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A Teenage PSC Patient Contemplates College

It is a sunny fall day, but there is definitely a chill in the air. School is over for the day, and I am anxious to get home. I glance up as I run up the front porch stairs and see that my dog Cookie is looking out, so adorable in her perch at the front window waiting for me. I can’t see her tail, but I know that it is wagging for me!

A feeling of relief comes over me as I walk in the door, drop my backpack, and sink into the couch as Cookie jumps around on my lap. I am in the fall of my junior year, and I am starting to feel a bit stressed. First of all, I took mostly all difficult classes so that it would look good on my college applications. Second, I took the SAT a few weeks ago, and now I have the ACT coming up that I will have to prepare for. Last, I have a nagging ankle injury that made it impossible to do my best in cross country this season which is so disappointing.  Anyway, all of these worries melt away while I am at home. Home is really my sanctuary. I know that I am comfortable here, I have everything that I need, and that my family is here to help me.

What is most stressful to me is that I have to start thinking about what colleges I am going to look at and apply to. When thinking about it, I have many factors to consider. Of course, what major I will choose. That one is still up in the air, although I am thinking something math-related .. maybe math teacher, actuary or statistician. Also, I really need  to consider food. There are many foods that I have to avoid such as gluten, dairy, and soy that aggravate my health conditions. I have to make sure whatever school I choose has many gluten free and dairy free options that I can eat and also like to eat. Additionally, I also have to think about what area it will be in. I have always lived in a nice, small town with a pretty main street that has shops. I do not want to be in the middle of nowhere that is just farms, but I also do not like big cities. I really do not want to go too far away from my home. I would miss my family and my town so much.   

And of course ... a big part of my decision is my PSC. I am worried about going far away from home because of it.  A couple of weeks ago, I had my usual check up with my hepatologist, Dr. O. She said my liver enzymes are creeping up. I don’t really know exactly what that means, but I know that it isn’t a good thing. I asked her about going away to college, if that would be okay for me or if she thought I would be better off going to a local school.  She said not to base my plans on my condition or imagining the worst - that I could and should go away to college based on all the other factors and that we would deal with anything that happens health-wise as it comes up, if it even ever comes up. I guess she is right, that we shouldn’t think negatively and somehow will that to happen. But I can’t stop thinking about what would happen if I start to feel really sick? I know I have been lucky doing “pretty good” the last few years, but I can never forget those worst years when my whole body felt absolutely “dead”, and I was so utterly exhausted I couldn’t even walk or get up or do anything.  I know I want to be close enough to have the option of coming home if I need to for a weekend, and most likely the option to live at home and commute… which really narrows down my choices about where I can go.

Having health conditions definitely complicates my decision about college. I guess that I have a lot of thinking that I need to do. I still have some time, and I want to make the best choice for me. What I know for sure is… I can’t go too far away from my sweet and fluffy little dog, Cookie!

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