In 1990, I was in second grade. I was eight years old. That day in school I remember spending as much time as possible at the water fountain consuming as much water as possible. I was so tired and didn't feel well so the teachers kept sending me to the nurse's office. The school would not let me go home because I did not have a temperature. I would nap on the cot and then be sent back to class. The cycle continued to repeat the entire day. Finally at 3 p.m. The school decided I could leave early to go home. An entire 15 minutes early!
Mom picked me up at school and took me home. As soon as we walked in the house she was in the kitchen and on the phone. I had no clue who she was talking to. I grabbed myself a glass of water and gulped it down. It was March and, well that means Girl Scout cookies recently arrived. I climbed up on the cabinet to get to the top shelf of the corner cabinet to get down the box of Samoa cookies. As I reached for the box I heard a very loud "NO!" Mom told me that I couldn't have any cookies.
The next thing I knew we were at the clinic and soon the doctor, our neighbor, was telling Mom that I indeed had juvenile diabetes. Mom and the doctor spoke for awhile and then Mom told me we were headed to the hospital. Um, say what? I don't remember much from the day. I don't remember if they told me I had diabetes at the clinic or at the hospital. Because of that I don't remember my reaction to the news. I'll have to ask my parents one of these days.
**Side note: I spoke with my Mom and apparently my memories are not quite accurate. Dad actually picked me up from school and brought me home early but no one told Mom so she waited quite awhile in the school parking lot for me. Eventually she asked the school where I was and they told her Dad had picked me up. From there they took me to the clinic and then to the hospital. She doesn't remember what I do about the cookies, so who knows on that part.
While in the hospital I learned how to poke my finger to test my blood sugars. I learned how to give myself my shots of insulin but until I went to summer camp (a camp for diabetics - it was like Disney World!) I never gave my own shots. They explained my new diet and how to count calories. 1800 calories a day. My sisters and parents spent a lot of time at the hospital with me. My grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousin came to see me too. Some classmates visited me. My teacher did as well -- to give me my spelling test. Full disclosure, spelling was never my best subject and I remember doing horribly on that test. At least I tried though. My teacher brought me a packet of letters all my classmates wrote me telling me to get better. Dad brought me several presents which, oh my goodness, I could never have ever dreamed of owning. He brought me a Paula Abdul 'Forever Your Girl' poster. He also bought me that cassette. Best of all, he bought me my very own cassette tape player. He probably should have waited until after I got discharged from the hospital to give all that to me because I may or may not have played the tape a little too loudly in my room. The loud music may or may not have been accompanied by some dancing on my bed. Hey. Who said a hospital has to be boring?
When you are diagnosed with a chronic illness, life changes. It changes A LOT. Some things become better. Some things become worse. There are hurdles you have to jump over and times when you have to make adjustments. With a chronic illness you learn to pray and hope each day that a cure will be found. That it will be found sooner rather than later. But with a chronic illness, guess what, you aren't dead. You are able to continue living. Yes, you change things, but if you do what you need to, you are alive. It is a pain in the butt. It is annoying. It is not fun. But it is doable. You just have to find a way to make it doable.
So, yes, on March 28, 1990, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes but nearly 24 years later I am still kicking. I may be a diabetic but it doesn't define me. Rather it is just a part of me. Just like my crazy curly hair.