ITP Patient Stories

Lauren Wooldridge – ITP Scholarship Recipient 2023

Lauren Wooldridge – ITP Scholarship Recipient 2023

After being diagnosed with ITP around a year and a half ago, partway through the first year of college, I was left feeling confused, anxious, and unsure about what my life would be like from then onwards. As I was 17 at the time, doctors were unsure whether my ITP would be acute, like most childhood cases, or chronic, like most adulthood cases, so I was not prepared for the many challenges in the form of countless hospital visits and failing treatments that would follow.

Being at such high risk of a serious bleed, I had to stay at home and do my college work online for the rest of first year. I missed my friends a lot and missed out on important information that was taught in class. Even though some of my friends came to visit me, I felt so lonely and wished that I could be cured and could go back to my life before diagnosis. This period of my life taught me to never take anything for granted and to cherish the freedom I have when my platelets are at a safe level, but also the strength of my motivation: I continued to work hard despite the mental and physical obstacles that I was facing.

Before each new treatment, my doctor told me that he was confident this one was going to work, so after trying three medications that had very little effect on my platelet count, I was left feeling very disheartened and fed up. My platelets were still very low but at a safe enough level for me to return to college, although I was on a reduced timetable due to the fatigue that ITP causes, as well as weekly hospital appointments. My teachers were suggesting that I drop an A-level subject to reduce my workload and therefore increase my chances of getting higher grades, however I was very adamant that I continued doing them all. Yet again I learnt that my determination and motivation were stronger than I believed, because I managed to get into my firm University choice, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my family, friends, doctors and nurses- I am so grateful for their support and perseverance throughout my journey with this stubborn illness.

One of the treatments I had was Rituximab, which I was given once a week through an IV over the course of a month in the summer of 2022. While I was there, I was given a string to put beads on for all the medical procedures I’d had; it’s a reminder of how brave I am for going through all of it, which I struggle to remember sometimes as I doubt myself in the face of new challenges. Although Rituximab did not end up helping my ITP, my experience on the ward helped me realise the importance of small acts of kindness; the nurses there gave out gifts and activities to put a smile on the face of the patients during the difficult time that they were facing.

Having a chronic illness, especially a rare one, means people are always asking questions and there is always somebody who doesn’t understand. You feel like you’re constantly letting people down and not living up to expectations and are missing out on lots of opportunities. I had to stop driving lessons because it wasn’t safe while my platelets were so low and due to fatigue, which was hard because I hate giving up and I was looking forward to the independence that driving would give me, and taking such a long break away from it has lowered my confidence significantly and I’m therefore very anxious to try to start learning again.

Even though I had already decided prior to diagnosis that I wanted a career in some sort of research, having ITP has encouraged me to want to do medical research to find cures and new treatments for ITP and other illnesses, which is why I have chosen to take Natural Sciences at university because it has a wide range of module choices involving different science subjects. Something I struggle with a lot is asking for and accepting help, but in order for me to complete this degree to the best of my ability while having a chronic illness, I have discussed with an advisor at my university to put in place arrangements and resources that will aid my learning, and thankfully they have been very helpful and understanding.

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness like ITP is a massive change and can be very difficult to accept, however it brings you so many important life lessons and gives you the support of a community of people going through the same thing. My ITP journey has made me believe in myself more, but also be kinder to myself and accept the fact that there may be things I can no longer do without assistance. I am now more determined than ever to reach my goals and I’m aware that there are people around me that are willing to help me reach them, whatever it takes.