Pursuing My Dream of Playing Volleyball, One Step at a Time

Chronic pain from sickle cell disease creates obstacles for a columnist

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by Dunstan Nicol-Wilson |

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I’ve recently been asked a couple of times to share something random I’d like to do. I’ve responded that I want to play volleyball. I played the sport a few times in school and loved it, but never pursued it.

Last year, I watched an anime show called “Haikyū!!” that centers around volleyball and becoming the best, despite limitations. As cheesy as it sounds, the show reawakened my desire to play the sport. Relearning the different positions and emphasizing teamwork and movement excited me.

This excitement, however, was soon derailed by the avascular necrosis in my knees. The diagnosis sucked away any optimism I had about playing sports.

At that time, my knees had been in constant pain, so the diagnosis wasn’t shocking. Instead, it confirmed my worst fears. There were days when simply walking was difficult; there was no way I could play volleyball with my knees breaking down daily.

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As always, I tried to remain positive and took swimming lessons for a time to try and strengthen the muscles around my knees. I had to do something to improve my general health because the constant pain was debilitating. However, another sickle cell pain crisis in my knees followed, and cold weather — a common trigger — stopped any progress I was making.

In the end, I gave up. I’m not too happy that I did, as sickle cell disease can make it so easy to give up on things — a job, a dream, a hope. Sometimes you physically can’t achieve what you want to do, even when you push past your limits. My random desire to play volleyball slowly evaporated into the ether.

In hindsight, several factors probably affected my physical well-being last year. For one, general movement and activity were limited due to the pandemic, which didn’t aid muscle development.

Over the past year, I’ve been trying to eat better and maintain a consistent activity level. Slowly but surely, I’ve been developing a routine of engaging in physical activity at least twice a week.

As a result, I’ve seen a marked improvement in my well-being and pain levels. If my life were like one of my anime shows, I would probably be playing professional volleyball right now. While that’s not my reality, my confidence has returned along with my desire to play.

It probably isn’t the best time to pick up a new sport with winter rearing its head. But I will continue to build myself up step by step to reach a point where I can. It might not be possible given my pain from sickle cell, but at least I can hold myself accountable and say I tried. I’ll eventually get there — I just have to take the long way around.

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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