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The Trait and I–filling in the blanks

There’s lots to learn about Sickle Cell Disease and Sickle Cell Trait. Click the image to listen to Planet Noun’s interview on SoundCloud featuring Elle Cole, writer and founder of CleverlyChanging.com

Mom is the one who first told me about sickle cell disease and the sickle cell trait. I can’t tell you what prompted the discussion. Maybe it was hearing about a childhood acquaintance who had the disease, was in crisis and in the hospital. Maybe something else prompted her to open up that discussion.

I have the trait, and so do you, is the essence of what she said.

Concern had to be etched on my face or laced in my words or questions, because I remember Mom reassuring me I could not “grow” or develop the disease. People with sickle cell are born with it and both parents must have the trait to pass it along to their children, and there’s a one -in-four chance that can happen. Mom told me she and Daddy didn’t have to worry about having a child with sickle cell disease, because he is trait-free.

This trait conversation was one of “the talks” I’d have to bring up when dating or considering marriage, Mom warned me. Wish I could recall how old I was when she told me all of this. I don’t, but it’s something I’ve kept with me all these years.

Couldn’t say if I discussed this with every single guy I’ve dated, but I do know with the more serious ones, it’s definitely come up in conversation. It wasn’t one of those big deal “we need to talk” convos. It just came up either naturally, or in a casual “oh, by the way,” kind of manner.

Making Connections

One thing Mom and other medical professionals have told me—there’s nothing to worry about with the sickle cell trait. Seems that’s pretty much been the case throughout the years. However, I’ve recently learned is that even though I can expect to have good health (bastard fibroids aside), folks with sickle cell trait are at risk for a health complication called exertional sickling that can happen during or after strenuous exercise or exercise that’s carried out in extreme environmental conditions. For example, exercise on very hot days could trigger exertional sickling. Dehydration can also play a role.

As a result of my interview with Cleverly Changing, I’m starting to learn about some of the effects the trait can carry with it, and she pointed me to some resources for more information.   In retrospect, I’m also realizing maybe I’ve had experiences that coincide with some other symptoms a trait carrier can have during workouts.

Maybe this explains why, when I was in high school, I felt loopy and dizzy when we had to run a mile—I’d never done that before, and hated how I felt afterwards. I’d run sprint races like the 50 and 100-yard-dash during elementary school field days, and never felt like I would pass out. But that first high school mile not only temporarily took my wind, which is natural, but the added dizziness let me know something might be awry. What it was, I didn’t know at the time.

I can still walk, I thought. Maybe it’s not that bad. I’m just out of shape.

I wasn’t “in shape,” nor did I workout every day. But I wasn’t inactive. I walked plenty in those days of catching the city bus. Sometimes I ran for the bus, sometimes I walked from my street of residence to another main highway to bypass one of the bus lines and slash my trip from two buses to one. Then there was the walk from the bus stop to the school. Even with that walking, being out of shape for a mile run was still a definite possibility.

Looking back, perhaps it was my paltry water intake that made me dizzy after that mile. Back in those days, I preferred drinking lots of milk, because it did a body good, and colored drinks and sodas because they were tasty and cool. Water, I drank a little bit before and right after exercise. When I was in elementary school, I loaded up after spending recess running around the school yard. At home, I used it to boil for hot teas and cocoa, and to dissolve Kool-Aid, Tang or Country Time Lemonade for a cool beverage on hot days.


I’ve never run one. Once upon a time, it was on my list of things to conquer—but it’s slid from the back burner, off the stove into the trashcan. I’m not saying I won’t ever, ever run one… but resting in my mind’s closet has always been that high school experience—sort of warning me of what could be a latent reality.

When I worked in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington, Va., I got the chance to observe folks who had just finished running the Marine Corps Marathon. Throngs of runners collected there to recover, rest and reunite their loved ones in that area, which also doubled as a celebration and festival area. Once I left work and saw some of the runners after the race. Most looked like they were about die or wanted to. My instinct told me maybe running marathons wasn’t for me after all.

It was my gut speaking.

Then, several years later, I learned about the possibility of exertion sickling for athletes with sickle cell trait.

The University of South Florida Health, in informational material on sickle cell trait for coaches, defines exertional sickling as “a potentially life-threatening condition resulting from the sickling of red blood cells during intense exercise.  Sickling results in muscular ischemia and collapse, whereby the athlete may experience intense muscular pain, rhabdomyolysis, and other serious metabolic problems. Signs and symptoms of an exertional sickling event include intense pain, fatigue, feeling like you cannot continue exercising, muscle cramping and inability to catch your breath.  Exertional sickling is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.”

Of course, I realize there’s no guarantee this will happen to me during intense workouts. I’m not athletic like that. But, then again,  I can’t guarantee it won’t. So I just take it easy, and set my own pace—which I’ve always done and is recommended for anyone during exercise— and have settled with the idea that an onslaught of extreme athletic anything may not be part of my life.

And that’s O.damn.K.

At the same time, I’m not ruling out reaching in the trashcan to recycle my discarded marathon dreams—maybe in abbreviated 5K form.

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Episode 9: Uterine Fibroids—Disrespectful & monstrous body bastards

Meet my sister Lea. She tried to keep her mouth clean during this episode. So did I. She’s a hoot and a half…and my guest for this episode of Planet Noun….where it’s all about people, places, things, ideas.

So this time…. It’s a thing… well—depending on how bad you’ve got it, it’s a whole bunch of things….

It’s also about a place that all people encounter during life’s dawning days. The human uterus.

So it’s the last day of Uterine Fibroid Awareness Month… And Lea and I know about these benign tumors very well… They’ve been our fairly constant companion—for some YEARS now.

We want to be free of the monsters—that’s what she calls hers. But we’ve learned to live with them… Mostly in the shadows…mostly quiet about them. But we’re tired… Let me speak for myself…. I’m tired… woe’ out….and want freedom from the secret.

Hello there….My name is Liz… the host of Planet Noun…
And I have uterine fibroids that beat me up on occasion.

According to a National Institutes of Health fact sheet on Uterine Fibroids…
Most American women will get them sometime during life. They say one study showed by age 50…. 70 percent of white women and 80 percent of African-American women were graced with these bastards.

I saw one place that upped it to 90 percent for African American women…

My sister and I are NOT 50, and we have them. So we’re part of that number.

The fact sheet continues:
“In many cases, fibroids are believed not to cause symptoms, and in such cases women may be unaware they have them.”

We wish ours were docile. But nah, we’re all symptomatic all up in this joint.

This is a fragment of our story:

We’re also not alone in wanting freedom from these things.

From The National Uterine Fibroids Foundation to The White Dress Project
to the Fibroid Foundation… and also the doctors who are coming up with innovative, less invasive treatments…. There’s company on this journey.

Guest: Lea (with no ‘h’) Anderson—My lovely sister!

Hosted by: Liz Anderson

Links either referenced in this episode or for more information :

Fibroid fact sheet from the National Institutes of Health

The disturbing reason some African American patients may be undertreated for pain

Examining the Relationship Between Symptomatic Burden and Self-reported Productivity Losses Among Patients With Uterine Fibroids in the United States

A common problem few women want to talk about: Fibroids cause more than just pain

Related blog post:


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Episode 7: Uncovering history that was hidden in plain sight

What’s your assignment? That’s something you may hear at school or at work, and some other places. Another way to ask this question is—what’s your purpose? Sometimes folks learn it at a young age. If you’re like me, you figured it out while fairly young, but maybe it took (and is still taking) a circuitous path to get there.

Our next guest didn’t figure out this particular “assignment” or purpose we discuss until she was good and grown. Meet Pastor Michelle C. Thomas of the Loudoun Freedom Center in Episode 7 of Planet Noun. Learn more about what she’s doing to help preserve African-American history in her community.

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They want to set you up with a solid stylist and a fly ‘do

Hey there! Happy New Year! Happy Black History Month! Happy Month of Love! Welcome to Planet Noun Episode FOUR.

So this one’s about HAIR.  And a couple of women who saw a void and are working to fill it by creating an app.

It’s called Swivel—and one of their missions is to get folks connected with quality hair stylists.

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New Podcast! Episode 1: If you don’t need him, why marry the dude?

So… I decided to start a podcast!

The adage “waste not, want not” applies to Extra Tape from initiative-driven interviews for work that are often recorded on my own time. It’s usually only sound-bites and brief quotes usually see the light of day on air and online. Unfortunately, the result is hearing my angel robe-clad, halo-wearing conscience whispering on both shoulders, in my parents’ voices, reminding me not to waste anything. Food. Money. Audio. It’s all the same.

Hence, this podcast.

So let’s get to Episode 1.

If you’ve ever said “I don’t need a man,” here’s an author who agrees with you… With a slight twist.

Listen here:

Thanks for listening to Planet Noun Podcast!
Learn more about author Carmen Hope Thomas, and her book “Why Marry a Man You Don’t Need,” right here.

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