Navigating College, Living with Duchenne


Guest blog by Hawken Miller

For those with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy the experience and education of a four-year university is likely within your grasp, and being away from home is a definite possibility. I’ll admit, I had my own second thoughts about going off to college, but it is worth it once you move into your dorm and start your classes. I wouldn’t have had a successful first year if I wasn’t able to ask for help from my friends and continue my routine as if I was at home.

Being away from home is definitely frightening because I took a lot for granted, and having to take on those tasks on my own was difficult. That’s why it’s important when at college, to seek out help as much as possible to take on the things that your parents did for you which you cannot do on your own. I found a service to do my laundry so I don’t have to strain myself, I used the physical therapy graduate program at USC to help me continue my stretching routine every day, I was in contact with the school disability and housing staff, and I had my suitemate help with the little stuff I couldn’t do. And if you’re roommates aren’t willing to help you, find different roommates.

Last year I went without having a caretaker and it helped that I was only an hour drive away from home, but that is definitely something that would have made life easier. Just to have someone there to do the things I am unable to do at some point in my day would have taken away some stress. I recommend that you get a caretaker or a college student willing to work for minimum wage to help with living alone.

Having discipline during your time away from home is equally as important. Eating right, remembering to take my medicine, and not over doing it are important things that I had to do on my own without my parents reminding me 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

During the first couple of weeks at USC it was difficult to make new friends and I was shy because I didn’t know what people would think of me, and that I wouldn’t be able to live up to what they wanted out of a friend. I realized after my first year that most of what I thought other students were thinking about me was really inside my head and that the majority of people are very friendly. I also found that I had to be bold when introducing myself and throw away any thoughts I had about not fitting in. It also helps to do something that you love and find friends through that conduit. For me, working for the school newspaper was a perfect way to make new friends who had similar interests as me.

The most important thing that got me through my first year at college was my faith that God had a plan for me and that He would make sure it would work out for the better in the end. Whatever you believe in, you should hold that close to you in whatever difficulties you will face in college (unfortunately, there will be difficulties) to help you through your time at school.

Hawken, 19, is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. He is an editor at the Daily Trojan.    

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