Pippa Stacey Releases First Book - University and Chronic Illness: A Survival Guide
Pippa Stacey is a writer and blogger from Yorkshire. She acquired her long-term illness as a young adult, being diagnosed during her own years of university, and is now best known for her work around chronic health conditions, independent living, and accessible education and employment.
University and Chronic Illness: A Survival Guide is for every chronically ill person considering or preparing for university. A chatty and informative resource, the book goes far beyond your typical standardised advice on academics, and encompasses all aspects of student life: socialising, independent living, managing your money, and what to do when things go wrong. This survival guide is sincere and realistic about the challenges of studying with a fluctuating health condition, yet hopes to empower future students to make informed decisions and to really get the most out of their own time at university.
Could you introduce yourself and the book?
Well hello! My name is Pippa, and I’m a freelance writer and blogger from Yorkshire. I acquired my chronic illness as a teenager, but wasn’t diagnosed until my first year of university, when my health significantly relapsed. Adapting to life as a disabled student was a rather… unique experience, and back then, I just couldn’t find an in-depth and relatable source of advice for those in my position.
Therefore, after completing my higher education, I turned my thoughts to creating the very book I wish I’d had myself back then, and University and Chronic Illness: A Survival Guide was born!
What made you want to write the book?
It was my own experiences of being a chronically ill student that made me realise that the support available was missing the mark. Many of these existing resources often only addressed the academic aspects of university, rather than the overall student experience…. and in my eyes, this reflects the fact that much of the information out there, although well-intentioned, just isn’t coming from chronically ill people themselves.
My book, on the other hand, goes beyond your typical standardised advice on academics and job prospects, and encompasses all aspects of student life: socialising, independent living, managing your money, and what to do when things go wrong. I found there to be a real gap in the market for disabled people’s voices: in this case, practical information and advice being given from somebody who has lived experience of the issue at hand, always with a touch of humour, which others know they can rely upon.
I also wanted to share some my own personal experiences and struggles that many others are likely to relate to, as well as universal tips and tricks that will hopefully make life a little easier for future students. The result of all this is that I’ve produced a chatty and relaxed, yet balanced and informative, book: one that I hope will empower future students to make informed decisions, and enjoy the heck out of their time at university.
Tell us about your own university experience?
Although challenging, I absolutely loved my time as a student. I enjoyed my course and graduated with a 2:1 in BSc Psychology in Education, moved to the beautiful city of York (where I’ve been ever since!) and met a solid group of friends who I still see regularly now, almost four years after we graduated. The student experience is one like no other, and even all with the additional challenges my disability presented, I know that going to university is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s not for everybody, and sadly may not even be an accessible option for some disabled people, but I sincerely hope my book will enable people to consider some of the challenges they may face and learn how to deal with them in advance, so that they too can enjoy their experience to the fullest.
Who do you hope will benefit from the book?
Although the book was written primarily for chronically ill students, as a resource to see them through their own time at university, I’d like to think it could be of wider benefit too. I’d love to see those who work with people with long-term conditions also taking the opportunity to learn more about the challenges we face, so they can ensure the support they’re offering is as tailored and appropriate as possible.
I really like the idea of university support staff, further education careers advisors and occupational therapists having a copy at hand, and I’m hoping to be able to target people in these professions, as well as current and prospective students, when the marketing for the book begins. Chronic illness impacts not only the individual, but so many of the people around them, and if this book even slightly enables important conversations about inclusive education to happen, then I’ll be incredibly proud.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your former self at the beginning of your studies?
Two words: “Pippa, chill.”
If you could give one piece of advice to those working with chronically ill students, what would it be?
It’s so, so important to remember that no two chronically ill people are the same. Even within those with the same condition, people’s symptoms, needs, and illness experiences can vary so widely, meaning there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to support. Just because one student may have benefitted from one type of support in the past, it doesn’t mean that such an approach will automatically generalise to another. Listening to the person you’re working with and taking your lead from them can be an absolute game-changer, and it’s an approach I’d like to see utilised much more often in the future.
If you could give one piece of advice to chronically ill students, what would it be?
My best piece of advice would be to really think about what’s worth your precious time and energy, and what isn’t. There may be some difficult situations where advocating for yourself is necessary and important, to ensure you’re receiving the support you’re entitled to, but there are others where sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away and focus on your wellbeing. I personally regret not fighting harder for adjustments that could have helped me, as you’ll find out in the book, but I know of many others who wish they’d spent less of their own time doing that very thing, and making the most of their university experience instead.
What are your plans for the future? Do you intend to write any more books?
For the time being, my focus is going to be on my freelance writing engagements and some new personal projects in relation to my blog, Life Of Pippa. The writing and publishing process for this book has been long, and at times it’s been incredibly tough on my health, so I’m doing my best not to dive headfirst straight into another book… although the ideas are there, and I hope with everything in me that they too will become a reality one day. No matter what shape or form, writing so important to me. Being able to put my work out there and know that others can benefit from it will never not feel like the highest privilege.
Where is the book available for purchase?
I’m glad you asked! There are paperback copies available for UK distribution listed on my website, Life Of Pippa, and you can grab your own copy here. There should also be copies available for purchase worldwide on Amazon, and hopefully from various other booksellers in the future. If you have any queries or would be interested in bulk ordering, be sure to drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks for your interest!
You can also meet Pippa Stacey at Naidex 2020, where she will be taking part in the Naidex Panel Session “Disability Blogging: the Whats, the Whys and the Hows”.