What Living with a Genetic Illness Has Taught Me

Written by Josephine Bila

I recently celebrated my 36th birthday. I guess you could say it also marked my ten thousandth needle stick. I've probably had over 10,000 needle sticks throughout my lifetime, because I have a genetic illness called Beta Thalassemia Major.

When I was six months old, doctors discovered that my bone marrow could not produce functioning red blood cells on its own. Since the age of three, I've received blood donated from others every few weeks to stay alive. I also receive daily injections to remove excess iron from my system.

Over the years, I have watched many of my young friends pass on before me. Neither them nor I will have ever known a life of pure freedom. Because of this, I've had to choose between wallowing in self-pity and sorrow or pushing myself to live as fully as possibly.

Here are 10 things I've learned from 10,000 needle sticks:

1. When life becomes challenging, do not fight or struggle against it. Allow your trials to exist alongside you. Acknowledge them and work with them. When you resist pain, you create more pain.

2. Marvel at life's vast array of miracles. Everything from the sparkles in the pavement, to the feeling of a cool breeze against your skin, to the beating of your own heart should be appreciated with gratitude each and every day.

3. Be kind to others. There is so much love in the world. You will receive more as you become more loving.

4. When others love you, hold them with you in your thoughts. Always do things with your loved ones in mind.

5. Treat yourself kindly and lovingly. Everyone will respect you more when you do.

6. Try not to ask yourself "what if" too often. This weighs you down and pushes the mind into a horrible negative place.

7. Find inner strength, courage and power to follow your dreams. You can find a way. We are all great within.

8. Life constantly changes. You can't control it. Don't expect or plan for life to remain the same forever. Let go.

9. Value people and experiences over objects.

10. All life is a gift. Be kind to yourself, others, animals and the earth. Live like you mean it.


Many of my young friends never got the chance to dream, and I swore to myself that I would share my story in the hopes of inspiring a band of dreamers to do it for them.

I hope that this post will inspire you to think differently about your life. Challenge yourself to become who you were meant to be.

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