Don’t really expect anyone to read all this, but here’s something I could never say in person
“Your as healthy as a horse! Let me know if you need anything else, but other than that you’re free to go.” My pediatrician handed my mother the bill, as I slid off the hard, plastic examination table and we headed out the door past the germ-infested waiting room into a bright summer afternoon. On the way home my mom treated me to a Cumberland farm’s slushie and later that night I got the opportunity to see the Goo Goo Dolls, live, at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
That was how my Tuesday afternoon was supposed to turn out, a day full of ease and laughter. Instead July 24, 2007 became the day that I thankfully learned I wasn’t afraid of needles and unfortunately would have to use them for the rest of my life.
Monday afternoon around four, I was busy curled up in a ball in my parents king sized bed underneath a cool blanket with the lights off and the shades closed. I knew that my bedroom would be the first place my mom would come looking for me and I was hoping to delay our confrontation a little longer, even if it was only a few minutes. My eyelids began to drop heavily as I began to drift off and sleep the night away, when I heard the knock down the hall and the squeak of my doorknob, followed by the hurried footsteps that could only belong to my mother. I waited, eyes shut until I heard the creak of my parent’s door. There was a moment of silence and the small belief that she couldn’t see me.
“Laura, your father and I have told you for over a week to mow the lawn. You’ve done nothing all day but sleep, now go and get it done, your father will be home in an hour.”
I groaned and turned onto my other side, somehow believing that it would make her disappear. Instead, it possessed her to rip off my blanket and force me down the stairs into the garage. The heat hit me like a slap in the face. I hadn’t been outside in so long. I hadn’t moved in so long. In the past week, I only tumbled out of bed to saunter into the kitchen for another gallon of water and three bowls of Lucky Charms, or the hourly trip to the bathroom.
As I proceeded to lug our dull red lawn mower towards the overgrown front yard, my legs felt like they had cannonballs strapped to each ankle. I pulled up on the choke to start the engine and attempted to push the mower uphill. It budged about two inches before my arms began to bend and give away. The warmth from the sun was taunting me, telling me to just lie down and relax, and my eyes started to close. Blindly, I started the engine again and used all of my momentum I had left to get this over with so I could go back to sleep. Less than halfway through, tears spilled down my face and my lungs were working double overtime. I let go of the choke and sprinted into the kitchen, immediately reached for a glass and gulped down four full glasses of water. I slid to the floor and leaned my head against the cool cabinet as I tried to catch my breath. Two seconds later, my mom appeared, demanding to know why I couldn’t finish mowing the lawn. I was fourteen years old, she told me. I should be full of energy and there was no good reason for me to be so exhausted from such a simple task. Fuming, I simply screamed, “ I just need a break! I’ll finish it, just leave me alone!” and stomped out, refusing to come back inside until I had finished.
Huffing and Puffing, an hour later, all I wanted to do was collapse on the family room couch, but I knew I’d have to hear some comment about sleeping again, so I made my way up the stairs. Five steps up; I couldn’t even manage to lift my legs. I laid down right then and there, too exhausted to care about what my parents would say. I could believe this! Why wasn’t I able to even climb up one flight of stairs without crashing, or why did it take me two hours to cut the grass when it usually takes me a half hour? Or why was I eating nearly seven huge meals a day and how come even though I drink more than eight glasses of water an hour, but I still felt so dehydrated? I had to get to the doctor to get checked out, things just weren’t right.
Around one o’clock the next day, I groggily rose out of bed, put on the first pair of shorts and tank top I could find. As I pulled on my white American Eagle shorts, I noticed they barely clung to my hips and two weeks ago they were skin tight. I couldn’t believe how skinny my legs were, my pinky and thumb could almost touch when I wrapped my hand around my thigh, but I shoved the concern out of my thoughts. I wanted to go to the doctors, get in and get out.
My mom and I hopped in the car and headed on our way. Inside, my mom suggested several reasons why I was so exhausted; mono was her main choice. She kept on going over the symptoms; sore throat and exhaustion. She patted my arm and told me not to worry, it’s probably nothing, but she kept shifting her eyes from me to the road, then back to me. I could tell she was nervous, and I was too. Mono didn’t explain why I ate more than I ever had, but had lost 20 pounds in the three weeks, or why I constantly had to use the bathroom. Still, I played along with her “everything’s just fine” game and smiled in agreement.
We pulled up to the entrance of the doctor’s office and as we stepped out of the car, I asked if I could get a cumby’s slushie after the appointment was over. My mom agreed and opened the door to the waiting room. It was only a matter of minutes ‘til a nurse directed us to room 8. I always got room eight, it had a picture with one hundred cats and 1 mouse, the whole point was to find the mouse, and by this time I could point it out with my eyes closed. Like a thousand times before, I had to resort to staring at the picture, pretending I couldn’t find the mouse. Where was the doctor? Hadn’t it already been three hours? I asked my mom for the time, it had only been thirty minutes. Well if they were going to waste my time, I mind as well take a nap and of course, like always, the second I laid down, there was a knock on the door. Oh great, it was the old, grumpy, blond haired lady that always told me I was overreacting. She stood there with a scowl on her face, and asked what was wrong. I merely starred at her until my mom starting to explain all of my symptoms, and at the end of her long rant, she expressed her concern that it was mono. Immediately the old goon reached to examine my throat, she said it could be mono, but she looked skeptical. After a few minutes of checking all of my vitals, she left the room without a word. Confused, I began to hop off the examination table and grab my things. Then, the doctor casually re-entered the room, this time he was with my regular pediatrician, Dr. Nealy. He reached into his white lab coat and pulled out some sort of finger-pricker. Soothingly he asked me to hold out my finger, and told me nothing was wrong, they just wanted to double check to make sure. I may have bought that when I was four, but I knew better than to believe there was nothing wrong with me. He quietly pricked my finger, and then drew the blood into a small contraption. It beeped and displayed the number 347. As he placed the contraption down, he looked at me with a hard face full of concern. “I’m sorry to tell you, but you have diabetes.” He proceeded to turn towards my mother and explain how I should be taken the emergency room right away, and which hospital to go to, but I didn’t hear any of that. Every ounce of energy I had left me. My body curled up on top of the plastic cover, and for the first time I allowed myself to sob in front of other people. My tears blinded me and I felt an array of arms wrap around me, and hushed voices saying everything will be all right.
July 24th, 2011 marked my fourth year of being a type 1 diabetic. Looking back, I realized I wouldn’t be who I am without this disease. A year after getting diagnosed, I ran into several complications. Diabetes had taken my independence from me. My mother didn’t trust me alone in the house because of a possible low blood sugar. I was no longer allowed to simply pop a cookie into my mouth or chug a class of chocolate milk when I pleased. Everything had to be planned out in order to work with my insulin dosages. Long trips meant over-packing extra supplies in case of the tiniest emergency. A backpack full of syringes, a collection of insulin bottles, extra diabetic pumps, and glucose guns was necessary to satisfy my mom. Oddly enough, it even made my blood boil to think that if I were to be kidnapped, I would die with a few days due to the lack of insulin. I couldn’t control this, none of it. I would not allow my independence to be taken away by some disease. I wanted to prove that I didn’t need medication, that I was going to be fine without it. For awhile it worked, shots of insulin had consistently become less and less of a daily occurrence, and I have to admit, there were points were I thought I was cured. Reality caught up with me when I was forced to the hospital my sophmore year of high school. Four hours in the emergency room without properly seeing, breathing like I just ran a marathon, and having forty seven IV attempts on my body was enough to bring me around, but a week out of school was not the only thing I sacrificed. I had been doing extremely poorly in school due to being so exhausted. My health was failing, and I was not in any good physical condition. I had to give up the one thing I really loved, my volleyball team. Forever living in the shadow of my excellent, varisty athlete brother, I was enthralled by the chance to shine on my own in my own sport. Walking away from that team, that family, was the final straw for me.
Since then, there is no joking around when it comes to taking insulin. It took a long trip down the rabbit hole to realize, I am not diabetes, and diabetes is not me. I took control of what I could and let the rest happen. I worked extremely hard in school, and started hitting the gym everyday. By my senior year I graduated with a ninty five average. Although I never managed to get back onto the volleyball team, I was able to play recreationaly and be their manager for an amazing two years. My family was back, they constantly tell me how inspired they by me. That I wasn’t willing to give up and came back, most said they wouldn’t be able to do that. Diabetes had broken me down, and threw me into rock bottom, but it had gave me motivation to fight and get back up. There was passion and drive running through my viens in order to be better than this. Ironically enough, I don’t think I would have ever realized my true potential and strength without being diagnosed in the first place.