I thought I was going to die.
Twenty years ago this month, when I was 10, I didn’t think I’d live to be 11. Now I’m quite certain I’ll hit at least 60, which is all the older I think I’ll ever care to be anyway.
It’s tough to share the story without sounding (in my opinion) like I’m gloating. It’s difficult to tell it as though I’m not looking for a pat on the back. Truth is, it was quite a thing to overcome at that age and at that time.
But I cannot let the anniversary pass without giving it a mention. After all, this blog is a gift to my daughter.
On March 3, 1993, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I had no family history of it or indications in general that it could strike. I was not overweight, inactive or addicted to sugar (not that it would’ve caused Type 1 anyway).
Nowadays, children with Type 1 diabetes have it considerably easier. Thanks to pump therapy, diabetics are pretty free to eat what they want. They just count the carbs, hit some buttons on their pump and get on with life. That was not the case in 1993.
Back then, I was limited to a 2,000-calorie (it fluctuated with my age) diet divided into “exchanges.” I had to eat, for instance, three starches, two fruits, one meat, one dairy and one vegetable each meal. It was critical I did this because I had to take a specific doseage of insulin. If I ate less, the dose would be too high and my blood sugar would go low. It worked the other way around as well.
That’s a tough thing for a kid. Forget about buying school lunches. Forget about class parties. Forget about fitting in at sleepovers. I had to eat like a professional athlete or I would die. Fact.
I did push the limits from time to time. And each time, I was reminded I was not in charge. I once stayed up all night at a friend’s house and fell into a deep slumber the following day – so deep, in fact, that I didn’t wake up for a low blood sugar brought on by missing a snack. I regained consciousness in the emergency room.
It was the first of about six similar ambulance rides until I graduated college.
There were times, as a child, I wished the condition were terminal. My fourth grade teacher was a nightmare – she accused me of faking low blood sugars, ridiculed me in front of classmates and gave me the overall impression the extra attention I needed was no more than a burden. To a fourth-grader who’s trying to juggle being cool with learning how to manage a complete lifestyle change, it was enough to make me consider giving up.
I’m so glad I wasn’t allowed.
Because, eventually, I came to see things get easier with a little persistence (okay, advancement in medical science helped). It took some thought and repetition to change the way I ate, but once I did, it became automatic. And because of my years limited to three fat exchanges per week and learning to love “free” foods, I don’t today have much of a taste for stuff that clogs arteries or conjures obesity. When combined with the effectiveness of pump therapy, those eating habits have triggered great results.
So now I can see my daughter grow. I can fall in love. I get to smell a thunderstorm in July. I will be able to walk Kalista down the aisle on her wedding day.
Thank you, Mom. I wouldn’t have made it one year without you.