UC Planning Realities: Trying to Write and Defend a Thesis

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The difficulties in making long-term plans with UC and trying to meet thesis deadlines while in a flare

I am beginning to feel much better and I’ve recently accomplished some big goals in other areas of my life, despite some UC planning realities.

UC Planning Realities

As you may know, I’m a graduate student trying to earn my Master’s thesis. Ever since I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, my timeline for defending my thesis and turning it in has been pushed back because my health keeps relapsing.

My experience so far has taught me that planning in advance is really hard. Although I like to remain positive, making judgment calls about deadlines based on how my health might be three months from now is impossible.

My longest period of health was four months where

  • I was symptom-free
  • Had normal energy levels
  • Was unafraid of being away from a bathroom

The Best Laid Plans Often Go Awry

The second flare that hospitalized me in October 2014, occurred after turning in the first draft of my thesis. In my program, once the first draft is turned in, you are on a really fast timeline for:

  • Getting a second draft turned in
  • Defending your thesis
  • Turning in the final version

Obviously, I was unable to accomplish this. I took the advice of my committee members and forgot about my thesis for a while and focused on getting better. And boy did I need that, because the first time being on Prednisone made me crazy.

I focused all the excess energy on this blog because it was all I could do. I really did try to direct some of that energy into my thesis. But my brain and body were moving too fast. The complexities of my thesis eluded my Prednisone soaked brain cells.

Once the new semester started in January and the effects of the Prednisone were waning, I re-contacted my thesis advisor. And I began the process of editing and preparing for my thesis defense.

But I was already feeling the physical effects of a flare and was not getting a lot done. It is extremely difficult to maintain a train of thought and argument when you keep having to carefully toss your computer aside and rush to the bathroom.

When February rolled around, I realized I might be at the start of another downturn. I contacted my thesis advisor again and confessed to her that I was beginning to accept some of the harsh realities of living with this disease.

Harsh Realities of Living with UC: Planning Ahead is Impossible

I told her I couldn’t say what my health would be like on a month to month basis and that making long-term plans and deadlines for my thesis was extremely difficult, if not impossible. We decided that the new strategy was to take advantage of my good health NOW.

I would defend my thesis in mid-March and use the feedback to generate another draft. Luckily, my advisor felt that my first draft was good enough for my other committee members to read. They usually only see the second draft.

And then BOOM. Within two weeks of this decision I was extremely ill, in the ER, and on Prednisone again. I forgot all about the looming defense for the first two weeks of March. Especially since my advisor still hadn’t contacted me with an actual date and time for my defense.

If possible, my body was even more traumatized this time and healing was extremely difficult. By March 15 though I was making good progress and began to devote time to making small level edits to my thesis.

And then I got the e-mail on March 21st. My defense was on Tuesday, March 24th at 2:00. I panicked. But then I considered my options. Should I post-pone again? Or should I make the jump and work really hard for two and a half days to prepare and practice a thesis defense PowerPoint presentation?

I decided that the stress of a few days would be better than delaying again and having the burden and stress of an unfinished thesis hanging over my head.

Powered by Prednisone

This time, I made the decision to use the security of being on Prednisone to get things done. While I am on it, I am safe from suffering from an extremely bad flare. The side-effects aren’t as bad this time. Although as I write this at 3:00 in the morning I realize they might just be delayed.

But in the end, my decision paid off. My thesis defense was very successful, I got great feedback that will make the larger level edits to my thesis easier, and I received a new deadline to work towards. Now I have about 20 days to turn around another draft so that my committee members can take one last read and get their comments back to me before I turn in the final version on May 1st.

I judged right. An incredibly heavy pressure has been lifted and even though I am still struggling with my health, I have managed to accomplish some great things.

Learn more about UC planning realities in Making Travel Plans with UC

Read more about how I finished my thesis in Post UC Flare Routine

My Whole UC Story

You can read my ulcerative colitis story in order or you can browse all my ulcerative colitis and health-related posts here:

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