My father was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 15, and my brother Michael was diagnosed at the age of 6, so when I was diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 10, I received a tremendous amount of support and understanding from my family. But even with all the experience I’d had with diabetes, the news was scary and really overwhelming.
But with help from my family and the training I received during my stay at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I was out of the hospital within a few days and transitioned to an insulin pump in about two weeks. At the time, I didn’t realize how much diabetes would change my outlook on the world or what a big part it would play in my everyday living, but I learned quickly.
In the beginning, it felt strange to add extra steps to my daily routines, and at times it was really an inconvenience. I just wanted to be a normal healthy kid. Over the next five years, I adapted to my new “normal.” I was still able to make friends, learn, and enjoy fun activities like other kids my age; I just had a lot more responsibilities to remember each day. Through it all, my family and the staff at Children’s Hospital were always there to help me manage my illness.
Mental impact of life with diabetes
Now that I am a teenager in high school, I have learned that diabetes, at times, can be troubling psychologically as well. Everyone has different struggles and problems that bounce around in their heads. As adolescents we are trying to understand who we are as human beings; figure out who we are as individuals; and then determine our place in the world. It’s hard being a teenager, but add in a chronic illness to manage and you quickly learn that maneuvering through your teenage years can be a real struggle.
The daily maintenance of diabetes is a huge responsibility. From the repetitiveness of acting for your pancreas, taking your blood sugar multiple times each day, making smart food choices, and compensating for physical activity, stress, and changing hormones — it can get overwhelming sometimes.
Having juvenile diabetes forces you to grow up and deal with life and death decisions many times before you are fully mature. I would often wonder, “Why do I have to have this disease?” Add in the stress from school, and balancing activities plus a social life, and it’s easy to get off track. Honestly, there were times when my blood sugar numbers weren’t great, and then I would start to feel like my A1C was a gauge for my self-worth.
Finding help at Children’s Hospital
These thoughts upset me especially when I allowed myself to believe that this was something I had to suffer with alone. Then my parents and the staff at Children’s Hospital helped me get back on track. Realizing I was struggling, my parents reached out to the doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and therapists at CHOP and together they helped me come up with a strategy that fit my lifestyle.
“It took a while for me to accept their help, but once i realized that everyone was there to help me and not judge me, i was back on track.”
With the strategies we came up with, with help from the CHOP team, I learned to take control of my illness. Now I don’t let blood sugar numbers control me or define me because I have learned to control my illness. The power is in my hands!
Currently, I am a sophomore at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia where I am happy and successful. I am part of the music program and active in various other clubs. I also sing in two acapella groups, one in school and one in Center City, and for the past five years I have been a member of the Upper Darby Summer Stage Program.
Armed with the support of my family, friends, and the staff at CHOP, I am free to be who I am, and achieve anything I set my sights on, while staying healthy too!