Excessive thirst, constant bathroom breaks, and extreme fatigue. These are all things that most eleven year olds do not experience. However, this was becoming my every day. Was it because it was the summer and it was just warm out? Or the fact that I tried to stay active and involved in sports? This is, of course, what we had hoped for as an explanation, but the reality was far more shocking than anyone would’ve thought.
I grew up an average kid. Loved to play outside, ate relatively well, my parents involved me in soccer and basketball. So, when my diagnosis of Type One Diabetes was discovered, it came as a surprise to everyone. There was no history of it in the family, out of five siblings I was the only one to develop this, and to this day, we still do not know where it may have come from or what may have caused it. One thing is certain though, my life would never be the same. At eleven years old, I was learning in a matter of four days how to count carbs, administer insulin to myself via injections, how to treat low and high blood sugars and maintain healthy levels, and essentially keep myself alive.
Entering into middle school was already going to be a tough adjustment for me. I was by no means considered a popular kid or had a lot of friends, and now, I had this illness that set me apart from others even more. I knew of no one else at the time that also had Diabetes, and the already isolating experience of being a heavier set, tomboyish teenager was enough to deal with on its own. However, I had dreams and I had goals, and I knew that I had to keep living as normally as I possibly could. So, I made an effort to stay in the band, join the drama club, and maintain a social life to the best of my ability. Was it always easy? Absolutely not. I had many days where my friends had no intention of waiting around with me while I had to stop and treat a low blood sugar or take an insulin dose. It was a burden to them, and believe me, it was an even bigger burden to me. All I wanted to do was run around with everyone else, not have to leave lunch early to check my blood sugar or take my insulin because this wasn’t allowed to be done in the classroom or lunch room, eat the same foods my friend’s were, and not have to measure things out everywhere I went or worry about how a certain activity would affect my blood sugar, scared of what may happen if I went anywhere without one of my parents.
There were so many hidden things day in and day out that others did not see. The exhaustion of never being able to truly have a break or take a vacation. Everywhere I went, Diabetes followed. It controlled me for so many years of my life, deciding what I did, and when I did it, and eventually, I just decided I was going to ignore it. If I pretended it wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have to worry about it right? I finally was just going with the flow, not caring about what I ate, when I ate it, whether I took my insulin or not, and not worrying about the consequences of it. I had no idea that I was burned out, and my doctors never took the time to address it. I was just a number to them who would come in for a visit every three months. A1C was checked, my meter was downloaded, I was ridiculed for my numbers, but no one ever bothered to ask me how I was, why I had neglected my illness the way I did, and I felt alone. I lost more and more weight, until I was down to skin and bones, looking the most unhealthy I ever had, and feeling that way too, but not bothering to tell anyone in fear of being a burden to them.
I managed to make it through high school, graduating in 2018 with four years of Band, Marching Band, and theatre under my belt, but I know that I had not succeeded to my fullest potential through these years. I often wonder now, how much better could I have done, could I have been, had I addressed my mental and physical health the proper way. Would I have had the confidence to actually go away to college and not be fearful of a world living on my own? Eventually, I grew tired of something new. I grew tired of the constant reading of high on my meter, the continuous feeling of fatigue and no excitement for life anymore, and I decided that if I didn’t make a change now, I never would. So, I sat down with my mom, and we researched day in and day out for a local Endocrinologist, one that was close enough that I no longer had an excuse to miss appointments. We found Dr. Corcoran, an endocrinologist with Shore Physicians group, fifteen minutes away from where I was living, with a reputation that fit exactly what I was working for.
And so the day came for me to meet this new doctor. I was nervous, nauseous, and thought over and over again about just skipping this appointment too. But I knew that if I wanted to start working toward a change, I had to do this, regardless of what my blood work would look like, or what my blood sugar chart would show. So, I sucked it up, took a deep breath, and off I went. What a turning point this was. Dr. Corcoran was everything I needed as a provider and more. Never belittling me for my numbers or my care of myself, but rather delving beyond my just using an excuse of laziness, and making me understand that Diabetes is not an easy illness to deal with, and it isn’t something that I can face alone and expect to deal with well. I had a better understanding that every day is different, and that it’s okay not to be okay some days. From there, I found a new purpose and drive in life, and a goal to show others the reality of Diabetes.
Since then, I passed the NREMT and became a nationally certified EMT, now studying to become a Paramedic. I compete in the Miss New Jersey and Miss America Organizations, winning two crowns and competing on the Miss New Jersey stage. Through this, I have had so many opportunities to share my story, educate others on the unseen parts of Diabetes, inspire others to not let their illnesses stop them, and above all, achieve more in life than I ever could’ve imagined. I always tell people that I would never wish this illness upon anyone else, but I would not change my diagnoses. Every day I surprise myself more and more with what I am truly capable of, and I truly do not believe that I would be where I am today if not for my diagnoses. At the end of the day, we may have Diabetes, but Diabetes will never have us, and I am so grateful to be able to spread this message day in and day out across so many platforms.