Taking a Semester off From College

It is 3:30 AM on Monday, August 30th and I have officially made the painful deicision to take a semester off from college. This decision wasn’t so much my own as is dictatated by my health conditions at this time. I desperately did not want to settle on this decision since it would have been my senior year and I would want nothing more than to graduate with the friends and peers I entered this college with three years ago.

While my health have always been a continuous and layered problem, with endless things to deal with, this particular episode basically started at the end of July. My skin condition had gradually gotten worse while I did research at UCR for the summer. The air there was significantly worse than air in claremont (if you can believe that), which was devastating to my asthma and skin. On a side note, my skin allergies often gets worse in bad air conditions since it takes away from the already low body resources that I need to battle all the things I’m reacting to. Furthermore, there were tons of chain smoking graduate students there. By the end of July, 8 weeks into the project, my hands were severly infected and I had to call it quits. Skin was just falling off like I had a third degree burn, there were puss and exposed flesh all around my fingers and palms and wrists.

At this point I had no choice but to go to my doctor at Kaiser Permanente Hospital where they gave me some antibiotics for the infection along with the standard steroid Prednisone that use when things get out of control and they don’t know what else to do. Prednisone is so strong of a steroid that it can keep a dying person alive a few more days, so when in doubt, they give you that drug. However, what they fail to realize, as most of the doctors who treat me don’t realize, is that my case of Eczema (technical term for skin allergies) is not what it appears on the surface. And so like all the time before when they gave me prednisone, as I reached the lower doses on my tapering schedule of the dosage, the rasehs started to come back slowly in all the same places that were infected before. With the other instances where I had to go through this painful process, I used the two weeks while I am on Prednisone to focus on my Qigong exercises and get myself back on track without having raw, rotting hands to slow me down.

That worked most of the time, but for some reason my infections came back much stronger than before this time. What is worse is that the rashes and infections have spread to almost everywhere as skin just started to not just peel but simply fall off as I stopped the Prednisone. I went back to the doctors and they basically said they didn’t know what to do and suggested that I go to UCLA or some other university research lab and be tested with experimental drugs. I ain’t no lame Art or Humanities major, I know pretty well that when scientists do experiments, it’s because their idea and understanding of something is fairly vague. Too many times before have I been tested on again and again and gotten worse again and again.

My last desperate attempt was to call my Uncle Chen (qigong master in Taiwan) and have one of his students whose a Traditional Chinese doctor to send me some herbal medication. The medication got here last Tuesday and thankfully there’s been good progress. However, it was a little too late as I still have bandages wrapped around each individual finger as well as a bigger bandage around my hand as I write this. Truthfully, as much as I want to finish my college career without a break, I am tired, damn tired. School is hard as it is, especially at Mudd, without having to make it second priority to constantly dealing with sicknesses.

edit: August 30th, 2004
Although the herbal medication has been working, I didn’t realize I’ve been eating a snack that I was allergic to until this morning, when the rashes that started to appear on saturday turned into a full-blown rash and infection. With my skin turning purple and blue, I had to rush to the ER. We realized why my condition was going back downhill when my mom accidentally read a small label print on the dried cranberry snack I was eating. The label said: Allergic Warning- This product is packaged in the same facility as peanuts. It seemed no matter how hard I’ve been trying these few weeks to get ready for this school year, something just kept getting in the way. Just wasn’t meant to be.
end edit

One of the many things my life has tought me is that miracles don’t happen, medication that works for other people doens’t necessarily work for me, accupunture that makes retarded kids normal again doesn’t necessarily work for me, praying, going to church where supposingly crippled people are made to walk again, doesn’t do jack shit, and hitting puberty and such doesn’t take away the allergies and asthma just because. So, before tomorrow, or even before next week, I don’t think I’ll be in any condition to drive, walk under the sun to classes, or even hold a pen or pencil to take notes.

I know many of us are headstrong and believe that we are in control of our lives, but life really does make one humble. Life makes the decisions for you and the paths you must take. So does that mean that people are not in control of their own destinies and should just sit back and be a couch potato? No. You can’t control much about how your life and your world proceeds, but you are in total control of how you handle things and what you take away from your experiences. Everyone who enters Yale University go through the same curriculum, same professors, etc…but why do some invent miracle technologies, successfully run multinational corporations, while Bush came out only with an empty head and a stupid look?

In closing, I’d like to wish everyone of you all the best both with this year as well as applying for grad school or interviewing for companies. As we all know, this year for you folks would probably be just as tough as all three years before, but I hope what I’ve said here would help you through the tough times. Just the fact that you guys can finish this year, get up everyday and go to class, take exams, and even get bad grades, are blessings that I envy. Fights between friends, breakups of relationships, rejection from Grad schools, and bad grades can all feel devastating, but I would trade fighting for my life anyday with any of these problems. If you would grant me one wish, please think about what I’ve said when you’re feeling down, realize things for you aren’t really that bad, cheer up, and go on with a happier and less dramatic life.

Taking 1st Semester Senior Year Off

  1. Taking a Semester off from College
  2. Semester-Off Midtrip Report
  3. Semester-off Final Report

About this entry