“Hey, Mom: My diabetes just turned 16. I think you should buy it a car!”
That’s my Lauren. Since nearly the moment she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes – at exactly 2:35 p.m. on October 28, 1997 – 16 years ago this very hour I write – she’s been the one to make us laugh, make us think, make us buck up and of course, make us care – all in the face of a relentless, incurable disease. If diabetes was a car, one you were given back as a newly minted six-year-old, yours is a Porche.
I had a long, long ride today (off to New Jersey on some business), which gave me time to think over the past 16 years. To remember that moment when everything, everything changed in our lives. To think about how strong you were even in those first frightening hours (You to the medical team discussing options as you lay in a hospital bed hooked up to IV’s and machines: “Stop talking like I’m not here! This is about me! Talk TO me not ABOUT me!” I mean … wow. They almost fell over – and then did what you suggested and made you a true part of the discussion).
To think about how you handled yourself those first years, heading back to school like it was nothing; jumping back into sports with a gusto, heading off to your first year of Diabetes camp before you knew how to read but with barely a worry; driving the car when it came to your care (it’s very much because of you – a pushy, smart and determined seven-year old at the time – that little kids are on insulin pumps everywhere now).
The funny thing is: if you look at it all with a magnifying glass, it has not been easy. We long stopped counting finger pricks and shots taken; it’s been years since we even looked at the up-close craziness of this life with T1D on board. But to steal a notion from “Clueless,” I guess your diabetes is kind of like a Monet: if I step back and look at the whole picture, it’s rather beautiful.
Okay … I totally get in trouble for saying things like that. People don’t like it in the D world when someone says things are good. But you know – we are given what we are given and you, Lauren, were given quite a bit at that moment I so remember in October of 1997. But from the start, you kind of led me to thinking: if it’s here, it’s here. What better thing can we do but live well despite it?
I can take an aside moment here and point out some hard times: Like when you got sick in fourth grade and ended up in the PICU with IVs in both hands and feeling completely out of it. Or that day when you were a teen and we were driving down the highway from Braintree and I just lost it. Remember? I was sobbing and saying “maybe I need to turn here and go to Boston and admit you in a hospital.” Or the time that wack-job doctor who will go unnamed sent me that horrible email saying horrible things about your future … and she cc’ed you? Yeah, that’s some rough stuff.
But let’s look at what you did with it. The first one, the PICU, after your teacher called the ICU to see if I’d be picking up your school work, you not only cracked some great jokes about how your life would never go forward if you did not learn the four parts of a stem that. Very. Day. But you also made me laugh by coming up with a new nickname for said teacher (I’ll never tell!) And that day I was sobbing. It was so stressful and so awful and then you started doing your Linda Blair imitation thing. Made me laugh. Made me realize that if I just took a breath, this moment too would pass. And we’d be okay. And that doctor. YOU were the one who told me she had no clue and that you had to find a doctor who understood teens better. You did and now things are great.
So in other words, your diabetes may have just turned to legal driving age, but I’m pretty sure it’s been driving for a while. Maybe it’s like the farm towns; the remote places where kids have to drive early because the family needs them to. You needed your diabetes to drive, and it did – and still does.
Which makes me so proud. I know all parents think their kids are the bee’s knees but in this case, I’m right. (ha ha!) In your 16 years with diabetes on board, here are just a few things you’ve done:
–Not let it stop you from sports. Or parties. Or life in general.
–Stepped up as a leader and spokesperson for JDRF and Camp by the time you were, oh, eight. And you’ve not stopped.
–Reached out to newly diagnosed kids and offered support, advice and an ear. That means a lot to them (and their parents).
–Spoke before Congress and the DNC on behalf of everyone who wants a cure – and you made a difference there.
–Formed walk teams that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for research over the years, and that set and standard for how to form large, fun and active walk teams.
–Pushed to become the first young kid at Boston Children’s on an insulin pump. It really, really did come from you, not me. And it made a huge difference.
–Became one of the first kids under 18 to go on a CGM back in the stone age of CGMS. Not easy.
— Managed to RULE your high school even while you were struggling so much with diabetes. I know you think back and wonder how much better you could have done had you not been struggling, but you were a leader, a friend to many and a fun member of your student body. And that’s just cool.
–Headed off to college not in the best diabetes shape and responded, on your own, in a way that made you turn things around. I know that was not anything near easy.
–Went to “diabetes rehab” and made it work, with very little complaining.
The list goes on. I know you have so much ahead of you. You’ll graduate college in the spring and start your career. You’ll go out on pub crawls and go on dates and travel with friends and live the life of the young adult. You’ll struggle sometimes with stupid diabetes, but you know what to do (as you proved last week. And you have such good friends to help you out in those times. Thank you friends – you know who you are).
You’ll continue to work to make the future with diabetes better via fundraising, advocacy and just plain helping out others.
So yeah, your diabetes is old enough to drive. But you’re kind of a Mario Andretti already. (Or should I say Charlie Kimball?) I wish I could buy your diabetes a car. But as you know, your sister’s wedding tapped me out (ha ha!)
What I can give you is this: all the love, respect, pride and hope in the world. You make 16 years of T1D look so sweet. Even if you do have the sugahhhhh diabetussssss.