|I first learned how to give a
shot by practicing on an orange
My diagnosis was a really hard and scary time, not just for me, but for my family and even friends. Part of what made it so difficult was that it was literally out of the blue. I had gone in to my pediatrician for my 12-year-old yearly check-up, seemingly healthy. I had no family history of diabetes and wasn’t showing any symptoms. The diagnosis was a complete shock to everyone. I remember sitting on the examination table, crying. I had no idea what diabetes was and what having it would mean for my life. From that moment on, everything was a whirlwind. We checked in to the hospital and over the next few days, I was visited by nurses, doctors, nutritionists, health educators, counselors, you name it. My family and I were bombarded with information, absorbing as much as we could in that short amount of time. I learned everything from how to count carbohydrates to how to give a shot. It was when I was released from the hospital that the fear and anxiety truly set in. How was I going to remember all of this, let alone give myself finger pricks and shots?? At this point, the idea of inflicting pain on myself to poke my finger was so appalling that it would sometimes take me an hour before I got enough courage to push the button.
I remember feeling a lot of different emotions: anger, confusion, frustration, sadness and fear. However, I kept most of that to myself, bottled up inside. Finally one day a few weeks later, I lost it. I have this image of me, lying in the middle of our foyer, curled in a ball, bawling. I remember this day vividly because for me, it was a turning point. I laid on the floor, repeating over and over in my head, “why me, why me!?” Then suddenly I knew my answer. In my 12-year old mind, I said to myself, “My life is pretty perfect, God is just giving me a challenge”. I told this to my parents, and my mom to this day, has never forgotten that sentence. She told me it was what helped her to begin to heal, to know that things would be okay.
To me this statement isn’t about God or even about the diagnosis having a higher purpose, it was about knowing that this was something I could handle, even if it wasn’t going to be easy. It’s hard for me to say that everything happens for a reason when there is such sickness, tragedies, and atrocities that happen to good and innocent people in the world every day. How can you tell a mother who lost a child or someone who died too young from cancer that it happened for a reason? I believe that horrible things happen for no reason at all. However, I do believe that some kind of meaning or purpose can come from a bad situation IF you are open, willing, and active in accepting this possibility, even if this takes years or even decades. A death of a loved one can lead a person to become an advocate for a certain cause or to prevent others from having the same fate. Tragedies can bring families and communities together. But on the other hand, it can tear them apart. This is where the type of person you are or want to be plays a role. This is where resilience comes in. Do you let something bad that happens to you defeat you, or do you rise above it? Do you become bitter and resentful, or do you find a way to move on, to make things better? At 12 years old, I had a realization that my diagnosis was going to be a challenge, but that it was something that I would learn to live with the best that I could. It was an obstacle to be overcome, not a dead end.
I wish every day for a cure. Obviously I would never have chosen to have this disease, but having diabetes has also played a role in the person that I am today. My choice to pursue a master’s degree in Public Health was largely influenced from my experience living with a chronic disease. I’m not sure where my future will take me personally or professionally, but I do know that my diabetes will play a role. You can’t always choose what happens to you, and unfortunately bad things happen to everyone. You just have to learn to make the best of it, any way that you can.