#inTheirVoice: “I Am A Fighter!.”

FRANCESCA AKATON

“ I am strong because I was raised to be, I am strong because I am a fighter, I am strong because I have sickle cell anemia. And this is what this story is about.” –Francesca Akaton –MPA ’18 (Francesca in the blue sweater, being held up by her sisters)

Is structural violence the case where, when you have no control over the condition you were born with, the system forces you to have to cope with such condition alone by not allowing you access to or providing the appropriate services to the proper care? If so, I do not want to admit I am a victim of structural violence and I won’t. I won’t because this is not a story of how I am a victim of structural violence.

Being born with sickle cell anemia isn’t something I asked for but luckily, I have always lived in places where the system understood that and worked with me to alleviate the consequences of that disease. Consequences I am subject to by nature. Moving to the States, I was denied some of the treatments that helped me live a comfortable life and so the frequency of crises I would get increased. It became a struggle to live healthily. This struggle has, despite myself, made me discover what it really means to have sickle cell anemia, but it has also made me realize that my parents have raised me to take on the battles this disease confronts me with. My mother used to say, when you have a daughter with sickle cell, praise the Lord if she makes it to her 15th birthday.

She strengthened me mentally by sharing stories of her sisters who are still alive despite the lack of proper structure in my country, even though until they were teens their mother and my grandmother, had no idea why they would fall ill when they would. They would because they had been born with sickle cell and she did not know. My mother explained to me that I was privileged to have lived a fairly ‘crisis-less’ life and therefore should be grateful for it and accept the challenges that came my way with sickle cell as my aunts did because I was born to be sick. My father strengthened me. He taught me that in Taekwondo, which is ultimately the control of the mind over the body. No pain is too much pain if my mind decides so he would say which takes a great deal of mental strength. I am strong because I was raised to be, I am strong because I am a fighter, I am strong because I have sickle cell anemia. And this is what this story is about.”

 

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