The Renegade Rip

Renegade Struggles: Alayna Geoghegan

We all have a struggle, and every person has a different story. Each issue, The Rip will feature a student overcoming certain struggles to gain an education and better their life.

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Renegade Struggles: Alayna Geoghegan

Sam Moreno

Sam Moreno

Sam Moreno

Sam Moreno, Reporter

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Alayna Geoghegan, a 19 year-old student at Bakersfield College, is currently majoring in nursing. Geoghegan struggles with an illness every day that the eye can’t really see by just taking a look at her, especially if you catch her on her good days.

In the sixth grade when Geoghegan was only 12-yearsold, she began experiencing awful migraines, to the point where she would miss class and be forced to stay home.

While this may sound like a luxury to others, she describes the next year of her life as going “downhill, real fast.”

After an accident at her school that following year, she had a very hard time recovering from any illnesses she experienced.

She was experiencing very high fevers, joint pains that became excruciating when combined with a fever, and rashes.

Geoghegan recalls her mother pouring Calamine Lotion on her back and her body not reacting at all to the medication.

Geoghegan says, “I remember going to the emergency room with a huge fever, throwing up, back full of hives, and my hands and feet [were] sensitive, so I [couldn’t] walk. I [couldn’t] hold anything, my joints [were] starting to swell up, and I [couldn’t] move my arms.”

Doctors could not diagnose her for many months.

After multiple long nights inside different emergency rooms, she was first diagnosed with Hepatitis, because her liver was enlarged. However, after more tests she was then diagnosed with Systemic Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (SJRA).

Her illness impacted her entire body and any flare up would cause her to be incapable of even lifting a pencil.

She was then home-schooled until the start of her junior year of high school. As a young girl, Geoghegan returned to school and realized she could not do regular activities she was used to, such as cheerleading and gymnastics.

After years of battling her illness she managed to learn how to live with her illness.

In present day, her illness is controlled with the help of medication. However, she can’t exert herself too much.

She finds herself constantly making everyday decisions of what she can and cannot do.

She can’t be on the move for multiple days in a row without her body flaring up. If she doesn’t manage her SJRA her joints begin swelling up, causing her to be in bed rest.

Although her illness is very serious, many people wouldn’t be able to tell that she deals with this struggle every day.

She says the biggest misconception people have of her and her illness is that she doesn’t wear her disability.

People ask her “why aren’t you in a wheelchair?” They see her looking “normal” she says, so they assume she doesn’t really have a disability.

Geoghegan’s SJRA causes her to fall behind in her classes, she struggles with completing assignments because her body refuses to let her sit up right or even move her hands.  Getting to class can be a struggle, when her SJRA flares up.

Geoghegan says her disease causes her immune system to be weak, so she can’t be around other sick people because she will have a flare that may typically last days, weeks or even months, depending on the extent of the flare up. Geoghegan’s is restricted from doing activities humans do every day, she says “The worst part dealing with it is… I’m not allowed to do certain things, I can’t run, I can’t jump… and I may not be able to have kids because of the medication.”

Geoghegan’s says, “it is pretty scary, it is difficult to deal with” on realizing she could not do certain things in life because of her SJRA.

She says “I just wish people were more sensitive… I am not bald, I am not super pale, I’m not sickly… I don’t look like I’m sick.” Geoghegan deals with a catch-22 situation every day.

She says, “The [medication] that’s keeping me alive, is also killing me… if I don’t take the medication my disease will kill me and if I do take the medication, the medication will kill me.” She hopes to attend a nursing school in Monterey, CA. However, because of her daily struggle she worries about who will take care of her when she gets sick, or who will take her to her doctor’s appointments.

She wonders if she will ever be able to have a family or live alone or even be independent.

Although Geoghegan’s future is something that scares her, she doesn’t let her illness define her. Her struggle is her motivator and it is what has led her to want to become a nurse, so she can help others.

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Renegade Struggles: Alayna Geoghegan