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You probably wouldn't guess this college freshman has sickle cell disease.

She went through a lot as a kid, but now she's finally coming out strong.

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Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

Taylor Delk just started college in Atlanta, and she can't wait to get into dating for the first time.

However, she has one major concern: when and how should she tell the boys she likes that she has a serious disease?

All photos via Taylor Delk.


Taylor has sickle cell disease — a genetic disorder that affects the health of red blood cells and can cause extreme pain, tissue damage, impaired fertility, strokes, and even early death. She has type SS, which occurs when you inherit copies of the hemoglobin S gene from both parents. It's the most common form of the disease and also the hardest on the body. It means she can experience the worst symptoms like regular fatigue, joint pain, anemia and infections at a higher rate.  

But perhaps the hardest aspect of her disease is that you can't tell she has it just by looking at her.

"It’s always hard to open up to people [about the disease] at first," Taylor says. "Sometimes I would feel embarrassed, because it’s not normal, really."  

While she's always had sickle cell disease, that doesn't make talking about it any easier.

As a young kid, she got very sick all the time, which often required regular trips to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. A couple of times she even had acute chest syndrome, which is a severe side effect of sickle cell disease that causes intense chest pain and can be life-threatening.

Needless to say, she missed a lot of school.

She was usually open with her close friends about her condition, but other kids at school would occasionally question her about her illness because they couldn't see any evidence of it.

Taylor (second from the left) with her fellow varsity cheerleaders.

"I remember when I was younger, my peers would be like, 'Well you don’t look sick,'" Taylor recalls.

She'd find herself having to say things like, "I’m not sick right now, but, you know, I am. My body is not the same as yours."

For example, she can experience pain spikes that start at a 4 on the pain scale and suddenly jump to a 9, but they don't always show on her face.

The disease ramped up during her adolescence, likely because her body was growing and changing rapidly. However, once she reached her senior year, her symptoms began to mellow out. But that doesn't mean she can't still have a pain crisis anytime anywhere.

She's learned to cope with the effects because of her amazing support system, starring her mom.

Taylor at prom.

"My mom never leaves the hospital," Taylor says. "She never leaves me by myself." Her extended family also checks in with her on the regular and even stays to help out for days at a time during Taylor's more severe episodes.

Her mom also constantly encourages her to talk candidly about her disease, which should help her as she makes her way through college.

"My mom made me tell people," Taylor recalls. "I think she wanted me to be comfortable with myself."

The encouragement seems to have helped. Taylor now finds it much easier to be open about it, even with people she doesn't know as well. She realizes people need to know in case she finds herself in a crisis without her family nearby.

They also need to know so that future generations of people with sickle cell disease don't feel like they have to hide it.

Even though her symptoms have settled, Taylor's still talking about sickle cell disease, not just for herself, but for everyone.

Taylor at the airport with her friend Alexis.

Especially her little sister, who also has sickle cell disease.

Taylor's sister Trinity is 11 years old and has the same type of sickle cell disease Taylor has, but so far, her case seems to be less severe. However, that hasn't stopped Taylor from being a good big sister — aka pestering Trinity to take care of herself.

She constantly tells Trinity to drink water and gives her tips for coping with pain crises, like take a walk, use heat pads, listen to music, and talk to someone to distract yourself.  

And most importantly, she encourages Trinity to be open about her disease so she grows up without any shame.

Now that Taylor's on the precipice of a new adventure, she plans to live life to the fullest, sickle cell disease be damned.

Taylor at high school graduation.

Yes, that means making new friends and meeting boys, but it also means starting out on a path towards an exciting career. She's taking pre-law classes and plans to become a lawyer, which is not a stress-free field. And even though stress has been known to exacerbate symptoms, Taylor's not shying away from her dream.  

She's also trying not to shy away from talking about her disease with new people. She knows the more who understand it, the less alone people who have it will feel. Caregivers at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center know that too, which is why they offer counseling and support groups for children living with sickle cell disease as well as their parents.

And who knows, that candidness could lead to an amazing new relationship.

To learn more about sickle cell disease or the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, visit choa.org/fightsicklecell.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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