Finding Love with Sickle Cell

February is a month of celebration.

It’s Black History Month, the month of love, and a time to acknowledge the impact of women in medicine. With Valentine’s Day, National Women Physicians Day, Galentine’s Day, and this year the first National Black Women Physicians Day, I have a lot to celebrate.

Reflecting

I find myself spending a lot of this month reflecting on all the love I am surrounded by. Love of the career I am in pursuit of, love of the amazing women in my life, and the love I share with the love of my life. February is the time to celebrate love in all its forms. Self-love, platonic love, romantic love, love of one’s career, family love, all love.

You can have it all!

I think society often makes it seem like you can’t have it all. You have to pick to chase after your career or to have a family, especially if you’re a woman. But that’s not the case at all. For me, this month has been filled with examples of successful women, often doctors, who do indeed have it all – a family and a career. 

Before entering this month, I was debating if I too could have it all. I felt all this pressure to choose. To focus on school and my career aspirations over pursuing any new relationships or allowing new love into my life.

Finding love...

But I fell in love unexpectedly and it gave me the opportunity to prove to myself that I could work towards the career of my dreams, focus on school, and maintain a healthy relationship.

That I deserved to have all that I wanted and to receive love. 

When I was younger...

When I was younger, having sickle cell complicated my viewpoints on love. My mother didn’t want me to disclose my disease status to others. She would joke about how I had to find someone with hemoglobin type AA, not C or S that can predispose to sickle cell, to marry so my kids would only get the trait and not the disease.

I thought about how unlikely anyone I was dating would even know their blood type. I don’t think I would if I didn’t have a blood disorder. As I grew up, I pushed back more against the notion of hiding my truth.

My diagnosis does not define me

Having sickle cell does not define me, but it is a big part of my story and who I am. I worried and wondered if I would ever find someone who could accept that part of me and wouldn’t see me as a burden. I knew that no one would understand me better than someone who also has sickle cell, but I never allowed myself to pursue romantic relationships with anyone that would increase my future child’s likelihood of having the disease too.

Dating with sickle cell

I grew hyperconscious of what having sickle cell meant in the world of dating. I remember watching a love story about a woman with sickle cell and an all-Black cast.

Her mother had convinced her she had to be strong, couldn’t let her disease seep into her life otherwise she’d never find a man willing to take care of her. She tried to hide it but ended up pushing him away whenever she got sick. Of course, he caught on, and to her surprise, he was more than willing to love and care for her. In sickness and in health, so the saying goes. 

What I took from that movie was that I too had to be strong. I couldn’t let sickle cell control my life. I grew determined to be able to take care of myself so I couldn’t be a burden to anyone, especially a future partner. But what loving and being loved has taught me is that the people who truly love you will never see you as a burden and will do anything they can to support you. 

Love is a gift

Love is the biggest gift life has to offer. In all its forms, wherever and whenever it happens. We all deserve to fully be loved and accepted for who we are.

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