Living with an invisible disability is difficult as people and businesses are often unaware of the chronic pain a person may be suffering. Sickle cell anemia sufferer Anne Welsh has written an interesting book about overcoming chronic pain through management, lifestyle and diet choices. This book is an interesting mix – Anne tells her own frank personal story about her life living with sickle cell anemia – warts ‘n’ all. From being a small child, how her parents coped, teenage years, university, work life, boyfriends, married life, pregnancy. Intertwined with the chapters are Anne’s honest look at the decisions made and what she advises to help make the life of someone suffering with chronic pain easier and advice for family and friends too. How to stay positive is her mantra. Although her advice can help all those living with chronic pain, she is adamant to spread the word about sickle cell disease, which is actually the most common genetic disease in the world, but people are not necessarily aware of it. I really enjoyed reading Anne’s book,” Pain-less “- she has a lovely chatty style – and I highly recommend it. You don’t need to suffer chronic pain to understand and devour her book – although she does give invaluable advice! I caught up with Anne recently and asked her a few questions….!! Hi Anne!
Hi! I would say that Anne Welsh is an internationally recognised author, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Most importantly I am a married mother of two and finds great joy in being close to family and friends. I have recently launched my memoir, Pain-less to inspire people who, like myself, live with sickle cell and work hard to find a path-way to a gratifying life while living with pain. It is a book that will motivate the reader to act and overcome challenges in life.
Through this book I am using my voice to help others by speaking on many radio and television spots, such as the BBC and London live, and in front of decision makers and parliamentary political leaders in the UK or in countries around the world where sickle cell is a serious health issue.
I have a degree in Accounting and Finance and an MSc in Investment Management and broke barriers as an investment banker with Lehman Brothers, by establishing workplace practices for ethnic minorities and people with disability. I now run my own consultancy firm based in London, England and is an expert in bringing business opportunities to investors around the globe.
Your book, “Pain-Less” is truly inspirational – but what made you decide to write “Pain-Less” in the first place?
I decided to write my book Pain-Less as I felt it was time to finally share my story with the world. It was truly a struggle growing up. I was constantly in hospital and each time I would lose hope that I would be better or would I just be burden on my family and society for the rest of my life.
As I broke away from the negativity that surrounded my life, I knew that I could make a positive difference to others with invisible illnesses, who were going through similar experiences to me. By sharing my story I could help them to overcome their fears, live life to the fullest and being able to achieve their life long aspirations.
I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – the mix of your personal story, your struggle to overcome chronic pain and your sound advice. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from a chronic complaint but I do know people who do, so it was an eye opening insight for me to understand what it is like living with an invisible disease. I really appreciated the advice you gave in the book to family, friends, peers and employers on how to handle someone with an invisible disability. What changes do you feel that employers/businesses should think about to help those with an invisible disability?
People with an invisible illness are prone to the same emotions as everyone else. They often don’t ask for special treatment, but they do ask for an understanding of the invisible illness you have. Sometimes negative reactions from your colleagues are amplified because you don’t look sick or have a visible physical disability that accompanies empathy that is often demonstrated by people you may be working with.
Therefore, awareness is key. As a person with an illness you must make your employer aware that you have an invisible disease. Employers should take the time to put in place suitable infrastructure where necessary to make the lives of those living with an invisible illness can perform without restrictions. I can tell you the moment my employers were able to give me the help I needed; I saw an improvement in my performance and my contribution to the team was immediately recognised.
What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about in “Pain-less”?
Overcoming the fact that I was putting myself out to the world to scrutinise. A memoir is more than just your life highlights – to do it well you must make the point of including those things that make you the person you are at a moment in life. It creates a personal tension within yourself and forces to analyse your true feelings about many subjects that you had not really considered before. This can be a very mentally demanding task.
I had heard about Sickle Cell Anaemia, mostly through a novel I recently read written by a Nigerian author who mentioned it in passing as one of the characters was a mum whose children died of sickle cell at toddler age – but I had no idea of the symptoms of sickle cell, how some people are carriers and some get the full blown disease, and that it doesn’t automatically carry a death sentence. Neither did I realise that Sickle Cell disease is the most common genetic disease in the world. Being an Ambassador for Raising Awareness Of Sickle Cell Disease, what are your main aims & tasks? What are the main misconceptions about sickle cell?
My aim is to ensure that proper attention is paid to this disease. Often it helps to have those difficult conversations with decision makers and influencers, and I will use my network to have as many as I can.
A huge misconception about sickle cell is that it is a life sentence that and those who suffer from it cannot lead a truly fulfilling life. True it drastically reduces the life span of individuals in areas where basic pain management and health care is not readily available; however, this capacity for care continues to improve worldwide.
Finally, the struggle is as much a mental struggle as a physical one. The disease’s negative impact on a person must be viewed in its totality. Depression, loneliness, difficulty in securing a job are all issues that need to be addressed by the individual and society in general.
In your book you describe your ways of helping to manage your pain via lifestyle choices, diet and medication. I liked the frank way you described your experiences and that there was a lot of trial and error involved along the way as you tried to make your way as a schoolgirl, as a teenager, as a university student, as a girlfriend, as a wife, as a mother too. As an adult, it is easier to make sensible choices re lifestyle & diet; how was it trying to stay positive and manage your disease as a youngster?
As a youngster, I could not fully comprehend why I was different other than the pain was terrible, and I could not do the things my sisters and friends could do. I felt isolated and I truly relied on my parents to survive. I just knew I had to survive. It is not more complex than that.
As a mum myself, I know how stressful it is going through pregnancy and eventual childbirth. Knowing that you also had the added risk of passing on the genetic disease to your unborn child; the pain of giving birth on top of your chronic pain; yet your desire for children – must have made it a tough decision for you and your husband to make! What worried you most whilst pregnant?
Actually, passing on the genetic disease was luckily not an issue. My husband was Caucasian with European lineage so the passing on of the disease on was not a worry.
Everything else on the journey to motherhood was stress filled. Getting to the finish line and having a healthy child pop out was always in my thoughts. Both children were born five weeks and the care regime I was placed under helped me reduce the anxiety greatly. I cannot thank the team of doctors and nurses that helped me along the way.
Being stressed doesn’t help anybody, let alone somebody with sickle cell anemia – so what do you do to relax and de-stress?
I constantly monitor the health of my body. I realise when I need to rest and when I need to reduce the work-load I am under. I just enjoy hanging out with my family, sisters and their families and friends.
Following the correct eating plan and doing exercise plays a very important role in achieving the relaxation and a I less stressed environment.
Is “Pain-Less” available to purchase worldwide?
The book can be purchased directly from the publisher SilverWood Books or it an be found on Amazon. https://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/product/9781781329047/pain-less-hardback
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I love the classic mixed with modern look. Now we are in autumn you will find me wearing lots of sweaters dresses, ankle length boots in a variety of colours, always accented by the appropriate sunglasses.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
Zara and Net-a-porter
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
A new Trench coat from Burberry and the Jimmy Choo white boots.
Boots or Shoes?
When it is cold and raining, definitely boots. Boots, keep me warm and this prevents a sickle cell crisis from coming on quickly.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
It has been a real pleasure chatting to you Anne and I wish your book every success. Your tips are truly invaluable and I am sure that many readers will appreciate your honest advice.
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Anne Welsh.