For the past twelve years of my life, I have been privileged to have a great family, a stable support network of friends, and many opportunities to succeed at anything I want to pursue. However, there has always been one thing that I can’t change in my life, no matter how many great things have happened: the fact that I have type 1, or juvenile diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic illness that affects almost 2 million Americans. In a diabetic’s body, the pancreas produces little or no insulin, causing glucose in the blood to go up and down depending on food intake and exercise levels. This disease has no cure, and cannot be avoided by taking preventive action, making it a difficult illness to live with for many people.
In my case, I was diagnosed when I was six years old when I visited the doctor for a cold. Next thing I knew, I was in the Emergency Room and after that, the children’s hospital for about a week learning anything and everything about how to live with diabetes. After being diagnosed, my life changed a lot.
As a child, diabetes was “not really my problem.” To me, it was just a part of life. I woke up a half hour earlier than necessary to take a shot each day, I measured carbohydrates and serving sizes at each meal, and ate two cookies with one cup of milk before bed every night to stabilize my blood sugar.
As a teenager, I knew that taking care of my diabetes took priority, just like grades in school. I was just a normal teenager. However, things did not go right for me all the time. I had my share of high and low blood sugars, and was sometimes unable to help myself. When my blood sugar went low or high, I appeared physically paralyzed, but mentally, my mind would be moving at 1,000 miles per hour. It was hard to not be able to get myself apple juice when my blood sugar was low, or be so violently ill from high blood sugar that all I could do was sleep from exhaustion. These were extreme circumstances, but that didn’t make them any less frightening.
Although I had bad days, I was one of the lucky ones. Like I said, I have a fantastic family and supportive friends that really support me. I am also lucky to have health insurance and a doctor that specializes in diabetes care. While home from college this past March, I visited my endocrinologist for a routine check up (checking my meter, basil rates, weight, and making sure I could still feel my toes – routine, right?). One of the first questions he asked was how many visits to the hospital I had in the past semester, my first semester of college. I looked at him in surprise because the only time I had been to the hospital for something related to diabetes was the very first time, when I was six years old. So, I told him, “umm, none. Why?” What he said shocked me: usually, a diabetic will have four emergency room visits in their first semester of college.
Although I have been affected by this disease, I have also been responsible and in control of this disease so that I can enjoy the many other diverse parts of my life. Just because I have to live with diabetes doesn’t mean that it has to control me.
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