Hello Grace! It’s so nice to meet you. Let us start from the beginning…how old where you when you found out you had sickle cell?
I was seven years old. I fell while roller skating and fractured my wrist and I was diagnosed after the Doctor reviewed my Xrays.
So how were you able to cope with school and sickle cell?
I actually faired pretty well in college maybe a couple of crisis in four years. I pledged a sorority which was probably not a good idea because it was strenuous and did send me into a very serious crisis!
I know there are many college students with sickle cell who would have wanted to pledge a sorority or fraternity. It’s pretty cool that you didn’t let sickle cell hold you back in that regard, even though it sounds like it must have been grueling. How did your childhood and your parents influence you in your choice of career?
There was a huge focus on education. I grew up in a house with three teachers. No one ever expressed that I should be limit my career choice because of my diagnosis.
Whoa…three teachers? Guess you had to bring home good grades…you had no excuse Ms. Grace! What do you do? What kind of experience and schooling does one need to get your job?
I am a Major/National Account Executive for a large corporation. I have a BS in Marketing from Northern Illinois University. A college degree in just about any field is acceptable for most corporate sales positions. The job requires good problem solving skills, analytical and interpersonal skills.
FYI warriors, she is being pretty modest. She works for a HUGE corporation that you would know instantly if we mentioned the name. So Kudos to you Grace:) Describe a typical day on your job.
I spend my days visiting my assigned accounts, presenting proposals, doing needs analysis and workflow assessments, and researching potential new prospects.
How do you manage SCD and still maintain a thriving career?
I manage SCD the only way I know how. I try to keep a positive attitude “mind over matter”. I try to eat right and keep hydrated.
Have you noticed a difference in how your coworkers treat you once they know you have SCD?
There are a few that know and get it, but most don’t. I am 54 years old so I am way past trying to explain how I can look great and be fine one day and in the hospital hooked up to all kinds of monitors the next day. I hope at this point that if someone wants to truly understand the disease they will research it. I have only in the last 5 years been open about my illness. Prior to that, I only discussed it with those that needed to know such as my immediate manager.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to join your profession that has sickle cell?
You have got to learn how to manage stress. Sales can be a very stressful career and Corporate America in itself can sometimes be very challenging for people of color.
Has sickle cell limited any areas of your life?
I don’t allow sickle cell to limit me. Physically there are some things that I would love to do such as skiing, however, as you know the high altitude is not a good thing because of the reduction in oxygen, and the damp and cold can also send me into a crisis.
When you do reach obstacles in your life, what helps you through it?
My faith and my sense of humor.
Do you have regular pain (more than 2x a week)? How do you cope with this when you are working?
I don’t usually have pain more than twice a week. I have found that when I do have pain I need to take pain medication right away versus waiting until it intensifies as I use to do. I put a lot of energy into my job so I have limited what I do after hours and try to rest more than I use to.
What is your daily medication regimen and what medications do you take when you are in pain?
Folic Acid, Multiple Vitamin, Milk Thistle tablets or tea
How has sickle cell affected your personal life? For example, are you in a relationship, do you have kids, etc.
I have two daughters one is graduating from Howard University with a PharmD this May and another graduating from the University of Iowa in May also with a BA in Sociology. She has been accepted into several law schools for fall 2011. She has not decided which she will attend yet.
You must be so proud of your daughters. Congratulations! I’m sure they have learned so much from you about hard work and determination. Looking at the 14 year old version of yourself, what would you tell her if you could…?
Hang in there!! Living with sickle cell doesn’t get easier but how you handle will determine the life you create.
Is there anything else that you would want to tell other sickle cell warriors?
For the adults with sickle cell: Take control of your healthcare. Ask questions and challenge the things that you are uncomfortable with. Challenge your doctor to keep up with new treatments, trends, and findings as they relate to you and sickle cell disease.
Thank you so much for doing this interview Ms. Grace. It was a pleasure learning from you and I’m sure so many warriors will be inspired by you.