Today marks 19 years that I have been living with type 1 diabetes. I was diagnosed just a month before my tenth birthday – it’s ironic how we often relate our diagnosis story to another sometimes equally significant date or event. That’s my finding at least.
I was recently asked about my diagnosis story and how it affected me as a young child. I knew what I could remember from my memory of the events leading up to my diagnosis and my initial reaction, but it wasn’t your typical tale and I had to call my mom to confirm my memories. I was a strange kid to say the least. When I was younger, I enjoyed going to doctor’s visits, and what was even more strange, I enjoyed getting needles (epic weirdo status, I know). When I was on the phone with my mom having her retell the story, she told me how excited I was to do my first injection. I guess T1D was meant to be for me, ha!
Leading up to my diagnosis I was experiencing all the symptoms of type 1 diabetes – excessive thirst, going to the washroom all the time because of all the water I was drinking and I had lost a lot of weight. I would carry around with me this giant 1 litre squeeze bottle that I would refill with water several times throughout the day. There came a point where I was constantly exhausted and wasn’t feeling well so my mom took me to our family doctor. I was misdiagnosed with bronchitis and sent home with medication. That night as I went to take my medication before bed I was unable to keep it down and immediately threw it up. I remember experiencing intense pain in my abdomen as well. My mom decided that something was up and bronchitis wasn’t the case and she took me to emergency. I remember getting to emergency and being in so much pain, feeling so weak barely being able to stand and begging for a wheelchair because there were no seats left in the waiting room and I couldn’t walk one step further. We eventually ended up in a room, waiting once again. My mom and I had been waiting in emergency for about 6 hours at this point. By chance there happened to be a female police officer in the room across the hall from us. I remember the nurses had given me a paper bag to breath into because I was hyperventilating and could barely breath. The police officer took one look at me and immediately got up to tell the nurses, in a not-so-nice tone, to take action. If it wasn’t for that police officer speaking up for my mom and I who knows if I would be here today.
That was the last I remembered before waking up the next day in ICU with tubes and wires covering my body. Being the strange kid that I was, the next few days that followed were a delight. I was off from school, I had my own private room with an extra cot for my mom to sleep on to stay overnight with me, the nurses were so incredibly kind and took such great care of me and even wheeled in a TV and VCR set for me to watch movies. On one of my last few days at the hospital, I recall a nurse speaking with me in a sad and serious tone telling me not to worry, that this wasn’t my fault and that I had done nothing wrong. I was confused. “Why was she telling me this? Of course I had done nothing wrong, and what was everyone so upset about?”, I remember thinking. Being diagnosed at such a young age, the full realization of what was happening just wasn’t there. In reality, I was the one living with the disease, but it was my mom who became responsible for managing it. Her whole life had been flipped upside down and she adjusted with ease to make my 9 year old self feel as comfortable and as normal as possible.
For me, it was the years that followed that were the real challenge, but it’s these obstacles that have moulded me into the woman I am today. Every situation, good or bad, holds a lesson to be learned. Take what you are given and turn it into something meaningful. Along with countless finger pricks and injections, diabetes has given me a purpose and mission to help others. By sharing my own experiences of living with diabetes and how I have overcome the challenges I have faced I hope to connect with and to inspire others to live a healthy and happy life.