Three years ago I announced to you all that I was off to Oxford Brookes University to commence my studies in BA Publishing Media. It was an unexpected decision. I had attended an open day as a prospective student with the mindset of applying for the 2016 intake; a chat with one of the lecturers about my writing and editing experience and I had a place for the 2015 intake. It was out of the blue, a whirlwind of excitement and fear, yet exactly what I needed.
The past three years have been full of highs and lows. I’ve had multiple conditions diagnosed and added to my ever growing list, I spent the better part of my second year studying from my hospital bed, my debut novel was published in the middle of my studies, and whilst in my third year my wonderful son accompanied me to the majority of my lectures. I had the support of the uni through every moment, they celebrated my successes and they raised me up in my lowest moments. I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it has now come to a close.
Yesterday, 19th June 2018, I graduated with a 2:1 with honours in BA Publishing Media. Receiving my degree was a moment that at many points over the last three years I doubted very much that I would ever reach. Yet I did it. I conquered every challenge thrown my way.
So what’s next for me? Well my first children’s book, Cheeky Dragons, is currently in the editing process after being signed to Nightingale, I’m working on the prequel and Sequel to Regan Snatcher of Souls, and finally several months ago I opened my own publishing house Little Goblin’s Books focusing on children’s picture books and young adult titles. My company, and my writing projects are keeping me busy and I’m thoroughly enjoying them. The idea of pursuing my Masters’ degree in Publishing is one that very much appeals to me, but for now a little break from essays is very much welcome.
Summer has arrived without a doubt, beautiful cloudless sky, sweltering heat and wonderful days out whilst I’m on my uni holidays. However, the arrival of summer also means that my body is working extra hard to compensate which has resulted in periods of tachycardia, eye and other spasms and an increase in pain. Sunglasses are now a permanent feature to try and relieve a bit of pressure on my eyes, but short of sitting in the freezer there’s not too much that can be done.
When I first became ill I found my focus was entirely on all the things I thought I wouldn’t be able to do anymore. Over the years I have conquered all the hurdles I was facing or found ways around them. Going to university was a huge deal and quiet the achievement for me. I’d been so reliant on others for years that living on my own and only having care for a little while a day was a nerve wracking decision to make. As you can imagine the idea of juggling a baby and uni has been a bit daunting.
At first, I didn’t know how I would manage both, but last week we ventured up to my university so I could sit my last exam of my second year. I was extremely lucky that my lecturer was willing to look after Stefan whilst I sat the exam. This has given me the confidence that I can do both, and that I’ll find ways to cope, for example little things like strapping the pram to my wrist so that if I have a seizure or have an extreme spasm he’s perfectly safe and can’t go anywhere. Small things like this put my mind at ease and reassure me that despite my conditions I can manage life as a student and mum.
Today I moved into my halls of residence at Oxford Brookes University. Saying goodbye to my family was incredibly hard. On countless occasions they have helped me through painful spasms and watched over me during my seizures. However sitting here in my new bedroom now after promising my mum that I would be careful and look after myself, I feel immensely happy. I have been battling for three long years, but now that I have finally reached a place where I can cope with my symptoms myself most of the time, I have won.
I cannot wait for Wednesday when our introductory lectures start, but in the meantime I look forward to having some time to go out and explore Oxford.
When you hear the word university student what do you picture? I’m sure that many of you conjure up an image very similar to my own. One of students sitting in a small dingy flat knocking back a stomach churning concoction from a mix as part of a drinking game; or stumbling back, shoes in hand, giggling from yet another night out. My ideas are based on experiences from my year at uni in 2011/2012. Whilst planning my return to university my mother and I have had many discussion on student life and how sensible I’m going to have to be this time round.
I have struggled to get my head round the fact that frankly I do not have the stamina I once did. My medication, spasms, and pain levels all have an impact. Now that’s not to say I can’t have a night or two out. I just cant do it back to back every night of the week. If I did I would be a spasming wreck and back in the hospital in no time. Whilst mentally I am the same old Becca, physically I am much weaker and more disabled than when I was last at uni. When I was last a student I was not battling Dystonia, I did not know then what it was like to lose control of your body like I do now. Although my condition is well controlled, it’s still up and down. I know when I’m on muscle relaxants I can’t drink, so my body will force me to be sensible every 6/7 weeks when my injections are due. The rest of the time will be down to self-control, and learning what works for me. Prioritising is key to making sure that I am well enough to attend lectures, and doing the studying that is required etc.
I have not lived any element of a student life since becoming ill. It will be a big adjustment process, which I will have to catch on to quickly. As my moving day creeps nearer (24 days) my nerves increase. I’m anxious to take this next step but nervous at just how much of an impact Dystonia shall have. However I am aware that as usual I am worrying over something that is outside my control, there is nothing I can do but enjoy my time at university and handle my spasms with my medical team as they come.
I have some incredible news for you all! I think this tops all my positive news so far this year. I have been offered an unconditional place at Oxford Brookes University to study an undergraduate degree in Publishing Media this September. This wasn’t planned; more about that later. I applied just over two weeks ago and it was a shock to find myself typing out my personal statement, however I’m over the moon and counting down the days till the course begins.
I went to an open day last month with the idea in mind that I would apply to study in 2016. Whilst I was there I had a lovely chat with the course leaders who were impressed with my Cosmo articles, my work editing the church magazine and of course my blog. They encouraged me to speak to admissions and apply as a late applicant to study this September. In all honesty I didn’t expect to get a place. The deadline to apply was back in January so I was really pushing my luck. Yet can you believe it, for once luck is on my side?!
I was astounded at the open day by how disabled friendly the university is. The ensuites in the disabled accommodation are comparable to modern hospital disabled facilities. Ironically it will be easier to keep myself clean at uni than at home! The disability service team talked through with me the support that will be on offer for me, which really helped put my mind at ease. There will be a pull cord in my room and bathroom for if I need emergency help when I’m in the flat. On days when I am suffering from a flare up of symptoms l I can ask for a ‘buddy’ to be with me all day in case I need help. There is a fantastic range of support available for both my physical difficulties and my Dyslexia. I have been beyond impressed by the speed of contact from the disability team. I only received my offer yesterday from the university but this team have already been in contact to arrange support for the upcoming year.
It’s all happened so fast and I’m sure the next two months will fly by. Returning to university study is a huge step. Moving to university is an enormous step. I have relied on my family to care for me, when Benedict the Dystonia Alien decides to come out and play, for so long. I have never had to deal with my condition on my own, so this will be a big learning curve, but it is one that I am extremely excited to experience. The next three years I’m sure will have bumps in the road but I plan on enjoying the journey!