From time to time, my daughter Lauren, the young woman with T1D I speak so much about on this blog, takes the helm. Today is one of those days. Lauren surprised me with these thoughts at 16.5 years into life with T1D. I hope you’ll share – the DOC is semi-new to her (and she has some great things to say here. Says her mom. Ha!)
The past 16 and a half years (eek) have been a lot of things. Interesting, exciting, saddening, hard, fun, crazy, and more. Having Type 1 Diabetes has given me a chance to learn so many things. As I reflected on that, I thought I’d share.
1. After I’m diagnosed with diabetes, nothing that I could notice in my very active six-year-old personal life changed. My friends were still my friends, I still got to do all the activities I wanted to, and I still lived my life to the fullest. This was 16.5 years ago, and the technology was WAY less advanced than it is now, but my family still made sure that I would do everything I wanted to. Sure, there were some added steps to things (okay … to everything), but there was never a time when diabetes took away something I liked to do. This is when I learn that just because I have a disease, that it doesn’t need to control my life.
2. In 4th grade, I complete the division “mad-minute” the fastest out of anyone in my class of 30 people, by a long shot. I feel awesome. This is when I learn that at least diabetes allowed become super awesome at simple math before the rest of Mrs. Wilson’s 4th grade class.
3. Two days before Halloween in 7th grade, I go into DKA. I hadn’t checked my blood in weeks, and it had been days since I had administered any insulin. I am violently ill and end up with an IV in each of my arms. This is when I learn that ignoring your problems doesn’t make them go away.
4. In 7th grade, my family and I are named the “Chair Family” of JDRF’s 2005 Children’s Congress. I speak in front of Congress, attend countless congressional meetings, and am on a bunch of live news stations. It feels good to be able to tell my story, and make a difference in the world. This is when I learn that there are few things better than being a leader for a cause that is extremely close to your heart. This is also when I start to fall in love with the legislative process, and figure out I want to pursue a career in government.
5. During the summer after 8th grade, at a swim meet, all of my friends tell me they want to put pump sites in to see what it feels like. The entire relay team I’m on comes trotting out of the locker room of our beach club with pump sites in all of our legs. This is when I learn that I actually have some of the best friends in the entire world.
6. At my sophomore (high school) year homecoming, I have a thigh strap on that is holding my pump to my leg (so as not to make my dress look bumpy). My pump falls down for half the night before I decide to just take it off and put it in my locker. I danced the rest of the night away and was completely fine. This is when I learned that it’s okay to take a short break every once in a while. It’s for our sanity. (Sorry, Mom. I know I never told you that before).
7. My sophomore year of college, I finally get a grip on taking “good” care of my diabetes. I was placed on blood pressure medication. My high symptoms are worse than they have ever been, and it seems that it’s going to stay that way. Even now, with a low a1c and decent care, when I am high, I suffer terrible heartburn and I just feel awful. (but I’m off the blood pressure meds!) This is when I learn that I made my own mistakes, and now I have to live with them.
8. My junior year of college, fairly recently after turning 21, I was home for Thanksgiving break. I go out with a bunch of my friends for my favorite bar holiday, “Thanksgiving Eve.” I have (more than) a few drinks, safely get home and fall asleep. I wake up at about 5 in the morning; feeling like my blood sugar was through the roof. I give myself a hefty correction (without checking my blood first). This is when I have my first non-responsive low. My boyfriend at the time and my mom bring me back to consciousness. This is when I learn that I will have to trust other people with my life, for the rest of my life.
9. Second semester in my junior year of college, I decided to make a walk team for the DC walk to cure diabetes. I contact people for donations, rounded up a bunch of different members of my sorority who are excited to walk with me, and design t-shirts for us all to wear. I am really excited to get back into the swing of being actively involved in JDRF. I had been interning for JDRF’s government relation’s office, so I was excited to show them the leadership skills that I believe I have. Walk day comes along, and of the twenty or so people who signed up to walk with me, three show up. I am not only devastated, but I’m humiliated. My three friends and I make the best of the day, have a fun time walking along the National Mall, and go out to a fantastic lunch. I ended up raising just south of $1000 dollars, I’m still proud of myself for the effort I put into it, and I’m still extremely grateful for my three friends who woke up at 7am on a Sunday for me to be there. This is when I learn that people who truly care about you will always be there in important moments for you. And thankfully: that can be enough.
10. Recently, I have had so many different questions about my diabetes. On different topics such as: dating with diabetes, drinking with diabetes, good spots to put my Continuous Glucose Monitor, how to deal with being put on medicine that decreases my appetite, as well as many other things. Through my many years of having diabetes, I have fortunately gained many role models and people who I can reach out to. I truly can say that I have never felt alone in my life with diabetes. From this I learned that there is always someone out there who can relate to what you’re going through.
That’s where I’m at, 16.5 years in. I have friends who are good to me, role models to reach out to (thank Katie and Anna and more!) I’ve faced some mistakes I’ve made and embraced that in the end, this is my thing and my future to protect. I know I’ve more to learn. And I’m here: completely open to learning it all.