What's a girl to do when she's in her second-to-last semester of undergrad and she just withdrew from three classes for medical reasons? To make matters worse, one of those three classes was only offered once a year. Sounds like that girl had dilemma! Who was this girl? Me, of course!
I had just given a group of strangers, also known as the Academic Standards Committee, an envelope full of information about me. They now knew everything from my blood type to my recent diagnosis. Basically, all of my business was in their hands. I had just requested an appeal for withdrawal from the classes that I was failing. Soon after I submitted the appeal, I realized that it was saving me and hurting me at the same time. It wasn't going to damage my GPA but I also wasn't going to graduate in the spring as I expected. Advanced Physiology, the class where it all started, was only offered every fall semester. What a coincidence? The same class where my symptoms started was going to be the same class that stopped me from graduating in the spring.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a December graduation. However, if you know the kind of person that I am, then you know that I was already planning a lavish graduation party and that I already had a hair appointment scheduled for graduation day, IN THE SPRING! Not only that, I had already planned to take the MCAT the following September. I had plans! At this point, not only did the fearless approach kick in, but DETERMINED TASHA was activated. After arguing with my parents to allow me to return to school, fainting in class, becoming an on-and-off emotional wreck and taking on A WHOLE DISEASE, there was no way that I was not walking across a stage at Towson University that spring.
What did I do?
Step 1: LET THEM KNOW
My parents told me to speak with the Dean of my university's science and mathematics school. The last thing I wanted to do was open up about my illness to a complete stranger but these were serious times. I scheduled an appointment with her and walked in to what I thought would be a useless meeting with an outcome that I didn't want. Instead, I walked out with several used Kleenex tissues, a smile and a waiver for my Advanced Physiology requirement. But it didn't end there.
Step 2: MINI-MESTER CLASSES
The Dean chose to waive my requirement on the condition that I successfully completed a health course during the winter term, also known as "mini-mester." There wouldn't be much of a winter break for me but I didn't care. I stayed in Towson for about three weeks to complete the course and I also used the alone time in my apartment to have some good-ole "me" time. Until then, I hadn't truly had any time to be alone and focus on Tasha.
Step 3: SPRING BACK INTO ACTION
Because I knew that there was absolutely no room for me to fail, I didn't. I actually came back with a better attitude and with more motivation. It was tough taking molecular biology and physics in one semester along with three other classes but God saw me through.
Step 4: WALK ACROSS THE STAGE AND SMILE FOR YOUR GRANDMA
I did it! I graduated! The woman with me in the picture to the right is my maternal grandmother, Haja Marie Louisa Jabati, and this was taken on graduation day. I did not mention her name much in my diagnosis story because we told her very little about my illness. Even now, I still don't know how much she understands about what's happening to my body. She doesn't know too much about MS or withdrawal appeals or minimester classes, but she definitely understands education. Well before I became ill, I told her that I was set to graduate on May 23, 2012 and I didn't want to disappoint her. My grandmother was a teacher in Sierra Leone for many years. She and my grandfather knew the value of education and they did their best to instill that love for education in their children and grandchildren. Hearing "Tasha, you have done well" from her made the fight for spring graduation well worth it. I realized that in everything you do, for whatever reason, determination is key. If you are determined enough to fight an illness, you can be just as determined in achieving your goals. Whether you do it for your grandma, your parents, your significant other or for yourself, just know that YOU CAN.
STAY TUNED and STAY FEARLESS