I was always a chunky kid, so when people started asking me if I’d lost weight I felt pretty flattered. Maybe I was growing into a tall, beautiful, skinny young woman! My dance teacher was the first to notice my weight loss, since she usually saw me in skin-tight leotards and had an idea of how my body looked, since it was her job to help me train it.
“You must just be getting taller and thinning out.” I noticed a hint of pride in her voice. The first few pounds probably made her hopeful that the short, chubby girl would one day have a dancer’s body. But, it wasn’t just 10 pounds. It wasn’t just twenty pounds. I was getting thinner, and thinner, and thinner.
Other people were starting to notice too. One of my mom’s fellow soccer moms asked her if I was anorexic one day after watching me play in my now-over sized jersey and looking fatigued the entire time. Anorexic, at 11? My coach had even moved me from mid-field, where I had been quick and an asset to the team, to defender, where I could spend half the game standing still and simply kick the ball off to a midfielder. Even he had noticed my fatigue.
What I noticed was the thirst. My family had just gotten a water cooler, the kind with the big jug on top that reminds you of office-based comedy TV shows. My mom thought I was drinking so much water because I thought the cooler was neat. I was enjoying trips to the water fountain during the school day way too much. I thought that water was the best tasting thing in the world.
My fifth grade teacher noticed how often I was asking to go to the bathroom. I was going between five and six times a day. She told my mom, “either she is really bored in class or something is wrong with her. You might get her tested for a bladder infection or diabetes.”
She was right, but we didn’t find out until the following school year.
The primary care physician my mom took me to didn’t want to test me for type 1 diabetes, despite the list of symptoms my mom gave him and my weight (I was 5’2 and weighed about 80 lbs). I was more concerned about the headaches I was having. “I think I need allergy medicine,” I told him. My mom was vigilant. She said, “Please give her a blood test for diabetes.” The doctor followed her request and that was the first day I visited the “vampires” – aka the lab, with the long needles and the tubes filled with blood. I don’t think I was that scared by it because I don’t remember being upset.
The last thing I remember before going to the hospital the next day was eating a special sucker I had won in class as I walked home from school and thinking, “This may be the last sugar you ever eat.”
Me at 13, proud PWD and member of the Drexel High School Dance Team
My dad was the one in denial. He took me over to a family friend’s house. This friend had type 2 diabetes. He pricked my finger and tested my blood glucose levels. The numbers showed 400+. “Yeah, that’s too high.” Little did I know how too high it was.
By the time we arrived at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, my sugar had fallen to around 300. I don’t remember much about getting to the hospital. I barely remember being taught how to give myself a shot and given a list of menu items to pick for my dinner. I remember asking my dad to bring me a blanket from home when he went back that evening (mom stayed with me). I remember exploring the toy room and reading Baby Sitters Club books. I remembered enjoying the hospital and making friends with other children on my hall. There were at least 2 others who had just been diagnosed with diabetes. One was an 18 month old toddler. I remember his screams as the pricked his finger.
I learned to count carbs and take shots. I took injections of insulin at least twice a day for the next 11 years. On my 11th anniversary of being diagnosed with diabetes, I started using an insulin pump. Shortly thereafter I began using a continuous glucose monitor.
Thank you for reading my diagnosis story. I hope that you have found some similarities between my story and your story or your child’s story.