Dr Marsha Smalling, principal of Glenmuir High School in Clarendon, has been fighting lupus since 2003. On Sunday, during the official launch of her book, Powered Up: Leveraging Six Pillars to Live Out Loud, she gave an insight into her life and how she embraced her autoimmune disease to live out loud.
She shared that at one point while completing a degree, she was in hospital and talking to a professor, and instead of getting an understanding of her situation, she was reminded that she had exams in two days. Refusing to focus on being in the hospital, she took it as a challenge and did what she had to do right there.
“I’m advocating on behalf of those who have been scoffed at; we are more than just a lupus patient. At my diagnosis in 2003, I managed to successfully complete all my degrees while working full-time jobs simultaneously,” she shared.
Commenting on the book, Smalling said she possesses some attributes of a ‘powered’ person, and suggested practical ways in which this can be cultivated.
IMPORTANCE OF EXECUTION
She also had a warning for those who logged in to the virtual launch via Zoom, as well as those who were in the school’s auditorium on Sunday, that it is important to execute and not to just get motivated during the session.
“Until you execute the ideas, you will not enjoy the real impact, and that’s the challenge we have. We come to events like these, then we leave feeling powered up. We feel like we want to conquer the world and as soon as we disconnect from this and something happen, we feel like we want to quit and we go back to the old ways of doing things,” she said.
It is from that background the high school principal said she is offering her story, as well as her experiences in helping others to elevate.
She had a strong message for those suffering from lupus, as she reminded them that although it might disrupt the narrative, having lupus is not a death sentence, nor does it make them lesser or hamper from living a fulfilled life.
“I am doing this for others to strengthen their identities, be proud of who they are and live out loud. I am definitely doing this to demonstrate to future and current employers that they are capable and that we can add real value. I am here to say that if we are not given a seat at the table, we should create our own table, walk with our own chairs and stand tall and make a difference,” she urged.
Guest speaker at the launch, Leighton McKnight, Caribbean regional advisory leader at PwC Jamaica, said his interactions with her have completely changed his life.
After having two adopted daughters and his biological daughter being diagnosed with lupus, which he always thought to be a death sentence, he said discovering she had it and noting how she lived her life gave him hope, which he could offer his own children who looked up to him for encouragement.
“I used her as a benchmark that this thing here can’t hold you back. The book Powered Up is for me from the heart. Faith, hope and charity, that is essentially what this book is about, and at this time in Jamaica, I don’t know who don’t need faith, hope and charity,” he shared.
Throughout the ceremony, it was clear that Smalling had impacted not just her own relatives, but all those she came in contact with her. MC and past student of the school, Kediesha Perry, of the Jamaica Observer, shared how she encouraged her through her own challenges. Family friend Vaughn Johnson also had stories about her impact and her sibling, Phiona Lloyd Henry, who had lots to say.