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It’s okay to cry
It was 9:30 pm on a Tuesday night. October 13th, 2009. I was twelve, and my life was fairly good. No problems, lots of friends, doing well in school. But my life was about to change.
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I set down my glass of water, not sure what to do or say. My mum had just told me that we’d have to go to the hospital for a night or two. My mind started racing – What had I done? Was something really wrong with me? What had the blood test that I’d had that morning revealed? All of a sudden, I was really scared. I was shaking and life didn’t seem real. I didn’t want this to happen – I would much rather hide in a corner until it was over and done with. I didn’t start crying right then, although I was in a complete daze.
My mum led me up to my room, all the while talking to me in a soothing voice that scared me more than anything else had so far. If I hadn’t been crying before, I certainly was now. My mum and dad helped me get together a change of clothes, a pair of pyjamas, a toothbrush, and a book. I chose to take a book that I’d already read – Fairest by Gail Carson Levine. It was a spur-of-the-moment-can’t-see-through-my-tears choice.
I knew that I needed to take a stuffed animal for emotional support. I looked at the pile of teddies for a moment, unable to choose, or think, and then my mum handed me my special teddy. “Why don’t you take this one,” she said. The teddy was immediately subjected to squeezes and wet fur from my tears.
We went downstairs, dressed for the cool weather, and got in the car – my mum and I in the family van and my dad close behind in his red truck. The date was Tuesday, October 13th, 2009. It was a day that I would always remember.
My mum drove along the almost deserted highway towards the city. We were both crying now, both scared. I didn’t want to admit it, but somewhere inside me, I did know what was going on.
“Whatever happens, whatever this is, we’ll get through it,” my mum said, giving my hand a squeeze and trying to reflect a smile back to me through her mirror.
As we approached the hospital, I became more scared. My nerves were wild and I didn’t know what to think, what to say, what to do. What was going to happen? I pushed the thought from my mind – right now, I didn’t want to know.
The concrete building appeared imposing and menacing as we pulled into the parking lot. The dark of the night seemed far away, pushed back by the brightness of the parking lot lights. We walked to the big front doors. I was asking questions, but not questions about what was happening. “Why do patients have to park in the visitor’s lot? How come there are so many cars in the staff lot? Why does this place look so dead?” It did, indeed, look dead. No lights on in windows, no people streaming through the halls. As we approached the admitting desk, there was a sign which directed expectant mothers to the maternity ward and other patients to the Emergency entrance. But my mum knew that we weren’t supposed to go to either of those places. An admitting nurse, looking ready to clock out, came out of the back room, obviously surprised to see us. “M----- E--,” my mum stated. “Her doctor sent us here and told us it was all arranged.” The nurse looked at her papers, and then with a look of recognition, directed us to go to the south elevators, to take them up to the fourth floor, and to find 4-D. We followed her directions, through the halls smelling of antiseptic, up to the fourth floor, but then we had to ask a couple of residents to direct us to 4-D. They did so (it was right around the corner, pointed to by a small sign with a friendly-looking Elmo on it). We approached the nurse’s desk and then we were whisked away to an examining room. Throughout the next hour I cried some more. Many nurses and residents came in – they all blurred together. All except one, who I remember clearly. She was a young nurse – it seemed she was quite recently out of training – by the name of Kristy. She was nice to me – she treated me as a person rather than a patient. She took me on a tour of the paediatric ward where I would stay for the next three nights – the place where my old life would end and my new one would begin.
Finally, after an hour of talking about family medical history, crying, and trying to perceive what I’d been told, the doctor came in. She told me, very bluntly, that I had a condition known as Type 1 diabetes. After she left, the nurses stabbed me with a few needles and gave me a glass of milk. At last, I was allowed to sleep. I stumbled into the strange bed, falling into a dreamless sleep quickly, regardless of the strange environment. I was woken up several times during the night – bracelets, blankets, needles. I was still scared, but eventually my fear would fade.
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I remained in the hospital for three days. During those days I was taught how to poke my finger, how to stick myself with needles, how to eat properly, how to take care of myself with this new condition. I cried myself out in those days, but things eventually did get better. I started to be able to see the silver lining in things, the reason to smile.
It’s been two years – almost exactly – since that day. I’ve become a seasoned pro rather than a nervous beginner. I don’t cry anymore, because only smiles help. I’m still learning and always will be.
Yes, those days were terrible. But, bad as they were, they taught me something important. Those days, and that diagnosis, taught me that I am strong. They taught me that diabetes is part of me, but it is not who I am. And they taught me that sometimes, it’s okay to cry, but it’s always better to smile.