Type 1 Diabetes: My Story (Part 1)

Doctor Measuring Blood Sugar Level Of GirlMy life was forever changed at the early age of four, when I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes.

About a week before my diagnosis, I was experiencing symptoms such as extreme thirst followed by frequent urination, rapid weight loss, stomach aches and flu like symptoms. I was very lethargic and moody which was not like my four year old self, thus my parents knew that something just wasn’t right.

At first, the doctors weren’t sure yet as to what was going on. Although it was clear that I was becoming progressively sicker, my parents had no other option but to wait anxiously over the next few days to see what the blood work determined.

On November 27, 2000, the test results came back positive for Type I Diabetes, meaning that my pancreas rejects the cells in the organ that make insulin to regulate blood sugar and food intake. Because of this new health condition, my life was about to drastically change.

My parents rushed me to Boston Children’s Hospital, and on the way I said, “Dad, will I have to get a shot?” I was simply a little girl unaware of the fact that my life would soon involve hourly blood sugar checks and more needles than I could possibly imagine. Although I vaguely remember the early stages of my diagnosis (because I was very young), I do remember the constant routine that my parents taught me to ensure that I stayed healthy. First, it was completely normal for me to be woken up first thing in the morning by my mother with a finger prick, followed by an insulin shot. Additionally, as long as I can remember, at least from kindergarten to my senior year of high school, I had to stop by the nurse’s office before lunch to draw up my insulin and take my shot.

Fast forward to 2016….I’ve met many people who are very open about their diabetes, but for the longest time I kept it to myself, my family, and only a few close friends. When I was in elementary school I didn’t want to be the “different” one, because at the time I was the only person in my class with a chronic illness. At that time in my life I constantly felt anxious about other students possibly finding out that I had diabetes. This is a common feeling, not wanting to be deemed weak or different. Thankfully I’ve learned to be strong and confident! When I was in middle school, I went to a summer camp for diabetic girls that completely changed my outlook on my disease. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like an outsider or someone who was different. Finally, I was surrounded by girls who knew the struggles of dealing with diabetes. At that point, I realized that I was not alone. My confidence radiated from then on and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

Diabetes followed me, and will continue to, throughout life.  I share my story to empower those who are diagnosed with diabetes and their families as this illness affects the whole family, not just one person. Getting used to a new lifestyle can be really scary but I promise that you will learn to control diabetes so it doesn’t control you. Having a chronic disease can never be perfect. You will have challenges, but it is possible to manage this disease. Believe me, I know. I’ve had diabetes for 15 years.

– Jillian