I was diagnosed with Diabetes in 1992 when I just was two-years-old. At the time, Diabetes was still largely considered an uncommon condition reserved for people with weakening pancreases or those with a genetic predisposition to the condition. Type-one Diabetes in a toddler was extremely rare, especially in one that came from two healthy parents whose families did not have any genetic history with the condition. Baffling doctors all over the Atlanta area I quickly became the test subject for new insulins and blood sugar testing methods for physicians and drug companies around the country.
Through all of the tests and experiments, one thing became very clear to me, even in my young age.
I would not have a normal life.
I began to feel angry, sad, and upset about my condition. Why did I keep getting stabbed by needles when none of my friends from school had to do it? Why couldn’t I have a bite of cake at my best friend’s birthday party when everyone else was eating cake, ice cream, and candy? Why couldn’t I go play with the other kids when I wanted to just because my blood sugar was low? Why did kids pick on me in school during classroom parties because I couldn’t enjoy the foods the teachers and parents brought in?
I was always asking myself these questions and it was all I could think about. I hated Diabetes. It was a curse that I was forced to live with and there was nothing I could do about it. I tried to hide my Diabetes from the world. When it was time to test my blood sugar levels, or take an insulin shot, I would go into a bathroom or hide in a corner. I didn’t want anyone to know I was different and I was going to do my best to hide it.
Then one day everything began to change.
It started out on a school field-trip. Every school field-trip is taken on a school bus, and if you’ve ever been on a school bus you know that there is no such thing as privacy. This particular day had started out as every other day; however, today my blood sugars decided to be exceptionally unpredictable. During the field-trip bus ride my blood spiked pretty high and as a result I had to give myself a shot. Since this was a school bus, there was no place private for me to go to do my insulin. I had to do it in front of everyone and I was nervous. Eventually, I sucked it up and pulled out the syringe, drew up the insulin, and gave myself the shot. Everyone around me was in complete shock and awe; one kid even ran to the far end of the bus to hide from the needle.
Seeing these reactions was very strange for me because this was something I grew up with and that I could not imagine my life without. These were also the same kids who used to tease me because I was “different” but here they were, either scared or fascinated by the very thing I had grown to hate.
This was my thing that made me different, stand-out, and unique and I should not be ashamed of it. I was no longer going to let it control me, I was going to grab it by the horns and make the most out of it. I had something that the other kids did not have; it was something that only I could handle, not them.
Now I could have a normal life.
This changed my perspectives on everything. Now I was becoming very proactive in my Diabetes care. I became very good at managing my condition and others began to notice. As new Diabetics were diagnosed in our school district the nursing staff would request that I go help them teach the new Diabetics on practical Diabetes care give them tips on dealing with life as a Diabetic.
Doctors were impressed with my rapid turnaround and eagerness to learn how to take care of myself. They said I was becoming one of their best taken care of Diabetic patients they had ever seen, especially considering my age.
Now I was in control of my Diabetes and it was no longer in control of me.
I could finally live my life without fear, without hesitation, and with confidence and pride. Living with Diabetes will always present unexpected challenges, challenges that “normal people” wouldn’t normally have to face; like having a blood sugar level that drops right before you give a speech to hundreds of people about the importance of having a professional, but engaging, social media presence; however, it’s how you deal with those challenges that will allow you to overcome the stigma of the condition and make it something that is a part of you and let it define who you are.
I’m 24-years-old and I’ve had Diabetes for 22 of those years. Diabetes has been a part of my childhood, elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college. I graduated with honors from Georgia Southern University with a degree in Public Relations. I’m now a respected public relations professional in the video game industry and I’m always in the public spotlight. All of these experiences have taught me how to make Diabetes a part of me and not let it control me or the way I live my life. I cannot imagine my life being any different without Diabetes and that’s exactly how I want it to be.
I like to think that I don’t have DIE-abetes, but that instead I have LIVE-abetes.