It’s not easy living with an autoimmune disease. But Strayer alumna Krystal Edwards isn’t just living with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD)—she’s thriving. Krystal is a woman of many talents, and as an MCTD spokeswoman, lifestyle blogger and entrepreneur, she has big plans for the future. Here’s how her degree gave her the confidence she needed to succeed as a public advocate.

 

Krystal was first diagnosed with MCTD in childhood. MCTD is a rare autoimmune disorder that typically manifests in early adulthood. With symptoms such as muscle swelling, muscle pain and fatigue, living and working with MCTD can be very difficult. But Krystal never let that stop her. In fact, she’s always been passionate about not just empowering herself, but using her strength to empower others.

 

Powering Through

 

That’s probably why it makes sense to consider where Krystal started out: in the medical field. Krystal began her career as a medical office assistant and then worked as a teacher’s assistant for a few years.

 

While Krystal loved the personal aspects of her career (working directly with students and patients), she realized she was also fascinated by the administrative side of things. She found herself drawn to the business aspect of schools and hospitals, wondering how they work, run and remain profitable.

 

Krystal soon found herself holding managerial ambitions. She had the skill and she had the drive—but she didn’t have a degree. She quickly realized she would have to go back to school in order to advance her career.

 

Finding Strength through School

 

Krystal considered many options for her education. But, ultimately, there were a few reasons she settled on Strayer. “Strayer left an impression on me,” she says, “I felt welcomed, I felt wanted, I felt like I belonged.” Strayer’s convenient online and evening curriculum worked well for Krystal’s schedule—it allowed her to continue working full time while getting her degree.

 

It was also only Strayer who offered Krystal an affordable route to her degree. “I loved my financial aid advisor,” Krystal says, “She helped me plan for not only my degree, but my financial future. I was nervous about going back to school, but I felt totally comfortable with her support on my side.”

 

Going back to school wasn’t easy, especially with Krystal’s condition. Often, her fingers were so swollen and painful that she would be unable to type up assignments. Thankfully, Krystal’s professors were understanding. “My experience was truly amazing,” she remembers, “’[My professors] were understanding of my situation and worked with me. They were flexible with me. They actually cared about me.”

 

Becoming an Advocate

 

Krystal’s time at Strayer gave her a platform for achieving her dreams. She gained renewed confidence, made lifelong friends and learned real business skills directly applicable to her career and entrepreneurial ambitions.

 

Now, Krystal feels equipped to tackle anything. And she’s tackling a lot. As a lifestyle and fashion blogger, she has become a figure of note on Instagram and inspires others with MCTD to live their best lives. She receives dozens of messages from other MCTD survivors daily. She is an MCTD advocate and community speaker and plans to launch a website about her experiences and advocacy. And—she’s currently writing a book!

 

Asked how she stays motivated and what her words for other students would be, Krystal had something poignant to say. “There’s nothing you can’t do if you really want to do it. That’s what I told myself. That’s what got me through. Just remember that every day is a fresh start.”

 

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