Growing up, you can say I was a “perfect” child. Energetic, loving, always doing my homework. I was always attached to Papi at the hip. I was winning academic awards left and right at school – I blame my parents for putting me in pre-school at the age of 3. Everything seemed to be going great; nothing could ever change.
September 2000: The month of my 6th birthday. Any kid would be excited to open presents and down sugar-filled cake. I, on the other hand, had spent weeks being someone else. I did not want to get out of bed, I did not want to do homework, I did not want to go outside, and I just did not want to smile. I was constantly tired, and that was just unusual for me. One night, my parents knew enough was enough and decided to rush me to Jamaica Hospital in Queens. As I rode in the backseat of my father’s white Pathfinder, I began to profusely throw up and proceeded to faint. Next thing I knew, I woke up to the view of bright lights in front of the hospital and fainted yet again.
A couple of hours later, I woke up on my 6th birthday, with an IV placed in my arm and my family surrounding me, to the voice of a doctor saying, “Hi, Yvonne. You may be a little confused and tired, but don’t worry. You are in Jamaica Hospital. You were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, but we are going to show you every single thing you need to know.” The few times I had heard the word “diabetes,” it either related to my grandfather, who is a type 2 diabetic, or elementary school classmates saying a grandparent passed away due to diabetes. As the doctor began to give a quick rundown on how my life would change, I did not comprehend much other than the fact I would have to live with this for the rest of my life.
Other children my age may have reacted negatively after hearing they had been diagnosed; however, I quickly thought about getting double the presents, specifically pertaining to my new Sailor Moon obsession, because everyone would feel bad that this all happened on my birthday – definitely a cynical way for a 6-year-old to turn things around. I smiled at the idea that I could now use my diabetes as an excuse to get my favorite sweets or more orange juice whenever I had a low blood sugar. I beamed at the idea that I was given these disease because whatever higher power up there knew I was capable of handling it and succeeding.
A month after being admitted into the hospital, I was able to finally head home; however, I will always remember the face my mother had on as we left the hospital, an expression of worry as we began to face the unknown. She worried about how we would be able to pay for the extra medical supplies I needed, how I would be able to do well in school while staying on top of my health, and how I would be able to live life as a “normal” child. However, a few months later, as we boarded a plane to Disney for the first time ever, my parents knew that if we could tackle walking around for hours on end with a diabetic child who had to stay on top of her blood sugar, a very pregnant mother with very swollen feet, and a father who worried about everything, we would be able to handle anything.
Now, having turned 24 in September and officially being a diabetic for 18 years, although it has gotten easier and harder at the same time, I am glad to serve as an example of what is “normal” for us. My life with diabetes is a new “normal.” I wake up every day knowing that checking my blood sugar regularly and giving myself insulin in just another part of my routine (with the help of the advancement of technology since I now have an insulin pump and a sensor – no more finger pricking!) – that is the easier part. The harder part? Since the sensor is handled through a mobile app, my boyfriend and parents are constantly connected, and they receive alerts whenever my blood sugar is too high or too low (the record: my boyfriend receiving 73 alerts throughout the night – but he slept through them all). I wake up everyday knowing when I decide to have children, it will be considered a “high risk” pregnancy, but if the doctors want to give me more attention, it is fine with my ego.
At the end of the day, I wake up everyday knowing I can still do it all without worrying. Being a type 1 diabetic has not stopped me in 18 years, and it will not stop me now.