According to the CDC, sickle cell disease (SCD) impacts 1 out of 365 Black Americans every year. The disease disproportionately affects the Black community and there, unfortunately, are not enough resources and knowledge about its impacts.

Kier "Junior" Spates, a comedian, writer and co-host of the Steve Harvey Morning Show, has a new podcast, Living Your Life, alongside Chief Medical Officer at Dillard University Dr. Corey Hebert. The duo will discuss the life-threatening disease and those who continue to persevere in spite of it.

Spates spoke with EBONY about living his most authentic life while taking care of himself and not letting a health diagnosis slow him down.

EBONY: From your perspective, what are some of the misconceptions about sickle cell disease?

Kier "Junior" Spates: From my perspective, the frequently misunderstood thing about sickle cell is that those with the disease are "drug seekers" when we seek hospital care. For example, when I went to an emergency room recently, I told them my pain level was 10. The nurse told me to turn right around and sit. Now, that is how the average person seeking sickle cell care at a hospital is treated.  My life is on the line right now!  I don't have time to take a seat. I was sitting in an emergency room for 5 hours. Mind you, my pain is parked on 10. I can't even walk at this point. When I got to an emergency room bed, I had to wait another 2 hours before a doctor came to see me. The doctor came in and said to me while I was on my knees in pain, "What is the problem we have today?"—as if he didn't read my chart! I told him, "I am here because I need someone to stop this pain."  He prescribed medicine that did not come close to reaching the necessary level to calm my pain.  So I suffered!  This is the most frequently misunderstood issue with sickle cell patients. We are not drug seekers. Please treat us the same; we seek medical care like a cancer patient, someone with a broken arm or stroke, or anyone dealing with a medical complication.

When you were diagnosed with sickle cell, what steps did you take to ensure that you would continue living your life on your own terms?

Sickle cell takes a toll on not just your body but also your mind. It's a constant battle to get up every day and keep a positive attitude.  I was diagnosed with sickle cell at the age of 7. Right after I was diagnosed, my parents were informed that I would not live past 11. One thing that happens to all of us, we all get an expiration date.  We are going to die, but at age 11?  I recall when I was 15 years old, one of my teammates had me removed from the football team on varsity because he told the team doctor I had sickle cell. I lost some scholarship offers. At that moment, I realized I wouldn't let sickle cell take another thing from me. I chose to keep a positive attitude. I would never apologize for my disease. Lastly, I would work to get the word out and help find a cure. These are the steps I chose to live life on my own terms. It's a constant battle to get up every day and keep a positive attitude. I win because I still fight!

Why was it important for you to launch this podcast?

The podcast Living Your Life focuses on increasing awareness of sickle cell disease and improving patient outcomes. Each week on the Living Your Life podcast, you can join me and my board-certified co-host, Dr. Corey Hebert, the Chief Medical Officer at Dillard University and one of the top sickle cell experts in the world. Emmy and NAACP Image-Award-winning Executive Producer, Rushion McDonald produces the podcast. Rushion has the sickle cell trait. We meet incredible people who refuse to let a life-threatening illness hold them back from success. We will also talk with today's top medical, community and entertainment influencers.

The series brings attention to families and individuals thriving despite sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait. I connected with Emmaus, a drug company, to see if we can do more for our sickle cell community. As a result, we launched this podcast to help my fellow sickle cell warriors understand that they don't need to suffer in silence and can have full, rich, and meaningful lives. The podcast can be found on our YouTube channel at Each episode will provide positive lifestyle stories and information about sickle cell, including health care, travel, and food. My guests will be in the studio and joining me virtually from around the world to discuss various symptoms, severity, and treatments.

If you could give advice to anyone looking to start living their most authentic and healthy life, what would you share?

For us to have a healthy life, we have to start thinking healthily. For me, it began by taking my Endari medicine, which cut down my sickle cell crisis. I maintain a healthy diet. I work out; I always check the weather. It could trigger a sickle cell crisis if it's too cold outside, like under 50 degrees. I am always drinking water to make sure I stay hydrated. Dehydration is also a trigger for me. Lastly, I manage my stress level—so being a comedian helps. I am always smiling or trying to make other people feel good. Good stress and bad stress can be a trigger for sickle cell people. I keep all these things in the front of my mind, so I can keep on living my life!