I knew about Arrey Echi for a long time before I met her. I first came in contact with her blogs on Facebook which were shared by a mutual friend, Yensi Helen in 2017. I have to admit that I was curious about her for many reasons.
Firstly, her writing is beautiful. It is funny, educative and thought-provoking. But more than that, it does all of this while staying humble and unassuming. As a fellow writer, I was charmed.
Secondly but perhaps more importantly, she is a young (not so young? hihi) woman living with sickle cell disease. And seems to be living quite happily. I was shocked. I grew up with a lot of misconceptions about sickle cell. We were always told that they didn’t live above 21 years of age and there were always stories about someone who had lost their child. It was depressing and made me very afraid. The only other sickler (please the correct term is sickle cell warrior) I’d known before that was the younger sister of a classmate in Boarding School. She was a little frail thing and was always out of school and in the hospital every other day. We were made to think that she was to be pitied, not loved.
As I continued to read about Arrey’s journey and her experiences on her blog , joy2endure, it left me very hopeful. Her writing challenges every day what it means to live with sickle cell. It may be full of pain, but its also full of laughter and love.
I finally got to meet her a few years later at a wedding anniversary of a friend. And once again she surprised me. From her writing, I had been looking forward to meeting a funny, yet poised and articulate person. I was unaware of her hearing and speech difficulties before that. And so as we struggled to communicate across the table and despite the loud music, my respect for her just grew. Perhaps we could not be fluent, but poised and funny, she definitely is. She carries her decades of experience with grace and humour.
And as we’ve met in other spaces and developed a friendly relationship, I’ve found her to be loving and supportive. A Princess of Tito indeed.
Nora Brown blew into my life like a thunderstorm. That’s just who she is: a goddess who commands attention.
She joined the BodyTalk forum in 2019 and brought a whole different vibe to it.
This sickle cell goddess does not conform to any of your stereotypes: she’s an outspoken, curvy, stylish plus size queen and a proud mother of four. She’s an award winning cake artist, sickle cell advocate and blogger. Simply put, she’s a woman who seems to have it all and does not apologize.
I must admit that her personality intrigued me, because once again, she busted some myths:
Myth: Sickle Cell Warriors are Thin and frail
Nora: Have you met me?
Myth: Sickle Cell Warriors can’t have kids
Nora: Well, I certainly did not steal them from the hospital
Myth: Sickle Cell Warriors are usually shy introverts
Nora’s larger-than-life personality might seem pretentious to others but talking with her, I find her to be exactly the opposite. She’s honest, quick to apologize and quick to fight for what she believes.
Nora would be in the hospital during a crisis, but still take out time to chat and encourage others. She can leave the hospital bed to the runway, sick the morning to making awesome cakes in the evening and all with a huge smile, a huge afro and an unquenchable spirit.
What’s not to love??
I met these two amazing women at different moments in my life. And they couldn’t be more unlike each other. But strangely their stories which they continue to share daily has thought me a few great lessons about life in general, and about a neglected genetic disorder that affects up to 100 million people in the world right now, most of them of African descent.
Everyone Should be A Warrior:
Fight, Fall, Win or Lose, Never Surrender.
Arrey Echi and Nora Brown are Cameroonian sickle cell warriors and advocates.
At the age of two, Arrey was diagnosed with sickle cell disease. From then on, it shaped her life, but she did not let it stop her. She graduated with a double honors degree in Women and Gender Studies and Sociology and Anthropology with an additional diploma in Development Studies and Human Resource Management. . Arrey lost most of her hearing before she could complete primary school, and with no provisions in place for people with disabilities, she struggled through school. Still, she persevered with the support and encouragement from family, friends, and teachers. Arrey Echi lives and works in Yaounde, Cameroon.
Source: Sickle Cell 101
Ms Nora Brown is a mother of four and the CEO of Nora Brown Cakes who, despite losing her two younger brothers to sickle cell and the numerous challenges life has thrown her way, refused to bow down but remains determined to keep breaking all the glass ceilings along her path in this sometimes rough but interesting journey we call life.
Never heard of sickle cell disease (also known as sickle cell anaemia? June 19th is Sickle Cell Day.
Sickle cell is a blood disorder passed down from parents to children. It is characterized by sickle or crescent-shaped red blood cells that are unable to carry oxygen sufficiently through the body, causing a range of complications.
Find out more from Sickle Cell 101