Like many young black girls, 19-year-old Nyla Smith from New York loves to stay active, but few people her age have battled as fiercely to pursue their passion in the face of uncertainty.
Smith was 15 years old when the ailment associated with Crohn’s disease wreaked havoc on her body. She says the disease nearly killed her before she was diagnosed and began treatment. She’s had to battle the symptoms of the gastrointestinal diseases to get through everyday life.
“It was challenging the entire way through. I was missing a lot of days in school and paying out of pocket money to see a specialist,” explained Nyla. “The disease is really hard to identify because our symptoms mirror those of other illnesses. It took almost six months to nail down something and two years to get diagnosed.”
In spite of the diagnosis, the disease has not completely disrupted her life. In May 2016, Smith graduated from St. John’s University, making her the youngest in the university’s history to get a Bachelor’s of Science while undergoing chemotherapy.
Smith said she won’t let the illness slow her down, and has made it her mission to bring her personal experience coupled with a deep understanding of the disease.
As a motivational speaker, Smith created the Hustle Hard Campaign, to bring awareness to people dealing with Crohn’s, colitis disease, irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety. Through the campaign, Smith provides scholarships to students who have been medically, mentally, and physically diagnosed. “My dream is to be able to cover medical expenses and the meal plan for the year,” Smith said.
As a member of the Nu Mu chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Smith is very active in community service events, including fundraisers and outreach programs for students, mothers, and families.
“I tell people that you have to pick what you want to be: either a sad story or a success story. Some people will have illnesses worse than you.” Smith added, “Manage the pain and do what you want to do.”
That determination has served her well. According to Smith, the disease remains in remission and she’s using prescribed medication to suppress it.
Living with Crohn’s disease was not easy Smith said. “But I was the type of person, who, when something bad happens I go numb to it. When I was told I had Crohn’s I just continued on. I didn’t cry about it.”
Laughing has been Smith’s most important therapy, as well as her family for their support. As she continues to grow and evolve in her journey, she sees nothing but determination.
“When I have my mind set on something, it’s done. Nothing can stop me,” Smith said.