I view my journey with diabetes as a two part story: part 1 being my childhood and teenage years and part 2 being my young adult life. I believe that the difference between the two phases has a lot to do with the reliance on my support system as a young diabetic and, later, how my independence changed some of my perceptions and habits. I would like to share this with you as a way of giving you some understanding of my background before I start writing about other interesting topics on the blog!
So here is part 1:
I remember a very long day at the doctor’s office when I was four years old, spending a lot of time playing with the toys in the waiting room, and then going home and having my parents explain to me that I was going to need to start checking my blood sugar and getting injections. My dad was also a diabetic and, at that age, I had always wondered what he kept in his “special drawer.” Well, his special drawer (where he stored his insulin and syringes) soon became mine, too. Obviously, at four years old, I didn’t understand much about the longevity of diabetes or the impact it would have on my life. All I knew was that my doctor and my parents promised that insulin would help me feel better and stop wetting the bed! Mostly, I was just thrilled about the bargain I had arranged with my parents: if I tested my blood sugar and accepted injections without crying each day, then I could pick out three, THREE, books for them to read to me at night. (I can’t remember an age when I didn’t have a serious love for books.)
Fast forward throughout the years and I remember certain highlights and milestones, such as the day I was brave enough to give my own injection and the year when I went on the pump first, before my dad. We joked that I was the guinea pig. He joined me with his own pump a few months later.
I remember school birthdays when other students would bring in cupcakes or cookies and I was given my sugar free popsicle so that I could enjoy a treat just like all the other kids. On my own birthday, my mom would always bring in cantaloupe for me to share with my classmates. (Bringing in healthy snacks for your birthday… Could this have been a contributing factor as to why I was never very popular…?)
I learned how to skate when I was about three years old and I started playing competitive ice hockey when I was 8. I did gymnastics with my friends for a while and rode horses with my sisters. Having my dad as a role model, I was inspired to be active and athletic like him. My parents helped me by reminding me to check before practices and my mom would pack me snacks for emergencies. She also tested my blood sugar in the middle of the night every day for years and years.
As a child, my dad’s guidance and leadership was significant in my development as a young lady who was capable of participating in all kinds of activities while also managing her diabetes. My dad helped me believe that I never needed to feel like I was missing out on anything due to diabetes and he also taught, by example, that there was no point feeling sorry for myself. Diabetes was just a fact of life for us and we didn’t dwell on it one way or the other. We did, however, bond on how it felt to get low at an inconvenient time and we talked about how much insulin to give for different types of carbs.
So from the age of 4 to 18, my dad and I shared diabetes and I followed his lead in caring for myself. He helped me establish a great mindset and some very healthy habits. Diabetes was something I had to pay attention to, but I did not think about it very much beyond checking my blood sugar, counting my carbs, and accounting for my activity level. Overall, I kept diabetes at arms length. Somewhere along the line of becoming an adult, my mind started to shift around my body and my approach to diabetes.
Stay tuned for a second post addressing Part 2 of my story! Comment below if you would like to share some of your earliest memories as a diabetic.