Coronation Street and X Factor Celebrity star Victoria Ekanoye has spoken about her secret battle with sickle cell anaemia.
Victoria, 37, was diagnosed with the debilitating condition in her early 20s but had spent years hiding her painful episodes from her mother.
The star had been told that she was likely to be a carrier of sickle cell anaemia, but a lack of severe symptoms meant she wasn't diagnosed with it at the time.
Speaking to BBC Sounds The Sista Collective, however, Victoria said she was experiencing bad pain but was worried her mum would pull her from her beloved sports.
Victoria, who played Angie Appleton in Corrie, said: "We thought thought I was a carrier, especially with me not displaying any symptoms or needing hospitalisation or any kind of blood transfusions.
"I just managed the pain and almost.. not became used to it…but just kind of battled through it because I loved sport so much and didn't want to give that up.
"If I'm honest, there were probably times where the pain was quite a lot but I just didn't tell my mum because I didn't want her to pull me from the teams.
"I was training as a sprinter, the 100 metres, and I just didn't want to not do it. There probably were times I was a bit naughty but I was only young. I just didn't really let on how bad the pain was."
Things came to a head in 2004 when Victoria suffered a sickle cell anaemia 'crisis' while working as a singer in Majorca.
She explained: "It was a hot climate. I wasn't aware. I was young, in my early 20s, just kind of not really thinking about all of the water intake you need to have.
"I was singing and it was crazy. I actually had a really, really bad – my first, as I knew anyway – crisis whilst I was out there.
"I had to have morphine injections and all kinds of stuff. I didn't know and they didn't know what was going on."
Victoria was forced to give up her job and flew home to England, where she met specialists. She was then diagnosed with the condition.
The performer says she is now thankful that she managed to get to her early 20s without knowing what was wrong with her.
"It's crazy when you see all these really brave amazing children who are going through it," Victoria admitted. "For them to know and be aware of their condition and for it to restrict their life in so many ways.
What is sickle cell anaemia?
The most serious form of sickle cell disease is called sickle cell anaemia.
People with the disease produce unusually shaped red blood cells.
This abnormality then creates medical problems because they do not live as long as healthy blood cells and can become stuck in the blood vessels.
Sickle cell is something you are born with and is a serious lifelong condition that needs long-term treatment.
Anyone whose parents carry the faulty gene which causes sickle cell can be born with the disease.
If both parents have the faulty gene there is a 25 per cent chance of each child they have being born with the condition.
"I feel really fortunate that I got as far as I did not having that mentality, even if I had the symptoms."
Victoria now works alongside sickle cell anaemia charities to raise awareness of the condition.
In 2018, she appeared with several of her Corrie cast mates on the celebrity version of ITV game show The Chase in a bid to raise money for The Sickle Cell Society.
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