Resources for Students with Chronic Illness
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In the fall of 2007, I began graduate school at the University of Michigan. Like so many young adults, I thought that my life was set and I was filled with hope and optimism about the future.
What this story does not reflect, however, are the strange symptoms I that recurred during my senior year of undergrad at the U of M and the summer of 2007. Repeat strep throat and pink eye infections, bizarre stomach bugs, and the telltale muscle and joint pain (at first, only after I worked out, then eventually, the pain never went away).
When I received my diagnosis of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis (a.k.a. multiple connective tissue disease) in April of 2008, it was, needless to say, a heavy blow. I’m 22 years old, I thought. This can’t be happening to me. But it was and it is. And I quickly learned that I was either going to let the disease take over and destroy me or I was going to do everything in my power to keep it at bay for as long as I possibly could. This made me realize that I needed to educate myself about the diseases, about the medication, about everything. I didn’t want to be a passive force in my life. The only person who was truly going to advocate for me was me.
I think the hardest part for me was trying to get through to other people. At first, I didn’t exactly know what I needed from anybody. The thing I found most frustrating is that when I told people I was sick, they assumed I had the flu or something that would go away. Obviously, this was not the case and maybe only those who have chronic illness can truly understand. There were definitely days where I longed to have the flu. It was something I realized I would never complain about again. To be sick for a few days pales in comparison to having symptoms that come and go without warning, every single day of your life. Because now I knew what it was like to be truly “sick.” I also realized, however, that I could not let “sick” define who I am.
There is something humbling about illness. My mortality had been handed to me on a silver platter, certainly not what I was expecting at the age of 22. But more than anything, the community I have joined has humbled me. It’s a community that I hope no one else my age ever has to endure, but I know that is not reality.
None of this has been easy or fun, but it has taught me that there is a lesson in everything. Even when things are really bad, there is a lesson to be learned. And it is hopefully that lesson that gets us through the toughest times and brings us out stronger at the other end. It has also taught me who my true friends are. Those who will be there through thick and thin, those who knew when and how to make me laugh, and listened and provided the compassion I needed to get through the hardest, darkest, roughest of times. These have been the true gifts.
The truth is, my story is not about the symptoms listed above, or the trials and tribulations I have endured over the past several years. Rather, it is about the fact that I am still standing. That I have stayed in school and found ways to make do despite illness. I’m not sure where I pulled that strength from, but if I have it, I know deep down, somewhere, you do, too.
If you are reading this, if you have found this site accidentally or been directed to it by a doctor or trusted friend, know this: you are not alone. There are people within the University community to help you, and who want to help you. This webpage was created in an attempt to coordinate the various resources available to students with chronic health conditions at the University of Michigan so that you won’t have to.
-- Leslie, UM Graduate Student
Campus Disability Resource Directory
This webpage lists campus resources that relate illness and disability as they pertain to the University community.
Created to support UM students who have been diagnosed with an ongoing mental health disorder, this site provides information and resources to help students manage their illness and get the most out of their college experience.
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
CAPS offers a range of services including individual counseling, support groups, workshops and community referrals. Free and confidential for UM students.
Dean of Students Office
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734-764-7420
The Dean of Students Office can provide assistance with personal (i.e. non-academic) matters such as illness, injury, family or emotional issues, etc. The office can also help coordinate notification of student emergencies to the proper academic programs, etc.
MiTalk: Living with Chronic Health Conditions
MiTalk is a website on mental health for UM students.
Office of the Ombuds
Email Ombuds-DSA@umich.edu or call 734-763-3545
A place where students' questions, complaints and concerns about the functioning of the University can be discussed confidentially in a safe environment. The Office offers confidential, informal dispute resolution services, provides resources and referrals, and helps students consider options available to them.
Rackham Graduate School Graduate Student Affairs (GSA)
Email email@example.com or call 734-647-7548
Graduate Student Affairs (GSA) strives to enhance the quality of graduate student life for Rackham students. GSA staff can assist graduate students with personal and/or academic issues and can connect students to other University resources.
Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD)
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 734-763-3000
You can register through Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) to receive University acknowledgement of your illness and/or disability. This acknowledgement can support your request for accommodations. If you do not want to register with SSD, you can still meet with someone from the office to talk about available resources and potential challenges.
University Housing for Students With Disabilities or Chronic Health Conditions
This webpage offers information about how to apply to receive accommodations.
University Health Service
Email contactUHS@umich.edu or call 734-764-8320
Health care for students. Most services are covered (free) for enrolled students (i.e. those who are taking regular classes on the Ann Arbor campus). A wide variety of services, including Mental Health Services. If you need more specialized health care, UHS can help connect you to other providers. If you need assistance with understanding or paying medical bills, contact the Managed Care/Student Insurance Office.
U-M Students for Chronic Illness Awareness
Email Support4students@umich.edu and search for us on
A group that helps students connect with one another and raises awareness about chronic health conditions.
UM Health System Crohn's and Colitis Program for Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease provides services for college students, including a dedicated clinic twice per month, online information and a support group.
For Incoming Students:
- Coping with a Chronic Illness and Overcoming Doubts about College
This article suggests useful tips for a successful transition to college.
- Impact of Chronic Illness on College Planning: A Guide for Teens
This webpage was written for women but pertains equally well to men.
- CampusMindWorks offers tools to help new UM students plan a transition to college.
Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (AACIL)
An off-campus community resource dedicated to helping people of all ages with disabilities. This nonprofit organization was established in 1976. AACIL provides a variety of services, including counseling and support groups, sports and recreation activities, coordination of long-term care and youth programming.
The Invisible Disabilities Advocate strives to help friends and family better understand chronic illness and pain, as well as learn how to be a source of encouragement and support.
- The Autoimmune Epidemic by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
- Everything Changes by Kairol Rosenthal
- Life Disrupted by Laurie Edwards
- The Etiquette of Illness by Susan Halpern
- Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease by Rosalind Joffe
- You Are Stronger than You Think: Tapping into the Secrets of Emotionally Resilient People by Peter Ubel