The Invisible Pain People With Sickle Cell Anemia Go Through Every Day

by Jimi Olaghere
Alia Images

Thirty years into my sickle cell anemia diagnosis, it's safe to say I've lost a lot. From the organs in my ailing body to friends, businesses, money and more, I've accumulated a nice streak of losses that makes even the 2014-2015 New York Knicks feel like NBA Champions.

Sickle cell anemia is no joke. It's a condition in which the sufferer doesn't have the right amount of healthy red blood cells to deliver enough oxygen to the body. Believe me, every single day is battle in a war that will probably never end. It's a strange and awkward phenomenon when your own body wages war against you.

The thing that makes this disease particularly cruel is its invisible nature. It has this uncanny ability to keep its suffers silent as it expertly conceals the damage it does to the human body and even the mind. The pain alone will drive you mad.

Over the years, people have tried to quantify the pain of sickle cell anemia, which actually varies depending on the issue of the person diagnosed. Despite the excruciating physical pain sickle cell anemia can cause, most people are unaware about the mental pain as well.

Do you know how they say ALS only attacks the body and leaves the mind intact? Well, sickle cell anemia doesn't discriminate. Everything is fair game, including the body, the mind and the organs.

The sheer greediness of this disease leaves its sufferers more vulnerable than ever. It condemns them to a life of anxiety, and it chokes them like razor wire.

Losing your mind isn't difficult when you suffer from sickle cell anemia. This is especially true when you consider yourself a lifelong learner and enjoy the journey of acquiring more knowledge. But, sickle cell anemia put a stop to that for me.

Although you won't see me waving a white flag, the side effects of these countless medications slowly start to hinder the learning process. Coming to terms with this fact was devastating to me. The anxiety of the physical symptoms had already started to take a toll on my mental health, but watching my ability to learn go was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Living with sickle cell anemia means living with a lot of pain. It can linger for days, and sometimes, it can even be around for months. That's where the opioid pain medication comes in. Most of us sufferers need to take it around the clock, which is brutal for both our bodies and minds.

It has slowly and continually debilitated my brain power. I no longer have a photographic memory. My ability to retain information is poor, and I'm still popping a lot of pills.

Sickle cell anemia patients are still dying young, and the ones who are alive are suffering in silence. I'll adapt and pivot. I'll still learn as much as I can. But, I'll also rededicate myself to teaching and educating the world about the travesty that is sickle cell anemia.