3 Things Billy Garrett Jr does to have a better lifestyle with sickle cell

Written by Nnenna Kumenda

Billy Garrett Jr. is a Chicago native, basketball player who played for The Winchester Knicks and the NBA’s New York Knicks with sickle cell (Genotype- SC).
He spent his formative years challenging the walls put in front of him due to living with sickle cell and with his perseverance became the first NBA player diagnosed with sickle cell. This Black History Month we honored NBA player, Billy Garrett Jr and discussed the trials and triumphs in his career due to living with sickle cell.
Billy hasn’t had the most traditional trajectory in his NBA career, in our chat he talked about his decision to withhold information about his sickle cell in his early years as he knew the stigmas that would come with it. Despite this he was in a loving home, where his parents instilled the fact that he could do and achieve anything if he worked for it. Sickle Cell was not a setback; it was his power. 

Tip 1: Diet

Now we know how hard it can be to change up your diet especially when you’re comfortable snacking and eating whatever you like, but sometimes change is good. We’re not saying have an athlete’s diet which is strict, we’re just saying what about putting that Pepsi down and drinking more water.

Billy describes improving your diet as:

‘trial and error’

Figuring out what is causing a crisis and what meals make your body feel better and works for you. Yes, you because not everyone’s body is the same, what works for one person may not work for you.

Billy encourages that you should ‘oxygenate’ your body through food. Granted, yes, an athlete may work with a nutritionist to achieve this, but you can always try and keep informed by researching different fruit and vegetables and their benefits for your body. For example, cucumbers and tomatoes are filled with water to keep your body hydrated.

In Billy’s case he states that his diet consists of:

‘High vegetable intake’  and ‘A gallon of water a day, lot of salad, lot of fruits [and] a lot of vegetables’

Tip 2: Exercise

We all get busy with work, passions and life that it’s easy to put exercise on the bottom of our priority list. Keep your body active, whether it’s just for a 10 min walk or swimming in your local swimming facility. Keeping fit is beneficial to everybody and often gets you ready for the day in the morning or ready for a good night’s rest in the evening. It doesn’t have to be boring, maybe try out:

  • A group hike
  • Yoga at home 
  • Tennis at the park with family 
  • A dance class 

Tip 3: Mental Health

Mental health is important. It is often glossed over in the sickle cell community. When society, loved ones and specialists are constantly putting you in a box it can be hard to break out of what Billy describes as a ‘limited mindset’. It can be daunting trying to do things knowing that you are not seen as capable as everyone else. So how can you change that:

  • Diet 
  • Exercise 
  • Meditation 
  • Words of Affirmation 
  • Journaling 
  • Therapy 
  • Chatting with friends and loved ones.

Whatever the case, make sure to get some rest, be active and get out of your head using the tips above to help you feel better mentally and physically.

For more tips and information make sure to watch the full interview on YouTube:https://www.youtube.com/live/ifT3CSR9kCU?si=riRbNPtsVWdU1RB6

Instagram: @billygarrett_5

Billy Garrett Jr’s book ‘Ode to the Warrior’ 

Available to purchase in link below: