All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for May 2004

Caps off to Mom - the graduate

We celebrate the dedication of 5 area mothers as they prepare to graduate from college


May 1, 2004
Sharon Miller Cindrich
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Marquette University College of Professional Studies
Illness and war could not deter her

At 17, Heather Caldwell graduated early from high school so she could start college right away, but she was not old enough to get a loan. When her funds ran out after one semester, she joined the Air Force under the GI Bill. Choosing a program in linguist training, because it had the most transferable credits, Caldwell learned German, Russian and Arabic, which she used during Desert Storm where she served in intelligence.

Medically discharged with asthma after four years, Caldwell had four children before receiving another serious diagnosis: multiple sclerosis. After her divorce a few years ago, she returned to college, where she will graduate with a degree in Criminal and Law Studies. "I'm almost 34 and it has taken me half my life to graduate. I'll be dancing across that stage!"

Her family: Daughters Ivy, 9, Emma, 7, Lily, 5; son Wyatt, 6.

Favorite course: "I loved my criminal investigations course. It's definitely been the most interesting."

How her children helped her with school: "They supported me even though they didn't understand what was going on. They have been so patient. They know if mom's got a test, it's macaroni and cheese for dinner. They don't complain. They are so proud of me and that keeps me going."

Ever pull an all-nighter? "Oh, God, how many! I'm a mommy all week and between doctor's appointments and school volunteering and grocery shopping and house cleaning . . . sometimes it gets down to Friday and I have a huge assignment due the next day. The kids have wandered out of their beds at 2 in the morning and said, 'Mom, what are you doing awake?' "

What grade do you give yourself for your school years? "I'm a perfectionist, so it would be very hard for me to give myself an excellent grade. I've always had to put my family first. You get sick kids and your homework will suffer, but that's something that you always have to prioritize. I'd give myself a B+, not from effort, but because of life itself."

Graduation date: Next Sunday

What's next? "I'm hopefully going to go to law school at Marquette. When I was going through my divorce, I found an attorney that was willing to work with my limited finances and still give me good representation. I want to work in family law and be a legal advocate."

Copyright © 2004, The Journal Sentinel