the classroom, on my Start-Of-Year placement. It became quickly apparent I could not handle the stress of a full classroom at the start of the year. I began to unravel emotionally and physically. Migraines developed, coordination in my movements went haywire and I lost all control over my speech. It was like I had a large lesion again.


My Degree at Present

My school mentor teacher contacted the university. A university coordinator came and we adapted my program, halving the days I was ‘on site’. Following a few days of an adapted time table, it was then decided my total lesson requirements would be lessened. A few days later, I was asked to assist in mini-tasks for co-teaching opportunities. Other educators were brought in to assess me. The school provided opportunities for me to teach the same lesson to different classes thus enabling me to make improvements. I was offered a multitude of chances to prove my abilities. After all of these adjustments it became clear I could no longer perform as I once had done. My mind was not able to meet the most basic task requirements under the stress of the classroom. Even to this day I still struggle to understand what I was meant to be doing and how it compared to what I was doing.


I guess this is where my story is going to end for now. I did not pass the placement. If I cannot pass the placement, I cannot complete the degree. This is the story of how I came to fail my degree because of my newest disease. An investigation is underway at present for a potentially new lesion.


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