Going back to school in your late 30s or early 40s can be a daunting undertaking, but doing so with children provides its own unique set of challenges. In addition, cystic fibrosis can add to the complexity of balancing school, parenting, health, and other responsibilities. Managing time and schedules are especially diﬃcult when you have CF because you may need to take time oﬀ from school to attend medical appointments or take medication. You may also need to manage a more complex care regimen that could require more time and energy, which can leave you with less time to devote to your studies and family.
When I was 16 years old, I dropped out of high school and enrolled in a homeschool program. However, I later learned that the program did not hold accreditation from the Texas Board of Education. I was devastated, but I moved forward with my life.
Years later, I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter. I found it to be a challenging time, especially because I lacked support from the people around me at that time. I had to deal with family members and doctors who didn’t support my decision. However, I remained determined to follow my heart despite their opinions. My first pregnancy then evolved into one of the most rewarding and liberating experiences of my life.
My daughter initially was not aware of my health issues with cystic ﬁbrosis, but she became increasingly aware as she grew older. Every time I had to stay in the hospital, she cried out of fear that I wouldn’t come home. But there were times when she could stay with me at the hospital overnight, and I was committed to showing her that anything is possible with determination and hard work. I refused to let my illness deﬁne me and wanted to be an example for my daughter. I wanted her to see that we can all overcome obstacles and reach our dreams. Despite the diﬃculties, I felt grateful for the experience and for not allowing negative opinions to inﬂuence my choices.
Well into my thirties and 11 years after having my daughter, I learned that I was pregnant with my son. It was my intention to make my second pregnancy as low-key as possible. Due to the dynamic between my family members, there was a lack of communication that made me feel no obligation to inform them about my life and pregnancy. I didn't want to be judged again like I was during my first pregnancy, so I kept my pregnancy to myself and the few people I trusted. I knew that once I told my family, there would be too many opinions. I was also concerned about the potential for gossip and how that could aﬀect my pregnancy. I wanted to protect myself and my unborn child from any potential judgment or criticism that could result from the news spreading outside of my inner circle.
Before this, I had a strong plan in place to return to school, but hit a roadblock with my second pregnancy. I thought it was impossible, and for years I thought I wouldn't be able to obtain a diploma. Then I learned about an online high school program that oﬀered me the chance to complete my education and earn my diploma. It was a go-at-your-own-pace type of program at Penn Foster. For example, I was able to take as long as I needed to complete my classes and assignments without worrying about the deadlines.
I was determined not to let this story end the same way. I wanted my children to see that I would not give up when there were obstacles.
It is important to have a supportive network of family, friends, and health care professionals to help you manage your condition. Scheduling regular check-ins with your healthcare team can help you stay on top of your health and make sure your care plan is working for you. Additionally, having a ﬂexible school schedule can help manage the extra demands of CF.
I graduated and set an example for my children to follow in my footsteps. With perseverance, work, determination, and a positive mindset, anything is possible. I’m now going back to school in this new setting — it is something very diﬀerent to say the least. It’s exciting, and I’m just truly blessed that I get this opportunity to fulﬁll a dream that I wasn't able to take advantage of when I was growing up.
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