Starting college can be a stressful time for a freshman. You have to relearn time management, choose the right major, and also make friends. There is a college standard most are expected to live by: go to school, get good grades, learn to become a positive contributor and make as many lasting connections as you can. So when something happens to throw this standard process off balance, it’s hard to combat the changes with confidence and clarity. Nobody expects to be diagnosed with type one diabetes, or go to 15 doctors appointments in a year. When this happens during your first year of college, it’s easy to feel alone and overwhelmed.
When diagnosed with a chronic illness, you start to see a split, the normal people and the people with illnesses. In college, the “normal” students are counting carbs to get ready for bikini season, but the occasional mess up is fine. While the diabetic is counting carbs, religiously, so they can maintain a healthy level of insulin and not end up in the hospital. A friend of mine who is currently dealing with the diabetic transition was suggested by her doctor to take a year off of school, so she could learn how to manage her new life. Most students take a year off to travel the world, they don’t take a year off to learn how to live their life in a new way. Another college aged celiac patient mentioned that her mom was adamant that she leave school for a while after the patient lost 30 pounds in 5 months and was riding the line of malnutrition. Both students stayed but had more on their plates than either ever imagined.
It’s easy to feel isolated, like the only person in the world going through something so big. Large college campuses have groups for you to meet in if you are experiencing new diseases but smaller campuses let you fend for yourself. That same student struggling with celiac disease, the summer after her freshman year, told us that she felt so helpless because she got sick any time she would eat at the cafeteria, but she was on a mandatory meal plan. She spent her entire fall semester working with the disabilities services to get taken off of the meal plan, while also dealing with depression. It was hard to manage her health, school and friendships so they all suffered. There is a gap in active communities where people can help each other manage their new life circumstances.
People of all ages are being diagnosed with illnesses that can change their life in drastic ways. While some have support from families and friends, there isn’t as much community from people going through the same issues. With blogs being the leading connection between people with diseases,one or two voices are the prominent speaker while others get lost in the comments. The communities need a place where they can all connect, as equals. Plum wants to offer that to people.
Plum wants to help those struggling through new diseases by making it easier for people to find others like themselves. A recently diagnosed patient could find comfort in a group of people going through the same experiences, but also be comfortable enough to anonymously ask questions about some of the issues they may not want their friends and family to know. Many patients being tested with celiac disease have to get colonoscopies and endoscopies. An 18 year old might want to anonymously ask questions to a group who has been through those procedures, rather than asking about them from the only person she knows has been through the procedure, her grandmother.
The whole hope is that Plum can be used to start conversations and community for people dealing with a sickness that your average person may not be going through. We want parents of kids struggling with a chronic illness to be able to connect. Most of all we want to help build communities that will decrease the likelihood of a patient going through depression. We want you to use Plum to connect with sports fans or passionate gardeners like yourself. However, we want you to know that we measure the success of Plum in how well it helps you through those difficult moments in life. When your life has been turned upside down after something as simple as a yearly checkup, that is when you need a community of people like you and me more than ever.