Type 1 diabetes is a full time job, and I was hired at seven years old. In March 2002 with Easter approaching, my health began on a downward spiral. I had a dying thirst that couldn’t be quenched, and I couldn’t keep a cracker down. I lost ten pounds in one week. My eyes were sunken in and I was losing consciousness. What made this situation even more frightening was the fact that nobody knew what to do. After a week of vomiting and dehydration, my mom carried me into the clinic where doctors secured an I.V in each of my frail forearms and rushed me in an ambulance to the hospital in San Francisco.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes that day. For a week, I was in and out of consciousness glued to a hospital bed. I had just experienced an insulin shot and a couple finger pricks that I fought against like crazy (because no seven year old is inviting to needles), when my mom collected me from my bed and took me for a walk through the halls. She reminded me of the needles I had just lost a battle to and told me that they would be a part of my daily routine for the rest of my life. I argued, I cried.
It’s amazing that I was seven years old and even now, at twenty-two, I retain that memory as if it was yesterday. The great window we stopped in front of overlooking San Francisco and the pale blue pajamas I wore. She explained to me in the best way that a mother could to her only child at the time, what this disease would mean. All these words flying past my head like insulin, bolus, glucose, lantus, humalog. How could I possibly understand this?! But that’s kind of the amazing part about having having type 1 diabetes; we’re capable, intelligent, smart, careful. No matter the age, we had to be these things and learn these words. I was able to count carbs, prick my own finger and draw enough blood to get a proper glucose reading. I knew what a serving was, how much 15g of carbs in grapes weighed. I had to do this despite how angry diabetes made me.
It’s been sixteen years since I was diagnosed. Sixteen years of going back and forth between having and losing hope that one day there’d be a cure. Throughout these years I've experienced roughly 35,000 finger pricks and 1,600 pump site changes. But cure or no cure, I would never take back type 1 diabetes and the story it’s given me. If a cure was available tomorrow, I’d snatch it right up but only because this disease has already had such an impact on my life that I know I’m capable of making a difference from this point on.
That’s one of the great things about the Type 1 Diabetes Community and the people who take the time to celebrate and embrace their diabetes on days like World Diabetes Day. It might seem silly, what’s the point in celebrating a tiring disease like this? Would you celebrate the birthday of your arch-nemesis? But what myself and other T1D’s out there are doing right now is spreading awareness of the strength we have. The strength we have despite diabetes' attempt to make us weak. We can fight it and live with it. Before 1921 when insulin was invented, this disease was a death sentence and now it’s an opportunity.