A Fork in The Road

It was Thursday morning a week into nursing school, the sun was shining, and I got up bright and early to go study before class started. As I go through my notes my phone lights up with an email. It is from the director of nursing at STCC. The email is telling me she wants me to meet with her and the Dean of the Health Department to discuss my “situation” right now. Right off the bat this didn’t give me a very good feeling. I had contacted her earlier about any further steps I needed to take regarding my vaccinations. I am on medications for my Crohn’s that prevent me to receive live vaccines (which I’m sure many of you Crohnies are familiar with). Unfortunately when I got my titers done I had not converted over with almost all of my immunizations. I think the only thing I was immune to was Measles.

When I found out this information over the summer I contacted to school immediately and provided documentation for everything. They told me all I needed was a doctor’s note stating I cannot receive these immunizations. After I did this I didn’t hear from them so I assumed everything was fine. Well, needless to say they are now trying to kick me out of the program due to medications I’m on and not being able to receive my immunizations. They told me I am not health cleared because I have not received these shots. I do understand this is important and that they have to hold up to the contracts… Buttttt, what baffles me is anyone can refuse any vaccinations for religious reasons (they have forms for that to fill out) and still participate in the program and clinical. Discrimination? I think so.

When I was sat down with the Dean and director I was told I need to withdraw immediately to prevent losing money (by the way, this was the last day of the semester to withdraw without penalty, coincidence?). They did tell me I would have automatic readmission to the program but if I were to go back on all of these immune suppressing medications (I am on methotrexate, prednisone, and Uceris) I would then have to withdraw again. She proceeded to tell me, “I should really consider a new profession”. Rude. If this wasn’t a knife to my stomach I don’t know what would be. And also, am I the only sick person who wants to become a nurse? Like come on, let’s be realistic here this can’t be the first time this has happened.

I have worked so hard to get into this program, I lost it when they told me this. They let me sit there and cry in front of them while they just stared at me with blank faces. After leaving I thought about it more and was absolutely not withdrawing. This was not right and something about the whole situation had to be illegal. I called my mom and doctor and they were on it like flies on shit. They clearly did not know who they were messing with. To me it sounds like they just don’t want to be bothered filling out extra paper work and/or make special arrangements for me (find a place I can clinical at). Oh, and I didn’t even let them tell me I can’t attend lecture and labs. I was not going to fall behind while this gets figured out.

The past five years of my life I have struggled to stay in school due to health issues. I have had to withdraw twice due to hospitalizations and I’ve taken multiple semesters off because of it. When I finally am feeling good and am ready to go to school full time they just have to knock me down. I’m not an easy one to knock down though. My family and doctor have both worked really hard to keep my psyche in check because this disease is so wearing on the mind. When you’re not able to go to school or work you feel useless and like you’re not going anywhere in life. I’ve had this feeling many times during my life but it vanished when I got accepted into nursing school. I could finally see my future and what I was meant to do. This isn’t just school to me, this is the rest of my life. It is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Even if in the end I am not able to attend nursing school, they’re not going to get out of this one without a very big fight.

Life isn’t always fair, but in my head I keep saying over and over again: everything happens for a reason. And I truly believe that. Don’t just be a fighter against your disease, be a fighter in life.


Mentality is Everything

Since I’m done with school for a couple weeks and killed this past academic year with my bare hands ;p I decided I’d write a little bit. I do kind of miss it; not writing as much as I used to. But, I can’t believe I have actually gotten through a WHOLE school year without getting sick or being hospitalized. I keep emphasizing to the people around me that “I’m done, I finished a year!” and they’re probably getting annoyed at this point like “okkkkeyyy we get it, you’re done” lol. But it is a huge deal for me. The past five years of my life (and throughout highschool), I’ve struggled with school. I could never figure out how to not get overwhelmed by a heavy work load and I never thought that I could actually do it. “You’re going to get sick” was in the back of my mind ALL the time. And when I saw all the time, I mean at pretty much every waking second. The struggle was real and this was probably the worst mindset a person could have. After having to withdraw twice from school, several hospitalizations/in home IV treatments per year I was pretty much at a loss when it came to my education. It didn’t help that the schools were not at all understanding especially Westfield State, I kind of wish I took more action with it but at the time I was so sick I didn’t even care. Regardless I decided I needed to do something with my mindset. I first started with encouraging myself (even if I didn’t believe myself I knew eventually I would) and finding a stress outlet, which was the gym. I think that’s truly when things began to change for me. Stress is hands down my #1 trigger to a flare up. It only takes me about two or three weeks of being stressed out to start noticing significant symptoms including- energy loss, bloody bm, canker sores in my mouth, severe joint pain, bloating, etc. Although these past final weeks of school have sent me into a little flare from the stress, I have changed my mindset to control my stress levels and it’s finally paying off. I have a 4.0 gpa to show for it!

The gym and living a healthy lifestyle has no doubt changed my life. Not only do I see myself physically looking healthier and stronger, my mentality is as strong as it’s ever been. It hasn’t been as easy as it sounds though. It’s taken me a few years to figure everything out and I’m still a work in progress (mentally and physically). Some people may call me a bit obsessed with the “fit lifestyle” but I just loFullSizeRender (7)ok at it as dedication. Yes I log my food, and yes I count calories/macros, but how else do you learn? It also allows me to make sure I’m getting the amount of food and nutrients I need to stay healthy. And not to mention keeps my brain occupied with something I really enjoy doing.  Being able to channel my stress, or anyone being able to do that in a healthy manner is one of the keys to happiness. I am now successfully able to block out negativity (which I was terrible at before) and it feels so damn good!

Not only is changing your diet/focusing on a healthy lifestyle and exercising is a good stress reliever but it can be beneficial to IBD itself. I’ve noticed that even when my body might not feel that great, my mind still does which is vital in living a somewhat normal life with Crohn’s. Your mind is everything.. Exercise also tends to calm down my digestive system and allows me to IMG_1613have normal bm! Craziness. I tend to not have the best appetite, so when I exercise it also keeps me hungry and my metabolism in check!  Another benefit of exercise is the benefit it has on your bones. Us Crohnies have most likely been on an obscene amount of steroids, which can long-term lead to breakdown of bones (osteoporosis), so this can be a great preventative method for IBD patients.

Well as this school year comes to a close I am a happier, more accomplished me 🙂 Not only am I closing a chapter but I am opening a new one and starting the nursing program at my school in the Fall. Life is only today, and you can accomplish anything if you really want it. Not to say there aren’t obstacles but take it day by day, moment by moment and you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve!



Attention all athletes!

I was going through old articles and pictures from when I was a dancer, gymnast, and diver. I found this article which I had completely forgotten about and thought it’d be something really good to share. Never let this disease take you down or hold you back!

I copied and pasted the article so it was easier for you guys to read rather than clicking on another link. It is from masslive.com. This article was written by a local reporter, Russ Held, and picture is by Dave Rowback of Westfield, MA.

Michelle Strattner, Westfield High school diver, to other Crohn’s Disease Sufferers: Don’t Give up


Westfield High School diver Michelle Strattner wants others with Crohn’s disease to learn how to cope with affliction as she has.

The last thing Michelle Strattner of Westfield wants to make is a splash.
Not as a second-year diver on the city’s high school swim team.
And not as a 17-year-old high school senior – battling a chronic disease – who just wants to feel normal.
Strattner is one of the leading contenders entering Thursday night’s Western Massachusetts High School Diving Championships at Springfield College. The boys and girls competition begins at 7 p.m. at Art Linkletter Natatorium at Springfield College.
Making a splash while diving off the one-meter board could spoil her hopes of improving on last year’s sixth- place finish at the championships.
The bigger splash, or impact, she may ultimately make will come from being a role model to others.
Strattner suffers from Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease. Excruciating abdominal pain and chronic fatigue are among many symptoms.
“I just want to be normal, to feel normal,” Strattner said. “The fatigue is so bad some days, I can’t even get off the couch. I’m 17 but I do feel like 87 some days. I really have to push myself just to do what everyone else can do.”
Few people – only some friends, family and teammates – know her battle. But Strattner has reached a point where she is comfortable sharing her story, hopeful to help others.
“I’d hope that others who have it, don’t give up,” Strattner said. “It’s really, really hard, but they can be normal. I just want to be normal.”
Strattner was diagnosed with Crohn’s as a seventh grader.
“I’ve had problems all my life. It was really bad in elementary school,” she said. “It was a relief to know what it was, but it was very scary too. It’s not really a disease people know about or understand.”
The condition can be hereditary, and Strattner said she recalls that her late maternal grandfather underwent four surgeries.
“That was the scariest part, knowing he had the surgeries and that it might be that way for me,” Strattner said.
Strattner battles Crohn’s, with no known cure, primarily with medication and rest, “and just trying to take care of myself.”
“I have to be smart about what I do,” Strattner said, “But it’s frustrating, to always have to deal with it. I have to give myself shots, and it is extremely painful.”
A late weekend night or overexertion can take it toll on her energy level for days at a time.
“I am usually run down for the next week,” Strattner said. “A lot of people ask and wonder why I have to miss so much school or why I have to sleep as much as I do.
“I have some really rough mornings. It’s a process every day. It doesn’t really get better. At points I have given up for a while.”
But through it all, Strattner has remained upbeat, knowing that “a lot of people have worse things to worry about.”
Westfield swimming coach Tom Lewis describes Strattner as humble, an inspiration and leader by example.
“The other kids see her as a role model,” Lewis said. “And if you told her that, she’d probably feel embarassed.
“She’s a young lady with great character. It’s rough enough being a high school athlete, let alone the challenges she faces. She always has this phenomenal smile on her face.”
On the diving board, Strattner said her senior season immediately exceeded her expectations.
“I thought I’d be rusty, I hadn’t done it since last season,” she said. “I thought I’d come in so-so and work my way back to where I was. But right away I did very well.”
Strattner holds the second- highest diving average (188.03) in the Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference, behind only Lauren Weiner (193.0) of Agawam.
She broke a 15-year-old school scoring record at a single meet. That score of 226.95 ranks as the highest, by 5.55 points in the region this winter.
She started diving on a whim, less than 18 months ago, when a friend asked her to try out.
Strattner had been a top competitor on the high school’s gymnastics team, helping the Bombers win two Western Mass. team titles through her junior season.
“The same ability you need in gymnastics translates to diving … the technique, a lot of it came naturally to me,” she said.
She was named to The Republican’s All-Scholastic second team in gymnastics as a sophomore and junior.
“It was pretty hard on my body and I was a little burnt out on it … so I did not compete as a senior,” said Strattner, who trained and competed in dance for eight years.
Strattner said that if she is well-rested Thursday night, her physical condition and mental focus for a few hours Thursday night should not be affected by Crohn’s.
She’ll just be a normal teenager trying not to make a splash.