Meet Yasmeen, Teacher on a Mission

June 27, 2018 – Yasmeen is a recent college graduate pursuing her dreams every day while living, and thriving, with thalassemia major. CAF thanks Yasmeen for allowing us to share her inspiring story as part of our third annual Thriving With Thal week. Visit our Facebook page to read stories from other individuals with thalassemia from around the world sharing how they, too, are #thrivingwiththal.

When I was 6 months old, my parents were told that I was diagnosed with a chronic illness called Beta Thalassemia Major. With this diagnosis, came a life-time of blood transfusions, hospital visits, doctors’ appointments, and medications.

For a long time, my family kept my diagnosis a secret in fear of what people may think and the connotations associated with being sick. I realized that although thalassemia was not a defining factor of my life, it was still a pretty big part of it. Hiding this part of my life became harder and harder as I grew older. I wanted to fit in with my classmates, go to birthday parties with my friends, and be normal like my siblings. All of these ‘normal childhood activities’ were difficult when I had to go to the hospital every four weeks for blood or sleep with a Desferal pump for most of my childhood. I grew ashamed of this part of my life and felt like I had done something wrong to deserve thalassemia as a punishment.

Throughout my life, the only few people who knew that I was sick were my teachers. Because of the frequent doctor appointments and hospital visits, I missed a lot of school, but my teachers were always very understanding. They made sure I had everything I needed to be successful. They always encouraged me to keep going when things were tough and pushed me to go beyond the limits that thalassemia had set on my life. It is because my teachers that I always dreamed about being a teacher.

The thought of going away for college seemed almost impossible, but I did not let my thalassemia stop me from achieving my dream of being a teacher. I applied and got accepted to my dream school, Flagler College, in St. Augustine; 2 hours away from my parents, my doctors, and my hospital. Every 4 weeks, I had to make the 2 hour trip back home to get blood and see my doctors; every 4 weeks I had to miss college classes, my internships, my club meetings, and hanging out with my friends. This became a little bit easier when I turned 21 and transitioned out of my pediatric hospital and was able to transition to an adult hospital closer to my college, but that came with its own set of challenges and obstacles.

Having thalassemia made my college experience a lot more difficult than it should have been. But nonetheless, I am proud to say that I graduated from Flagler College with my Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education; Summa Cum Laude (highest honors), while also receiving the Education Department Award, and the Presidential Leadership Award. I also just accepted a 2nd grade teaching position at Moton Elementary School. I hope that my unique perspective will allow me to better serve my students who will be struggling with their own challenges.

However, none of this would have been possible without the help and support that I gained over the last few years. In 2016, I became more involved with the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation; and the people that I have met through CAF have given me the tools and resources I needed to be more proactive in my healthcare. The ‘thal pals’ that I have gained also gave me the confidence to tell my closest friends that I have thalassemia. Since telling my best friends that I have thalassemia, I no longer feel the need to hide such a big part of my life; instead I feel like I have the strongest support system that I can rely on during the good and bad times in my life.

To me, Thriving with Thal means that it is okay to rely on your closest friends when you need them the most, because those who truly care about you will always stay by your side through the good and the bad. Thriving with Thal also means that you Never Ever Give Up (NEGU). Living with thalassemia comes with a lot of challenges, but it does not mean that you have to let it control what you do. Thriving with Thal means that you do not let your diagnosis stop you from achieving your dreams.

My name is Yasmeen Anis and I have Beta Thalassemia Major. My name is Yasmeen Anis and I recently graduated from my dream college and will be starting at my dream job of being a teacher in August. My name is Yasmeen Anis and I am Thriving with Thal!

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