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How Sickle Cell Disease Impacted My Career Choices

People  living with chronic pain understand that pain does not end in your body. It affects every other aspect of your life. Sickle cell disorder has affected different aspects of my life over the years, and this includes my career choices. 

There are quite a number of widely accepted triggers for sickle cell pain and stress is one of them. In my case,, emotional stress impacts me so much more than physical stress. As someone with so many passions and interests, this makes pursuing my dreams complicated. For instance, at a point in my teenage years, I found a passion for playing basketball. I really enjoyed watching it and I wanted to see if I could play it too. With sickle cell, I knew it was going to be tough, but I had high hopes and wanted to give it a try. I mean, why not just try instead of limiting myself? 

It didn’t take long for me to get ready and join a local basketball team. Every evening I went to the basketball court and soon I began to train. The training usually lasted  one to two hours and made me realize basketball can be one of the most stressful sports to play. There was no opportunity to rest and you’re always running up and down the basketball court. 

Unfortunately for me, sickle cell anemia meant I could only play for 20-30 minutes at a time. After that, I got too tired and fatigued. Sometimes, I started to feel dizzy or feel a slight headache because of dehydration. At that point, I knew I had to take a rest. In less than two months, I had to quit because I was having frequent pain, especially in my thighs. That was how sickle cell disorder stopped me from playing basketball. 

Although I was sad, I didn’t let that stop me from trying out other things I was interested in. 

Modeling was another thing that caught my interest – my dream was to walk on runways as a fashion model. I wasn’t big and muscular like the models I saw on television and in magazines. Thanks to the delayed growth complication that comes with sickle cell, I was exactly the opposite. It took a lot of research and a mindset change to convince myself that there is more to modeling than the fashion models I saw in the mainstream. 

As I was ready to kick off my modeling career, I started to feel an awkward pain in my left hip. At first, I ignored it, but later the pain got worse.  I had to put my modeling pursuit on hold and focus on getting better. Later, I was diagnosed with a sickle cell complication called avascular necrosis. Avascular necrosis is the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply. This is common in people living with sickle cell disease and it usually occurs in the joint. Avascular necrosis affected the top of my left femur and in less than two months, it became difficult for me to walk without feeling pain. I started using a walking aid to reduce weight on my affected hip. It became obvious that my modeling career was fading away as I started to limp.. 

Did I quit? No. 

I made the decision to try one more time despite my disability. The decision was one of the toughest I have ever made. Having to go to auditions limping with a walking aid was one of the scariest things I have ever done. I remember limping to one particular modeling audition, and it was as though all eyes were on me and my leg. I managed to pull myself together and get through the audition. Even though I was not contacted, I felt successful. After the audition, I decided to put my modeling career on hold until I could get hip replacement surgery, which is the solution to avascular necrosis.

After all these career choices didn’t pan out, I had to find ways to make money from home. It was the only stress-free way  I could think of and it allowed me to rest my hip just as my doctor advised. 

If the unpredictable nature of sickle cell disease has taught me anything on my career journey, it’s to always take prompt action. Every moment is precious and you should do what matters most to you right now. You have no idea what can happen in the next minute, and should cherish the days that you feel your best.

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