So I now have this blog and am using it to open up a forum to discuss all things diabetes whether it be living with the disease itself, managing day-to-day activities or even just talking about fears around not letting living with diabetes stop you from doing what you love best. With that, here is some background on my diagnosis:
The clinical definition of type 1 diabetes is clear cut, a mathematical equation of carbohydrates to insulin, an understanding of the endocrine system pumping ions through semipermeable channels. My understanding of MY disease is not as clear cut, acting in a space that is not sterile, perfectly clean, or rational. Likewise, my understanding of WHY fluctuates. Most of the time, I am okay accepting that which I cannot change, and simply putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward, continuing with what I can control. But there are times when my rationality gives way to emotion- hurt, confusion, sadness, and of course, extreme anger. To say the least, it is frustrating to not understand the why. You see, my family has no history of diabetes, beyond a possible case of T2 in a great-great uncle. Yes, families sometimes have a child who is diagnosed out of the blue- and that was my family, when in 1999, my older brother was diagnosed with T1 after 3 months of extreme thirst, urination, weight loss and a black eye that would not heal– his 5th grade pictures forever shows that shiner. Similarly to many other families finding out that a child is sick, ours was completely shocked and shaken. As my family lives in a very small town in rural Wyoming, and the Internet was not available to provide massive amounts of information, there was limited amounts of information available for my parents. Therefore, many questions were left partially to completely unanswered. Could he play sports? What should he eat? How should my parents explain it to fellow parents? How should he explain it to his friends? Should my parents explain it to his friends? Eventually, seeking more medical advice from a larger university hospital in the closest city, a mere 6 hours away, enabled my parents and brother a better understanding of what diabetes meant for my brother on an individual level, and for our family at a collective level. As carb counting, insulin injections and A1Cs became more clear, the bigger questions also were answered: yes, he could play sports. Yes, he could attend school normally. Yes, he could one day have kids, who had a good chance of being healthy and normal as long as he took care of himself. Then my parents asked what was the potentially most loaded question in my personal history: could their daughter, me, also become diabetic. The doctors response: no, it would be a one in a one million chance, so improbable that they could basically guarantee that it would not happen. So, when at the dinner one night three years later I announced to my mom and brother that I thought I was diabetic, it was especially kind of my mom not to brush off the concern. Instead, she agreed that after we finished eating, I could take a blood sugar on my brothers meter. It must have been especially painful for her when the reading came back in the 400s, as in the previous moment her healthy other child who was practically promised to not contract this disease became “sick”.
Having an older brother who had already gone through the diagnostic process made it much easier for me- it wasn’t nearly such a readjustment for the family as a whole, and as I already knew the general info, like what a carbohydrate is, and how to count carbs, I was already knowledgeable about what the “diabetic life” was like. Giving my first injection was probably the hardest thing as it was very scary to be putting a shot into my own body, but everything else wasn’t bad. Additionally, I had gained the advantage of watching my brother struggle emotionally with the disease, and had somewhat of a road map to follow. I was very lucky to have this guidance, a leg up of sorts. It also meant that I was able to spend more of my emotional turmoil on the “how do I learn to live with this” instead of the “why me” questions, as I had discovered through my brother’s diagnosis that the question of why was unanswerable for us. Instead, being the stubborn girl I am, I started asking my parents about what I could and couldn’t do- the wonderful parents they are, told me that I could still do anything I wanted to- at the time, it was a surgeon. What if I got a low blood sugar during surgery? Could I even be a doctor? My mom said “yes, work hard, control your disease, be responsible, and go chase your dreams.” The dreams have changed, but the echoing of this motto throughout my adolescence overcame my self doubt, and gave me the confidence to dream big, despite having a very demanding disease.