When people hear the word “disease” come out of my mouth, they automatically hold their breath, and take two steps back with the assumption that I have something they can “catch” or that I'll be gone tomorrow. Since the age of two, I’ve been back and forth to the hospital so many times that I literally refer to it as “my second home”. This is what it’s like to live a life with a hereditary blood disorder and it's surprisingly more common than you’d think, affecting over 100,000 African Americans and Latinos nationwide.
Although there hasn’t been much research, the research that we do have confirms that the pain from a sickle cell crisis can be more intense than childbirth or breaking a bone, and the life expectancy is roughly fifty years old— if you’re lucky— and adopt the lifestyle of a raw vegan, alkaline drinking, yogi who can't enjoy alcohol, junk food, or other vices.
The point is: Sickle Cell doesn’t care how old you are, it doesn’t care if you want to live your best life and have fun. Sickle Cell forces a specific level of discipline that not many can muster— something as simple getting in a swimming pool is a serious contemplation for me and contrary to popular belief I'm a black person that likes to swim. But as much as I dislike all of the planning, healthy lifestyle habit changes, and new things I had to implement into my life just to stay alive— I despise all the needles, blood transfusions, and cold hospitals during nights of unimaginable pain even more.
So to be honest, Sickle Cell is nothing short of a gift. Maybe a bit of a shitty gift, but the discipline it has taught me is invaluable.
More often than we should— we as people regularly deem the very things that set us apart from everyone else as our “flaws”. We are convinced from a very young age that fitting in somehow equals community while standing out somehow equals a one-way trip ticket to die alone. Funny enough, the aspects of ourselves we seek to hide in hopes of gaining love, friendship, or happiness are sometimes exactly what we need to acknowledge and embrace to get what we truly desire.
The truth is simple: our only flaw as human beings is our innate urge to reject, conceal, and become ashamed of our flaws. However, when we choose to accept, acknowledge, and maybe even embrace them a little… we give the truest version of ourselves the ability to shine through!
So shine, b*tch shine!