When trying to recall childhood memories, they're not the clearest diamond in the mine. Fuzzy, blurry, jumpy -- we can only see it through our naive eyes. Of course, even a child can understand when a situation is very severe. No child can be at ease when their parents are broken down, crying -- and in public too. I think that was the moment I knew my life had been changed forever.
I was merely four years old when diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes. Just in case you're curious, it's the type they haven't come up with a cure for yet. I take insulin shots whenever my blood sugar is high, and every time I eat. I also have to test my blood sugar at least six times a day. If you're not a fan of blood or needles, be glad you aren't Diabetic.
Lights flashing past. Driving in the dark. The sound of cars on either side of us, whooshing down the freeway. Would I make it? Could I hold it in? My mother's frustrated glance behind her shoulder as she pulled off the exit for seemingly the millionth time that night. I really had to pee! The lights of the gas station -- my huge relief. The thirst. Why couldn't I just have some water? Already frustrated enough, my mom wasn't about to let me run more liquid through my body only to have it come out that much faster; as if I wasn't already peeing enough without drinking anything.
The next day or so I remember my mom telling me we were going to the doctor's to figure out why I had to go to the bathroom all the time; even when I didn't drink anything. I remember having to pee in a cup, which I really abhorred -- pee was supposed to be washed down the toilet, not saved in a cup for someone to look at. Anxious. Waiting. The doctor returns. Tears. Confusion. What was he saying? Why was my mom crying?
Apparently my pediatrician told my mom I had high glucose levels in my urine (for those of you who don't speak "doctor" that means I had excessive amounts of sugar in my pee - not normal for anyone), and suggested we go to the hospital lab immediately and have me tested for Diabetes. I remember standing outside the doctor's office, looking up at my mom's face and wondering what on earth was so serious that could make my mom cry like that. It made me feel scared, anxious. Peeing in a cup wasn't that bad -- at least, not something to cry about. Of course, I had no way of knowing what on earth Diabetes was, or that I'd have to go to the hospital and be poked with needles every day for the rest of my life. This would change me forever.
I vaguely remember a needle breaking through the surface of my skin and slipping into the vein on my hand, something called an I.V. It didn't hurt as much as one would imagine, and was over very quickly. I remember having jolly good fun watching movies like "The Never Ending Story" as much as I wanted, drinking Diet Coke with pebble ice, frolicking in the play room where they had a McDonald's play set, receiving gifts from everyone who came to visit me, even making a few friends who had the same disease I did.
The doctors gave me a teddy bear to practice giving shots to, and a matching I.D. bracelet. I also got a book that explained Diabetes in a way a kid could understand. It turns out my pancreas, an organ in my body, didn't produce enough of something called insulin, which was why I had been peeing so much; all the extra sugar from food I ate was coming out in my pee, and my body wasn't very happy about it. So I had to get shots for all the food I ate, as well as high blood sugars, which would make my body a lot happier. I wouldn't feel so sick or thirsty all the time, I wouldn't be afraid that I was going to wet my pants if I didn't get to a bathroom soon, and I would just feel a whole lot better overall.
My experience in the hospital wasn't nearly as traumatizing as one might imagine, what with all the poking and prodding. In fact, being able to have sleepovers with my mom, dad, and Gramma each night was enjoyable, and my only complaint was that one night they wouldn't let me have ice cream and milk because they were both dairy products. The hospital saved my life. How could I possibly hate it? When it was finally time for me to go home, I was a little disappointed, but being carted home in a wagon by my loving parents definitely made feel like a princess.
Sometimes I wish I still had that child-like innocence of not really knowing how serious Diabetes was, and how much I would hate taking care of it the older I got. Everyone would get tired of being shot with a needle, especially if it's an everyday occurrence. But the reality of life or death really keeps you going. No one wants to die if it could have been prevented. Thirteen years later and it's been a journey, some parts better than others, but I'm still counting my blessings. I've never had a seizure and I've never been in a coma or even passed out. That's not very common for some who've had Diabetes for as long as I have. I'm still very healthy; the only thing wrong with me is the fact that I have this disease.
Sure, it's a little annoying to be jabbed by a variety of needles several times a day, to have calloused fingers from being pricked and sucked dry an average of 2,190 times a year (times that by thirteen years and you might appreciate that number even more), and still be managing it well enough to be allowed the responsibility of driving, among other privileges.
I've been told nearly my whole life how brave I am; how people would never be able to give themselves a shot; how they can't believe how I can live with this each day. But the truth is, I hardly remember any different. You'd give yourself as many shots as it took if your life depended on it too. It's normal to me, and I can't imagine living any other way. I only have one memory of being able to eat before I was diagnosed with Diabetes, and it's very vague; I can barely catch snippets of it anymore. I can't say I miss it, but that could be just because I honestly don't remember any different way of living. It's as normal to me as getting dressed each day; something that might be a little annoying, but just a simple fact of life.
Yes, it's unfortunate to have Diabetes, or any other disease for that matter, but at least I'm alive, which is something I'm so grateful for every single day. And even if I have to live with it for the rest of my life, at least I still get to experience the joys of living. The value of life is something so precious to me, and I would hate to waste a single moment; because you can't go back. And no one would know that as well as I.