Why Type One Diabetes Was One of the Best Things to Happen to Me
When you’re ten years old you don’t feel the weight of the world. Adults tell you to stay young forever, but you can’t help but feel excited to grow older and gain independence. Not many people would normally see it this way, but I was blessed to be diagnosed with type one diabetes as a ten year old. I knew I was really sick when I was first diagnosed, but there was a peace inside of me in regards to the situation. The doctors pulled out a long needle and asked if I was okay with them giving me my first shot of insulin to lower my extremely high blood sugars. I told them I wanted to give myself my first shot and from that moment on I knew I could do this. My mom stood by my side every minute and slept beside me in my tiny hospital bed. Out of everyone in my family, she was worried the most and couldn’t help but cry because she wanted me to be okay. I looked at her and told her to stop crying because I knew everything was going to be fine. I was pushed into a sense of independence over my body. I could receive help from others, but ultimately it was up to me to do what I needed to do to remain healthy. I grew up early, but purely in a mental sense.
Having diabetes didn’t come without fears. My first and only fear was if I was going to be able to do the normal things that other kids do. I played sports all year long and for the first couple of weeks after being diagnosed with diabetes I had to sit out from soccer practices and our championship game. That was really hard. When the doctors gave me the clear to participate, I told myself I wasn’t going to let this disease stop me from doing anything. From then on I had no fear, only motivation.
It was a learning process. I could go days with having perfect blood sugars and I thought managing diabetes was a piece of cake. Then there would be days of constant roller coaster highs and lows that completely drained me physically and mentally. My work ethic stemmed from these experiences that I had when I was only ten. In 2007 they didn’t have the technology that’s available today. I had to prick my finger five to eight times a day and give myself a shot before eating anything at all. And that was the easy part. The hard part was figuring out how many carbs were in each thing I ate so I could give the correct dosage of insulin to prevent high or low blood sugars. After determining the amount of carbs present in each thing I ate, I had to figure out how many carbs per unit of insulin I needed to give myself for that certain time of day (my body needs differing amounts of insulin throughout the day in order to maintain good blood sugars). Aside from this, I needed to set an alarm every night to give myself an injection of a slow acting type of insulin to maintain a constant flow of insulin in my body. If I forgot, my blood sugar would skyrocket and I would get sick. It wasn’t an easy process, but I told my parents I wanted to do all of it myself. My doctors even told me to give up a little control and stop taking my blood sugars so much.
As the years went on, there has been all sorts of new technology come out that has enabled me to stop injecting myself so many times a day. I went from manually calculating the correct amount of insulin and injecting up to eight shots a day to having an insulin pump that only requires me to get one shot every three days. All I had to do was find out how many carbs were in everything I was eating and enter that into my pump. After being on a pump that looked similar to a pager with tubes connecting the pump to my injection site, I switched to a tubeless, replaceable pump called OmniPod. This pump was perfect for someone who loved sports because then you could stay connected and not lose insulin compared to my other pump where I would have to disconnect for hours at a time.
My work ethic that was created from having diabetes rolled over into my love of sports as well. If I could manage type one diabetes starting at a young age, I could do anything. When I started getting better at track and field, I became completely motivated to become the best that I could be. I set goals every year throughout high school starting with my huge goal of making the 2016 Olympic trials when I saw athletes like Allyson Felix and Brittney Reese dominating at the 2012 trials on tv. At the time I was only a freshman in high school and jumping five feet less than them and running a second a half slower in the 100 than them. Ultimately I made it to the 2016 Olympic trials and set the national high school record in the long jump before going.
Type one diabetes has taught me more about myself than anything else has in my life. It taught me to work hard no matter how difficult a situation seems and to turn seemingly terrible circumstances into something beautiful. Every kid dealing with diabetes or a different disease needs to know that you can be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do. Let it motivate you to better yourself in all aspects of your life.