Another year around the sun while living with sickle cell disease

A recent birthday has me thinking about my mental and physical health

Dunstan Nicol-Wilson avatar

by Dunstan Nicol-Wilson |

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I celebrated my birthday last month, and I’m grateful to be 31 and see another year. I feel blessed — even though, in recent months, I’ve experienced loss within our sickle cell community. Each loss reminds me that nothing is guaranteed in life. Nonetheless, I’m blessed to have essential things that I cherish and am thankful for.

That’s put me in a reflective mood, especially as I think about what’s worked well for my health. I want to keep up the positive habits that have improved my mobility and well-being. Sickle cell disease won’t hold me back from achieving what I want, but I have to be thoughtful to maximize what I can do.

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My motivation for going to the gym is to be healthy and active. A little bit of exercise here and there goes a long way to add years to my life. I currently go to the gym four times a week. One cardiovascular session could last 20 minutes one day and an hour the next. What’s important is that I’m consistently moving. I listen to my body and go as far as I can, knowing that I can always do more on another day. I appreciate building myself up slowly rather than pushing for quick results.

I eat at least three meals a day and take supplements, including vitamins. In my teenage years, I’d have about two meals (one was junk food) and snacks throughout the day. Cutting out the snacking and thinking more about what I put in my body has benefited me immensely, and I plan to keep up the habit as I continue in this new year of life.

Beyond the physical

I used to view therapy as a fix. After six sessions, all would be well, and I wouldn’t need to do it anymore.

In the past few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have at least one talk therapy session a month — not necessarily to fix an issue, but rather to promote mental wellness. Having a safe space to process my thoughts and work through life events has transformed my outlook.

I’ve gained much knowledge about sickle cell disease from my experience. I’ve always supported my community strongly, and I don’t want to lose that passion over time. I’ll continue to mentor and advocate for patients with sickle cell because I’ve been that patient with no support or hope. If it weren’t for my support system or connections with people like me, my life would be very different.

I cherish the moments when I can do something I love pain-free. I value new experiences, such as exploring new places, meeting new people, trying new foods, and the like. Each experience is embedded in my mind to remind me that I have lived, and I continue to do so.

As I grow older, I want positive memories, not negative ones, to take precedence in my life. I’m grateful to see another year and excited to see what else is in store for me. My chronic condition is a part of me, but it’ll never define my life — not in this year or the rest to come.

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.


Lorna Lammy avatar

Lorna Lammy

Hi Dunstan, It was lovely reading your story and how far you have come. As a grandmother with 2 young grandsons with Sickle cell, I can really identify with where you are coming from. As a family, we really try to stay positive even when sometimes the days/ weeks are very dark with worry about their health and especially the older they get. I particularly liked the part where you talked about the amount of snacks you used to have, until you knew better, then you did better, just like Maya Angelou quotes ( do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better). This is the stage we are really trying to empower the grandsons especially the one who is secondary school, to make better choices regarding his diet. I really hope we can stay in contact, as I feel you will be a real inspiration for the boys, moving forward. Look forward to hearing from you, and I am glad I came across your page. Lorna

Dunstan Nicol-Wilson avatar

Dunstan Nicol-Wilson

Hi Lorna. Thank you for your lovely message, the quote fits perfectly the journey I am on. Yes please lets keep in touch. I wish your grandsons all the best on their journey. Keep the positive energy, they will bounce of that and a good diet really helps!


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