I don’t remember the exact first time I saw her, but I remember that every time I noticed her, there was always something about her (even to my ‘little girl’ eyes at the time). She was short, and thin. Her stomach usually protruded unnaturally from her clothes. She was always quiet; I hardly ever heard her saying anything sef. Sometimes I would see her in company of her sisters; 3 of them. But they were all so boisterous that you might think she wasn’t related to them. I must have asked my mum about her out of childish curiosity, because she told me that the girl was “SS”.
That was my first awareness of Sickle Cell. In fact, she told me, the ‘girl’ I had been noticing was older than all but one of her 3 sisters. Sickle Cell made her the way she was. Then I was told how badly this ‘thing’ treats its sufferers. How they could be bouncing one minute and crawling in pain the next. Bottomline, I saw Sickle cell sufferers as victims (did I mention most folks called them ‘sicklers’?). It won’t be surprising then, to know that what I had to offer sickle cell sufferers was mostly PITY. What else do they need, right? WRONG! Imagine my shock when I found out that one of the few women I looked up to as both career and marital model, was in this category I so ‘generously’ offered my pity. This is one woman that never ceased to amaze me by how many tasks she could handle seamlessly, on the home-front and at work. She was my first reality check on Sickle Cell. I began to imagine that I had been wrong all along. I guess that was when I got interested enough to actually know what Sickle Cell means; its causes, implications, myths and facts, etc.
I went on to meet more young folks living with Sickle cell. One of them happens to be the strong woman behind Livestrong. I remember seeing her unfamiliar face for the first time at a camp meeting, and so unlike me, I was captivated by her natural beauty. It was so bad I could not keep it to myself; I just had to walk up to her and let her know how beautiful I found her. I was not drawn to a sickly appearance or sagging spirit. I was drawn to beauty, in and out.
I’ve come a long way from the girl who would automatically pity anyone living with Sickle cell. I’ve come to realize that they are as human as the next person, they have peculiar challenges and CAN overcome those challenges! They can Live Strong. I do not even dare to imagine that I know what folks living with Sickle Cell go through. I’ve seen some in the middle of a crisis and it wasn’t cool to watch (Not to mention how it feels). More than anything, I admire their courage, especially those who still hold on to their faith. It’s easy to feel like God has turned His back on you whenever your body doesn’t feel good. So, for these ones to still trust in Him despite constant discomforts, is inspiring.
I’ll end this by saying nothing matches a trusting heart and an undying spirit.
Keep Living Strong.
Peace and Chocolate cake,