Leslie Rott: Graduate Student with RA and Lupus
Leslie Rott has both RA and lupus. She was diagnosed in 2008 in her first year of graduate school. “I was in the hospital for steroid infusions to get my illness under control while my friends were celebrating the end of the first year. It was a strange contrast.” Leslie finished her Ph.D. in sociology in 2013 and is currently pursuing a Master's in Health Advocacy in New York City.
Adjusting to her diagnosis was difficult for Leslie. “I clammed up after my diagnosis and tried to be normal.” These challenges were compounded when she didn’t receive support or accommodation to enable her to continue her studies. “No one helped me. After my diagnosis, I was told I should quit, that an academic career wasn’t what I should focus on.”
Being a graduate student with a chronic illness is a challenge. There’s a lot of work and it needs to be done, no matter how you feel. On bad days, Leslie tries to take care of herself, “I spend a lot of time on my couch in my PJs, sleeping and working. I’ve created my own private island. I make sure that when I’m not working, I take time to rest.”
Leslie met her boyfriend Andrew in 2012 at the University of Michigan. She was studying sociology, he was studying library science. In the past, the men she dated have not dealt well with her chronic illness. Andrew is different. “He’s been with me through a lot of flares and ups and downs. We’ve been through a lot together. He’s very supportive and hopeful.”
Leslie finished her Ph.D. in 2013. “My family and my boyfriend were at my defense of my thesis. It was an amazing experience – one of my friends flew in from Seattle to be there. It confirmed who my support system is.” Leslie feels really proud that despite all the challenges from her illness and the lack of support within academia, she finished her Ph.D. “I was really proud of myself. It showed I could do it!”
Leslie decided to change her career goals and is now studying for a Master’s degree in Health Advocacy in New York. “I want to work with chronically ill students to make the experience better. New York is a difficult city to live in when you have a chronic illness. There’s a lot of walking long distances, but I love my school and I know I’m in the right place for my education."