TIFFANY: I’ve lived
with sickle cell my whole life. I’ve never known anything else. I have sickle cell disease.
I have SS. That’s the most severe form
of sickle cell disease. The doctors told my parents that I probably wouldn’t live
to see my 18th birthday. Sickle cell was like
a death sentence, but now it’s —
it’s totally the opposite. I mean, people can live
effective, prosperous lives, healthy lives
with sickle cell disease, so I think that we’ve
come a long way. Since I was a child,
my parents have always told me, “You can be
whatever you want to be. You can do whatever
you want to do.” But after I had my daughter,
I was really, really sick. I had a lot
of hospital admissions — more than normal,
more than I’ve ever had — and I would get
really, really sick. (Good job on your picture.
High five.) A crisis is the hallmark
of sickle cell disease, and a crisis is just pain in any location of your body. You can have it
wherever blood flows. If I had to describe it, it would be like
repeatedly being stabbed with a butcher knife
in the same spot, nonstop. That’s what it feels like. So, growing up,
from the time I was born up until maybe I was 8 or 9, I took penicillin
every day of my life. And the purpose of that,
I think, is to prevent any kind
of infection, just in case. My brother, who’s had
many more complications than I have with sickle cell — he tried hydroxyurea
when he was about 13 or 14, and every side effect that the
medicine could offer, he had. So I was afraid to take it, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt
to try it. So I started taking hydroxyurea
May 2009, and it has really, really
changed my life. I haven’t had an admission
in 13 months. And my numbers —
my blood numbers are wonderful. My doctor is totally pleased
with it. I haven’t had any negative
side effect from the medicine. It’s really wonderful.
It’s been good to me. It’s so much more important
for me to stay healthy now because of my baby girl. The day she was born,
they tested her for the disease, but I knew
that she didn’t have the disease because her dad doesn’t have
the trait or the disease. But she does have the trait. It’s really important for me
to stay healthy for her, but, also, it’s important
because I love what I do. I love my job.
I love life. And I don’t —
it’s not fun being sick, so I do everything in my power
to stay healthy. Take my medicines every day
without fail. I don’t smoke, never tried
to smoke, never will smoke. [ Chuckles ] But I do eat fairly healthy. I think the main thing I do
is my fluid intake. That has a lot to do with, um… how well people do
with sickle cell disease. Life right now is great. I’m healthy. I’m a mom
to a beautiful little girl who I love so much. I just bought a house, so I’m
really excited about that. And I’m in school. I’m getting my master’s
in health care administration. It feels great to know that,
yes, when my parents told me I could do
whatever I wanted to do and be whoever I wanted to be,
that I’m actually doing it now. Having a good attitude
affects any area of your life, whether it’s health-related
or job-related or any area of your life. So I always try my best
to have a good outlook on life. I have sickle cell,
but sickle cell doesn’t have me.