College is challenging, but when health issues come into play, the stress thickens. Over the summer, I was diagnosed with a ventral hernia. It basically meant that I had a rupture in my intestine that forced fatty tissue to protrude outward, causing a lump to form a little above my belly button. This was a scary ordeal. You can imagine the panic when you wake up one day and there’s a lump on your stomach.
Usually, hernias are caused by heavy lifting, excessive coughing, or a weak inner intestine lining. I could not tell you what caused it in my case, but the doctors said that it was probably there even longer than when I first noticed it. I remember the feeling of anxiety washing over me like a tidal wave, and the only thing on my mind was how I would navigate moving back into school in a couple of weeks.
The hernia caused moderate to severe discomfort, depending on what I was doing. Sometimes strenuous walking would irritate it, sometimes sleeping in a weird position, and sometimes just existing. Other times the pain would dim a bit, and I appreciated those reprieves. Sometimes if I laid in bed with an icepack on my stomach and took some Tylenol, the pain would lessen. Though no amount of pain relievers would cure my hernia, I was just treating the pain. At the end of the day, I needed surgery.
Scheduling surgery in the middle of the semester was nerve-wracking. Not knowing when it would be “convenient” to have the surgery was an interesting dilemma. I chose school over my health for almost two months. Eventually, when Fall break rolled around, I figured missing a shorter week was better than missing a whole week. Still, I was scared beyond belief.
As I navigated schooling with the hernia, I felt like there was a storm cloud above my head the entire time that nobody else could see. I tried to hide my pain, though sometimes I’d find myself in unfortunate situations. Due to my hernia, I was prohibited from lifting anything over 15 pounds. The doors at Arcadia were heavy, my book bag was heavy, and my camera and lighting equipment for my video class were heavy. Everything got so heavy. I had to ask for help more times than I was used to, and asking for help made me feel like a burden. I hated that my body was acting differently than I was used to, and I just wanted everything to go back to normal. Though, throughout everything, the surgery got scheduled and I found myself waiting for it like doomsday.
As for the actual surgery itself, it ended up going according to plan, and I’ve been recovering slowly over the course of these past couple of weeks. I was given a recovery time of 6 weeks, give or take, so I have roughly 4 more to go. I’ve had the benefit of having understanding professors who couldn’t be more supportive.
My Spanish teacher is giving me the opportunity to retake my midterm because I missed the material the week before. My publication class has allowed me time to rest and focus on my recovery. My video production professor has met with me via Zoom on the days I couldn’t physically make it up to Murphy Hall, since it’s on a steep hill. Alongside my teachers, my boss Dana at the Student Affairs office has been nothing but accommodating and understanding, allowing me to take breaks and assigning tasks that allow me to limit my movement during my shifts.
While I’m still not 100%, and won’t be for a little while, I’m grateful for the understanding faculty and professors who have given me time to recover and rest. Now that I’m feeling a little better, I try to make it to all my classes and commitments, but I still need breaks and rest here and there, so thank you, Arcadia, for giving me the leeway to do so.
I never thought in a million years that I’d have a hernia at 20 years old, especially because that sounded like a middle-aged kinda problem. Though, it was a scary and enlightening experience. I learned how to manage academics and work despite health-related issues, and figured out how to communicate my needs and boundaries within professional settings.
All while freaking out internally almost every single day. The hard part is over; now it’s time to heal.