I’m so lucky to have such an amazing sister. She is younger by only 2 and a half years and we have always been close. My sister is my best friend and has always been supportive and there for me. When I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 12, it clearly had an effect on everyone in my family, including my sister. She was 9 years old at the time.
Below is an excerpt from a letter written to her 4th grade teacher. It was written less than 1 month after I was diagnosed. Reading it for the first time, I just want to give her a huge hug, both the 9 year old her and the 22 year old. With this letter, I see my diagnosis through her young eyes, as well as the emotions that she was experiencing.
July 10, 2000
Dear Mrs. D,
Hi, how’s your summer going? Mine is fine except for one thing but I won’t get into that now.
… (I’ll skip the part about what my sister did that summer)
The thing that was a shock to my family is that my sister got diabetes. We found out when she went to her yearly check-up. She had to spend three days in the hospital getting taught her and my parents how to deal with diabetes. She needs to take 2 shots a day but she doesn’t mind them. She also has to watch what she eats, never skip meals, and take a snack before every meal. She doesn’t like that she can’t eat candy, cake, ice cream, cookies, marshmallows, or cotton candy, but they do make sugar free ice cream and candy. She can also have a little taste of anything else with sugar in it. But the part she hates the most is that she has to check her blood sugar 4 times a day and to do that she needs to poke herself. She had always hated it when she goes to the doctor and they do it there and now she has to do it 4 times everyday. I hate hearing her crying and screaming and saying that she can’t do it when it comes time to poke herself. Sometimes it takes her a long time and other times it doesn’t. I poked myself to know what it feels like and I didn’t mind it a bit. She gets a lot of bruises on her fingers by doing this and then she always can’t find a finger because they all have bruises on them. I am really mad and sad that this happened and it’s hard to describe my feelings about this on paper. So all I can say is I really hate that this happened and I think it’s totally unfair that Reva and other people who are diabetic have to go through this but it isn’t the worst thing to have happen. I really wish they would find a treatment that will make it go away or find a way to make it easier for people with diabetes like my sister.
This letter makes me want to laugh and cry. I smile when she talks about how she tried poking her finger and “didn’t mind it a bit” because that description fits her so perfectly. My sister, about to graduate college in less than a month, is hoping to enter the medical profession. Blood and needles and all that doesn’t seem to phase her, she is so intrigued by the workings of the human body. I on the other hand, get extremely squeamish. It made me sad to read how she hated hearing me cry and scream, I wish she never had to go through that with me. Her letter reminded me how truly difficult it was in the beginning, especially the first few months. I’ve talked about how it used to take me an hour to poke my finger, but as my sister’s letter describes, it was also accompanied by a lot of crying and screaming. I’ve probably tried to gloss over those memories over the years, but this letter brings them back. Finally, I love that my sister feels not only for me, but for all diabetics and hopes for a cure.
Any kind of illness, tragedy, or life-altering event has a ripple effect. It impacts those that are close to you besides just yourself. It’s so important to be there for one another and to recognize that even if it feels like it sometimes, you are not alone. It was easy for me to be selfish; it’s my disease, my life, my struggles, but this letter reminds me that my family had their own struggles from my diagnosis. My sister has always been by my side, through good and bad even when what was happening to me was affecting her as well. I am so thankful for her and even if I didn’t express it back then, I hope she realizes it now.
I love you so much Banana!