#MySickleWarrior: Whitney Joseph Story

I was 16 years old. 16.

I had only just sat my GCSE exams.

Time to start sixth form. Time to start becoming this young adult that everyone had told me about.

Naive as I was, I thought that the entire world was at my feet. It wasn’t. Instead of stepping out into the world, I was stepping out of a hospital ward after another Sickle Cell crisis. My plans of a summer spent collecting my exam results and preparing to start my A Levels was actually spent recovering from my Sickle Cell episode. It was in that summer that I realised that my plans for studying were about to be a lot more difficult than I had ever prepared for, as the reality of having a life long illness began to hit home. In the months that followed I felt my Sickle Cell begin to steal away my childlike dreams and replace it with a premature maturity and concerns over how (and if) I could learn to live with this illness.

It was my first experience in hospital since being transferred out of paediatric care and into adult care. Suddenly an illness which I had always been shown how to manage was left for me to take care of myself, and I didn’t take care. Despite having always lived with the condition, it had overnight become all too real. I wasn’t going to ‘grow out’ of this condition, and it certainly was not about to get any easier. I struggled to accept that this illness would be a major part of my life for the foreseeable future. So I chose to ignore it, pretend that it didn’t exist. I would have crises in silence, too afraid to admit to myself and those around me that I was in pain. What I thought was me dealing with it, was actually me doing the complete opposite.

I realise now in hindsight that ‘standard’ crisis turned out to be one of my most significant. It propelled me into the start of what would be a journey of ‘learning to live with Sickle Cell’.

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