The research was no longer seen as a painstaking task, it became a therapeutic journey that served as an escape from my health challenges
There is a popular Jamaican proverb that says ‘young bud nuh know storm.’ This suggests that: the inexperienced person is often oblivious to the challenges associated with their endeavours. When I started this programme I had the preconceived notion that like previous academic pursuits, I needed to work hard, manage my time effectively and I would succeed. Never had I imagined that this doctoral programme would turn out to be such a battlefield of pain, patience and triumph.
The first year of the programme was what I see as the discovery phase. I discovered that Professor Sikes was brutally honest. I discovered that my writing style needed to be tightly structured and coherent. I also discovered that I did not need to be intimidated by my new classmates’ knowledge of research. I just needed to do my research and ensure that I followed Professor Sikes’ guidance. Her recommendations for my writing to be tightly structured and coherent led to my obsession of ensuring that my writing was indeed tightly structured and coherent. This obsession led to my advising classmates that their writing needed to be tightly structured and coherent. As such, my classmates crowned me ‘Miss Tightly Structured’.
My storm began in the second year, the realisation phrase. It was during this year that I started experiencing more frequent and more painful sickle cell anaemia crises than I had in the past. These ones were serious enough to lead to series hospitalisations and I had to take a leave of absence to concentrate on recovering. This was easier said than done as I found myself yearning to write more tightly structured, coherent papers rather than concentrating on my recovery. To my surprise I realised that I could not allow sickle cell to stifle my dreams of achieving an EdD from the University of Sheffield.
My battle with sickle cell disease further led to several bouts of illnesses including six major surgeries, all of which I endured throughout trying to finish the programme. This resulted in my requesting additional leave of absence.
In the midst of my health challenges I started to perceive things differently. I no longer saw Professor Sikes as my brutally honest professor. Instead, I viewed her as a compassionate, understanding and encouraging supervisor who wanted the best for her students. The research was no longer seen as a painstaking task, it became a therapeutic journey that served as an escape from my health challenges. I learnt patience and became a firm believer in the Jamaican proverb ‘nothing happens before its time’. Even though a few of my classmates completed the programme before I did, I understood that my completion time would come when God was ready.
My completing the programme was bitter and sweet. The bitterness was that I no longer have the research as my therapy and Professor Sikes as my supervisor. The sweetnesses of the completion was my triumph of not allowing sickle cell disease to rob me of achieving a doctoral degree, being the first member of my family to achieve this goal and mastering the technique of writing tightly structured coherent papers. I am now a wiser, stronger and more confident Tamara Taylor who has come to realise that an effective method of fighting this disease is believing that ‘I am not living with sickle cell disease, sickle cell disease is living with me'.
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