Going off to college can be a tough transition for anyone. But if you’re a teen with arthritis, starting college can pose unique challenges: leaving behind family and friends who understand and support your health needs, navigating campus on foot when every step causes pain, watching roommates go out at night when you need sleep just to function and feeling like you’re the only young person in the world with a disease associated with old age.
Rachel Mershon and Caroline Bailey know the feeling all too well. Diagnosed with arthritis at age 14, Mershon left home for the first time two years ago to pursue a degree in nutrition at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Bailey was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis just months before the start of her freshman year at the University of Mississippi. Both young women say the transition to college life was a difficult – and lonely at times.