Today, we are interviewing Tamara Raymond, who is a Client Relationship Manager and freelance Brand Enthusiast! Tamara is a university graduate, and her determination to succeed is taking her to the top. She is intelligent, brave, and determined, and in no way allows sickle cell to keep her from doing what she most wants with her life.
Tell us, Tamara, how old were you when you found out you had sickle cell?
I was diagnosed at the age of 2. My mom brought me in to the hospital with swelling and pain in my elbows, and originally the doctors thought I was being abused, until they ran sufficient testing.
How were you able to cope with school and sickle cell?
School became quite the challenge at the end of high school. I found that in elementary and junior high I could bounce back much easier, often times I would be released from the hospital and beg my mom to go to school that same day. In high school it was much harder to regain my strength and focus, but I always pushed myself. My senior year, I spent 2 weeks in the hospital and jeopardized my chance of graduating, but my teachers were extremely supportive and gave me a laptop allowing me to do school work from home, and after much time catching up, I was able to graduate with my class. University was a bit harder, as my relationships with my professors were not as strong as elementary and middle school. However, I still received some amazing support and great understanding from professors. I graduated in 2013 with my Bachelor of Business Administration Degree focused in Marketing.
How did your childhood and your parents influence you in your choice of career?
My parents have always been supportive of whatever I wanted to pursue. Sickle Cell has never been a deciding factor or influence in choosing a career and I am very fortunate for that.
What do you do? What kind of experience and schooling does one need to get your job?
I am a Client Relationship Manager at Pattison Outdoor Advertising, and a Brand Enthusiast as a freelancer. I studied for 4 years at Mount Royal University and obtained my Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Marketing.
Describe a typical day on your job.
My job allows me to be very creative, I use more of my mental strength than physical. I meet with clients and talk about advertising strategies, I create proposals at the office and do research and analysis on target markets and demographics.
How do you manage SCD and still maintain a thriving career?
REST! It’s so key, and I am always on the go, so it’s very hard. But there are days and many nights where I have to say no to a dinner, or to going out with friends because I am physically and mentally drained and I know how important it is to let the body re-cooperate.
Have you noticed a difference in how your coworkers treat you once they know you have SCD?
No. If anything, they are more understanding and concerned, especially when the weather becomes very cold. I think initially, the symptoms of feeling achy seem underrated to most people, until they really see for themselves how much pain I am really in.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to join your profession that has sickle cell?
Be honest with yourself and your coworkers, learn how to say no to certain things. Never limit yourself, but stay true to yourself and don’t ignore the signs. Drink lots of water at work, and take time to eat.
Has sickle cell limited any areas of your life?
Sports! Not being able to join sports when I was younger is probably one of my biggest regrets. I mean, I couldn’t even if I wanted to as the impact and strain on the joints would have been too much for me, but I really wish I could’ve had the team experience in high school.
When you do reach obstacles in your life, what helps you through it?
I allow myself to be angry. Many a time, we are always told to be strong, which is just as important, but that frustration also needs to be recognized. Once I’m done being angry, I pray. I think Faith is so important with this illness, and God is definitely the reason why I am still alive today.
Do you have regular pain (more than 2x a week)? How do you cope with this when you are working?
I am quite blessed, I have small amounts of pain maybe once a week, but it is often hard to decipher whether this pain is sickle related or not. Sometimes I may have a headache, or stomach ache or generous achiness of the body which is sometimes a cold, or weather related. For the most part I am fairly healthy until I have a serious flair up.
What is your daily medication regimen and what medications do you take when you are in pain?
I am not a medication lover at all, in fact it’s my least favorite part of treatment. On a regular day I take folic acid and vitamins. When I am in pain, doses range upwards from Tylenol and Advil Extra Strength, to Tylenol 3, and then Percoset. Once this routine is exhausted and the pain is too much, I take myself to the hospital for treatment. I also use a lot of herbal rubs, herbal teas and types of oils to smell to ease the pain. I often joke with my friends and say I am about to have my drug cocktail because a huge part of this illness is being proactive, which means taking the Tylenol as soon as a symptom comes on to prevent something extreme from starting. It’s just really hard to tell if I am being too cautious or not as there are other non-sickle cell related symptoms that are a part of everyday life.
How has sickle cell affected your personal life? For example, are you in a relationship, do you have kids, etc.
I am not usually open about my disease to my partners. I am single, no kids, just starting my career at the age of 23. Boyfriends I have had in the past have been extremely supportive, but it’s never something I bring them into right off the bat, often they don’t know until I am really sick. I think that’s an insecurity that I am working on, perhaps it’s embarrassment or the fact that I just don’t feel it’s their business if I don’t know that they will truly stick around.
Looking at the 14 year old version of yourself, what would you tell him or her if you could…?
I would say, Tamara, everything will work itself out. You are resilient and brave, you have so much to give in this life. Don’t stress over the little things, don’t stress over drama and people’s bullshit. At the end of the day, if it’s not making you better, making you happy, or making you money, it’s time to move on!
Is there anything else that you would want to tell other sickle cell warriors?
I love you, I support you, and I understand you. We are resilient, we are brave, we are strong, never stop fighting!