‘Go Beyond, Plus Ultra!’: Surpassing the Limits of a Diagnosis

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by Dunstan Nicol-Wilson |

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A banner graphic depicting friends standing on a cliff overseeing a mountain range.

I was recently diagnosed with avascular necrosis (AVN) in my knees.

When the doctor called to tell me, I expected to be OK with it. I had read fellow Sickle Cell Disease News columnist Tito Oye’s column about AVN, felt similar symptoms, and conducted further research. I tend to have a lot of sickle cell crises in my knees, so it seemed sensible to think they had taken a toll. All signs pointed to AVN.

Still, despite all this preparation and background research, I was not OK.

As much as I rationalized the diagnosis in my mind, I still felt unprepared for it. I understood the why — the constant crises in my knees meant the bones were starved for oxygen. When I did squats in the gym, the pain in my knees was always unbearable. It wasn’t bad form, just damaged knees.

However, this seemed like yet another challenge life had thrown at me. I felt defeated. I already have sickle cell, and now I have an additional ailment.

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It was difficult to take in, as I’d been on a high of good health and happiness. In these miserable moments, I reflected on why I felt so dejected. I realized that negative thoughts about being unable to do what I enjoy were weighing heavily on my heart. My thoughts were spiraling into questions such as, “Will I be able to go on adventures? Can I go to the gym? (I need to get back in there.) Will I be able to walk in the long run?” I was really worried about the “what ifs” and possible future complications.

In my gloomy state, I put on an episode of “My Hero Academia.” One reason I love anime is that viewers can often identify with the main character. Whether it’s action or drama, anime always aims to evoke emotion.

In the episode I watched, the protagonist was losing badly, but found the strength to surpass their limits and save the day. In this universe, the heroes’ motto is “Go beyond, plus ultra!” It means to give everything and then some.

As cheesy as it sounds, the elation I felt after watching that episode propelled me out of my unhappy mood. I realized that up to this point, I have embodied the same energy in my own life. When a crisis put me in the hospital, I eventually recovered and continued living. When I wanted to climb a mountain in Morocco, I did it, despite the exertion on my body. I have always pushed the limits and boundaries that have been imposed on me by this condition.

Avascular necrosis | Sickle Cell Disease News | The Atlas Mountains in Morocco on a sunny day.

The view from atop the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. I had a crisis shortly after the hike, but I was so proud of the achievement. (Photo by Dunstan Nicol-Wilson)

With AVN, I will do the same. I will research how to strengthen my knees without causing further damage. I will be extra careful about how much strain I put on my body. I will focus on all things happy and positive. I will continue to go beyond, plus ultra!

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Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.

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