When I was a freshman in college, I worked part time at the Social Sciences building for this teacher, grading reports and filing her paperwork. It was my first semester, and although I had alot of friends and acquaintances, I was still operating under my former credo (Tell No one). One day I was walking from my job to the dorm and I ran into a senior down the path. She walked right by me, then looked back at me and came running back towards me. At first, I was hella worried, wondering if maybe she was about to do something strange, but she seemed kinda normal at first glance.
“Excuse me, can I ask you a question?” she said.
“Yeah?” I replied curiously.
“Do you have sickle cell?” she asked as if she already knew the answer. My eyes almost bogged out of my head—I was so surprised. “Yeah, how did you know?”
“I just did. I have it too,” she stated as she started walking alongside me. She mentioned that my eyes were jaundiced and then I noticed hers were too. Till this day I wish that I had a better memory so I could remember her name, but she talked to me for a minute, with the older sister/kid sis vibe. She was the president of the Sickle Cell Chapter in our whole district, and although she was a student, she still was proactive about volunteering for sickle cell events and meeting with sponsors and stuff. Up until that point, I was still living the “secret disease” life and noone knew I had anything.
However that short conversation with her, about all she was doing on the campus to raise awareness and all her plans for the future was enough to convince me to stop carrying sickle cell like it was a friggin’ burden. She gave me her phone number if I ever needed to talk and a sheet of paper with all the sickle cell chapters’ information and organizations in the area.
For me that was a moment of clarity. Here was a girl that wasn’t ashamed or afraid of her illness. Here was a woman just like me that was kicking sickle cell in the ass and taking names. This was the woman I wanted to be like.