I was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at three months old. Like many other people living with SCD, my journey with SCD has been characterized by frequent hospitalizations, multiple surgeries, and recurring pain crises. The severity of my pain episodes has been such that I would be readmitted to the hospital within days of being discharged. There was a time when I was discharged in the morning and readmitted the same evening. In addition to a gallbladder removal surgery due to SCD complications, I have undergone two hip surgeries. My last surgery was a total hip replacement done days after my 28th birthday. Given the continued deterioration of my other hip, I am anticipating another hip replacement soon.
Perhaps, one of the greatest obstacles in my journey with SCD has been getting through major life transitions. I still consider my transition from high school to college an unforgettable “near-death experience.” It was a time of deep anguish, and I did not think I would have survived. Entering the world of work was also difficult. I remember calling my supervisor and telling him I had suffered a sickle cell crisis and was at the doctor. His response was, “I am giving you until 11:00 a.m.” to get to work. Then, my relocation from Jamaica to Canada at age 24 was also very tough. I landed in Canada on July 14th and was hospitalized on July 16th. After being discharged days later, I was back in the hospital the following week. This cycle repeated to the point where I was in the hospital once a month for the first couple of months of my arrival. I did not experience significant pain relief or a reduction in hospitalization until January of the following year. This was definitely a dark period of my life. I faced many compounding physical and mental stressors in being in a new environment. In addition to missing my friends and family back in Jamaica, I struggled to reconcile the desire to pursue career goals and the barriers to success imposed by SCD. The tension between the two left me feeling quite despondent and wanting to give up on a chance of having a successful career. Nevertheless, I somehow learned to push past the discomfort. At that point—and even now—I had every conviction that my life, and all that I would encounter, was crafted into God’s perfect plan.
I feel incredibly blessed to have a solid support network consisting of a compassionate partner, a loving family, and amazing friends who get it. Together with my faith in God, I have enjoyed a rewarding job with flexible hours and a fulfilling academic career as a Ph.D. student. Although I continue to suffer pain episodes, I have learned to manage them better. However, even though the physical pain resolves quicker, I find that the emotional pain, including extreme sadness, low motivation, and withdrawal tendencies, lingers. This certainly creates bad days, but I pride myself on making a conscious effort to reframe my experience in an uplifting way. I persevere because my life has a purpose.