Meet me. I won’t tell you my name, but I am thirteen years old. I am of average weight and a tad short for my age. I love reading, writing, sewing and knitting, and sometimes I wear glasses. I have an annoying younger brother, a pet rabbit, and until recently, a seven-year-old goldfish. I am part of a good-sized group of friends, I adore small children, and I enjoy helping others. I get good grades in school, speak fluent french, and enjoy life in general.
I have diabetes.
Do you see me differently now? Do you see me as incapable, or as an invalid? I hope not. Because even though I have something that not everybody has and it affects almost every aspect of my life, I am no different than you. I am exactly the same as you thought I was before I told you that I have diabetes. Although I have to think about what I eat, and take medicine every day, I am just like you. Not incapable, not an invalid, not to be shunned like an alien.
That day. I will always remember that day.
It started, really, at Pathfinder camp. Even I realized that four consecutive bottles of water was a lot. When I had to go to the bathroom six times during the night, I assumed that it was just the water. That was the logical thought.
That Friday, my mum took me to the doctor’s office to ask the doctor if we should check into this insane thirst and apparently, sudden skinniness. I hadn’t realized that I had lost a lot of weight.
The doctor sent us off with a prescription for a blood test. The weekend was fairly normal – nothing particularly interesting happened. On Monday, which was Thanksgiving day, we went to my aunt's house for lunch. We had potatoes, turkey, gravy, veggies - all that good stuff. It wasn’t until later that I realized that that had been my last as a real meal that required no thought. For dinner that night we had cold pizza – I don’t consider that a real meal.
The next morning, which I remember clearly as Tuesday, October 13th, we went to the lab before school for my first ever blood test. I thought it would hurt more than it did. On the way to school, I ate honey nut cheerios and milk out of plastic containers.
School was quite normal. I don’t remember anything about it. Although…I remember walking around back of the school with a friend, and I do remember what clothes I wore! It was my almost-too-small blue pants, my long blue shirt with the silver butterflies all over it, and my brown runners. I don’t remember what socks I wore. Should I? Oh well.
Anyways, I had a Pathfinder meeting that night, so we had shells and cheese (which is basically Kraft Dinner) for supper. Then we raced out the door to Pathfinders. At the meeting, we played Sports Jeopardy as part of a badge – I won. My mum, who is a leader of our unit, had forgotten her cell phone at home. (This IS relevant. Patience.)
So we finished up the meeting in good spirits and headed home. When we got home, I poured a large glass of water and stood at the kitchen counter drinking it. My mum pretty much told me to go to bed, and then she and my dad walked down the hall together. I was alone in the room until my parents came back. My mum started talking to me in a strange tone of voice, almost like I was a raging mental case that she was trying to calm down (I realize now that she was using that tone of voice because she was trying not to cry). Basically she told me that the doctor had phoned (and phoned, and phoned, trying to get a hold of us on the left-at-home cell phone) with the test results and that we would have to go and spend a night or two at the hospital. I put down my unfinished glass of water – as soon as she had started with that tone of voice, I had fallen into a daze.
I went upstairs and packed a bag with some clothes, a toothbrush, and the book Fairest by Gail Carson Levine. By this time, I had tears running down my face. I didn’t know what was happening, although I did – yes, this does make sense; I was hiding the truth from myself – and I was scared, to put it simply. I stared at my rather large pile of stuffed animals blankly for several seconds that felt like hours, attempting to pick one to comfort me. Finally, my mum picked up my special bear, Brownie, and put it in my arms. “Why don’t you take this one,” she said. It wasn’t a question.
We called for a family friend to come sit with my sleeping eight-year-old brother – we couldn’t leave him there alone, but we couldn’t take him either.
My mum led me out to the car and we started driving towards Victoria. Soon we were both crying, me into my teddy, my mum into the steering wheel. I was scared, and I felt really small in a big, big world.
When we got to the hospital, we went in and had to find someone to ask where we were to go, as the admission desk was closed – it was nearly ten o’clock! I was surprised by this, as I thought that hospitals were open to admission 24/7. Although the hospital is working all the time, only Emergency is open all day, every day.
So we were told where to go and followed the instructions on how to get there. We still ended up getting lost – we had to ask a resident for directions – it turned out to be just down the hall. Don’t laugh – do you have any idea how BIG, and intimidating, a hospital is?
A nurse – whose name I don’t remember – took us to a little room; I think it was the examination room. The people there were really nice – but there were so many of them! First we were interrogated about our family’s medical history (by that time my dad was there too). Then they checked my blood glucose (it hurt!) – it was 26 – and finally they brought the doctor in. She explained to me that I had Type 1 diabetes. I took the news silently – it wasn’t until the next day that I actually realized what she had said. There’s that lying to myself again! Even now, sometimes I forget that I have diabetes, and when it hits me, it hurts.
I’m not sure if that was the actual way things went – it was all a big blur, and to make it worse, I saw it all through tears (and through the fuzz on top of my bear’s head).
I do remember that after a long while, I finally got a bed and was allowed to go to sleep, but apparently not for long. The nurses woke me up six times, I swear. (My mum says it was less, but I stick to my guns.) Bracelets, blankets, glucose tests, breakfast… (You may think that breakfast would not count, but I had been unnecessarily woken up, if you ask me.)
I also remember that the next day, I was again in a daze. The food was horrible and people kept poking me, and I was tired and still scared. (Not a good combination at all.) I didn’t even process any information given to me until much, much later.
The next three days blur together – I remember lessons on taking care of myself, blood tests, being bored, visits, reading, getting TONS of free stuff, and I very clearly remember the gift shop – but if you were to ask me what day each was on, I could never give the right answer. When I was finally discharged on Friday with way more stuff than I’d come with and diabetes, I was so scared for a while that I wanted to turn around and march right back in, as much as I hated the food. They knew how to take care of me there, but now I was on my own. But, I wasn’t allowed to turn back and so we went home and started my new life. That’s what it felt like, anyway.
Diabetes is not fun. It has plenty of ups and downs, highs and lows, pros and cons. But, in the end, it’s only a slight bump (okay, a very large slight bump) in life. I’ve learned to live with it, and it’s much easier now than it was upon diagnosis a year and twenty-four days (but who's counting?) ago. I’m still learning, and will be for life, until a cure is found.
I never did finish that glass of water.