Grayscale - a cat with a white chest leans on the arm of her owner.

Disabilities in Medical School

The past few days for blogging have been difficult for me. In case you can’t tell by the theme of my last few posts, I have a chronic disease that is flaring up and making life a little difficult for me.

And I’m mad — I am literally one week out from moving to NYC for medical school. In a week and a half, I’ll have orientation with the other 9 people who got into my program, and a week after that I’ll have orientation with the rest of the Columbia P&S class. Then classes start. My condition hasn’t flared up in nearly 3 years — why did it choose this time, of ALL times, to start acting up?

It’s all okay, though, because this gives me chance to talk about about my beautiful kitty:

A photo of a cat with an orange nose and white chest, leaning on her owner's arm.
Glamour shot 😍😍

This is Artemis (the Premed Cat — you can follow her on Instagram here 😊). She is the single most important thing in my life, and I am not at all ashamed to admit that she has transformed me into a cat lady.

Artemis is even more significant to me BECAUSE I have a chronic illness. Some days, pain, fatigue, or other symptoms makes it difficult to get out of bed or out of the house, and having an nonjudgmental companion that insists on cuddling and hanging out — even on my worst days — makes those days significantly more bearable. She even knows when I am in pain and tends to lay on my stomach and purr. I’d take her over a heating pad any day.

It’s frustrating to me that Artemis, unfortunately, is not seen as a valid part of my healthy life. By that, I mean that apartment with strict no-animal policies — meaning they wouldn’t even allow certified emotional support animals, only dogs that have received service animal training — will not allow Artemis to live with me, even if I demonstrate a need for her. Even more frustratingly, the moment I begin to make this argument, there will be people who start to roll their eyes, thinking I’m one of ‘those people’ who would declare my peacock an emotional support animal so that I could take them on a plane.

It’s frustrating enough that even more basic accommodations — like private spaces to self-administer treatments or extra time for assignments when during a flare-up — require a lot of hoop-jumping in the first place. In my current fight to get disability accommodations, my doctor’s note was deemed “insufficient” because it didn’t describe what “mitigating measures” I’ve taken. Basically: in order to ask for accommodations, I have to prove that I’ve tried other treatments to make these accommodations less necessarily. Basically: have you tried to get better?

Forget about trying to get living with a cat approved.

And forget frustrating. It’s infuriating. 1 in 5 Americans live with an autoimmune disorder, but institutions don’t trust them — or even their doctors — to express what accommodations they need.

My cat is but one tiny blip in this fight, since there are people who lose their jobs because their place of employment won’t accommodate their needs or people who die because they can’t access treatment, and I realize that I am very lucky. Through some of my accommodations that have been approved, I was placed in a student apartment that is “technically, but not really” anti-pet, and I’ll be able to keep Artemis with me for the first two years. Housing the third year will be more difficult — they are, apparently, much more strict — but I cross that bridge when I get there.

For now, I want to celebrate the kitty cat that makes my days a bit brighter and my medical condition more bearable. Isn’t she beautiful?

 

Do you have any fur babies that help you through your day, medical condition or no? I want to hear about them in the comments below! 👇👇

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