Saturday, September 21, 2013

Twenty-Five Years

Twenty-five years ago, today, I was pulled from my gym class in my freshman year of high school for a trip to the hospital that would quickly result in a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.  I had recently turned 14 and had been noticing some of the signs.  I even joked with my best friend Libby that I "must have diabetes or something" because of my unquenchable thirst and frequent trips to the bathroom.  One night after a pizza party, I stepped on the scale and noticed that I weighed less than before dinner.  In youthful optimism and a sign of some probably unhealthy thinking about body image, I was excited about the weight loss and had bought a bunch of new school clothes for my too-skinny body.  My dad, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as an adult, had tested my blood glucose the night before.  Somehow my parents shielded me from the worry that must have hit them hard at the high reading; or perhaps they were hoping against hope that it was somehow a fluke.  When I asked the nurse at the hospital, "Do I have diabetes?" she looked at me in some surprise and said something to the effect of "Yes, of course."  Oh.

I received the necessary education and tools and had the support of my dad and the rest of my family and my pediatrician to get my blood sugars better regulated.  I recall not being able to read at first as my eyes adjusted to the normal blood sugars, and asking my 9th grade English teacher (Mrs. Bills) if I could eat a snack during her class.  One time, I told a surprisingly gullible friend that my blood glucose meter lancet was a brain scanner: "you just run it over your head like this." In what I view as a positive point of reflection, I do not recall diabetes playing a major role in my life during the rest of high school.  Perhaps I had a longer honeymoon period?  Or the super-rigid schedule I lived by helped keep things smoother?  I view this time as the easiest period I have had in my life with diabetes.  I joined the cross country team, participated in band and orchestra, continued piano lessons and did well at my academics.  But my diabetes regimen did mean that I never slept in on weekends, and had to arrange special accommodations if I ever wanted to eat dinner at a party that started later than my regular meal time.  And at that time, I absolutely never ate candy or desserts except for perhaps angel food cake on my birthday or to treat a low blood sugar.  I remember saying, "When I am cured, I will eat a doughnut."

I was fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends who did not once question my ability to do whatever I set out to do, whether that was to study hard for school, ride my bike around town or join the cross country team.  I imagine there were some harder moments that I have since forgotten; but overall, I felt like I was doing okay with life.  In the more than 20 years since that time, I have had my ups and downs with diabetes, and it has made for some good stories and some very magical moments.  While having diabetes has certainly made life more difficult in many ways, I am grateful especially for the wonderful people I have met as a result, and the many insights I have been given into my own body. Also I believe that in many ways I may be healthier because of the early focus diabetes brought on my health; for one, I realized right away the positive impact exercise had on my diabetes management, and was more dedicated and consistent with it as a result.  This was actually a gift that I have carried with me throughout my life so far.  Here's hoping to at least another two big twenty-five year milestones down the road.  And I'd like to extend a heartfelt "thank you" to the many friends and family members who have been a source of strength and support to me over these past 25 years.

3 comments:

landileigh said...

Congratulations on 25 years!

Becca said...

Anne, I don't remember much about life without your diabetes being a part of it. We always had our BG guessing game and I always looked on with complete awe as you gave yourselves injections and finger pricks. I continue to admire you and think of you often as I exercise and take better care of myself. And whenever I meet someone wearing a pump, I always mention my amazing sister. So, here's to 25 more great years! And beyond! Hoping we can do a few tris together! xoxo

shannon said...

Anne, loved reading this about your early years before I knew you. You continue to be an inspiration to me. What a difference it made for me to have known you when I found out my daughter had diabetes! Thanks for giving me hope!
shannon