All About Erin: Diabetes? Not Me!

All About Erin: Diabetes? Not Me!

by Erin

Hi! My name is Erin. I am currently a fifteen year old sophomore in high school. I have dealt with Diabetes for nearly four years and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for nearly a year now also. Writing is my passion and I am happy to hold writing positions at both FVKASA.org and DisabilityCentral.com's ActivTeen Ezine. Besides writing, I also love volunteering at my church, hanging out with my friends, reading my Bible, listening to music, and creating web pages. I hope to major in Journalism and minor in Sociology in college and eventually freelance for a living eventually.

I can remember the day almost perfectly. After eating a chocolate-frosted doughnut for breakfast as bright morning sunlight danced on the table on the morning of September 16th, 1998, I had trudged to my room to get dressed. It was one of the first days off of school in my junior high career and luck would have it that I would have an eye appointment that day also. Squinting as I walked out the door, I jumped into the car and prepared myself for the short drive to my "eye doctor". It was just another day of feeling dumpy, sick, and down (or so I thought).

Truth be told, I had been more than a little "off" for more than a few months. After getting new glasses just the month before to correct my eyesight to near perfect, I was again in need of a stronger prescription. For months I had been wavering between stuffing my face and loosing my appetite, all while maintaining a weight of about sixty-some pounds at age twelve. My school days were a blur of passing periods and heavy gulping at the water fountains, only to come home in the afternoon to glass after glass of pop, water, and milk. My emotions were heaving from the adjustment to junior high and I often joked with my mom about my new "best-friend", the water fountain. My grandparents lived in a house right behind our family at the time. Both, having Type-Two Diabetes, had always nagged on me about eating my infamous "sugar and strawberries". "Eat too much of that and you'll be Diabetic before you know it!" my grandma would always scold me. Disregarding the comment, my parents were concerned about my weight and new-found love for all things liquid. Diabetes had crossed my mom's mind several times after realizing I couldn't read the menus at Subway from a short distance away. Both of my parents had fought to test my blood sugar with my grandparent's meter several mornings in a row, only to loose the battle to a kicking, screaming me. I didn't have Diabetes. I couldn't. I didn't even really know what the disease entailed . . . but whatever it was, I wasn't old and I certainly wasn't overweight. Besides, needles weren't my style.

The day would turn out to prove me wrong. That evening I sat disheveled, dizzy, and confused on the couch. The whole day had been an unreal nightmare, and I was pretty sure if I pinched myself hard enough I'd wake up as I had from the nightmares that had been haunting me for awhile. After taking a look at the drastic change in my eyesight, my Ophthalmologist had suggested that I arrange for a test for Diabetes that day. He offered his own aged, metal glucose monitor for me to test my sugar with. I decided to pass. Frankly, I was upset at the man. His dry sense of humor always annoyed me and here he was shipping me off for a doctor to poke and prod at me. Coming home, I had sat on the couch and bawled while my mom made an arrangement for some tests at the doctor. I just didn't feel right and I was purely sick of it. About fifteen minutes later, I was in the car for yet another drive to my doctor's office. The tests were a blur. I know I ended up giving a urine sample and I'm pretty sure they drew some blood for tests. My regular doctor was out of town, but several minutes later another doctor on call came in and delivered the news. I had Diabetes. At the sound of the word tears began to stream from my face and everyone seemed to be in a rush. "Stop crying. This isn't a disease for wimps . . ." the doctor stated. She informed my mom to take me out for lunch and to report to the University of Nebraska Medical Center's Pediatric Endocrinology unit at five in the evening.

My parents had dealt with my grandparent's diabetes for several years by this time. Type Two Diabetes, which my grandparents had, is in many cases a lot more passive. In short, my parents and I really had no clue what we were dealing with. Off my mom, sister, and I drove to a pizza restaurant where I ordered (get this) a large Sprite (not the diet kind, mind you) and a piece of broccoli pizza. I barely nibbled on the pizza but I drank several refills of the Sprite. Later in the evening my mom, dad, and I ended up at the clinic on time only to be hounded by questions and instructions. It took several doctors and nurses to hold me down as the endocrinologist inspected me and gave me my first shot of insulin. My blood sugar when I arrive at the clinic? An astonishing 600 that more than warranted a diagnosis of Type One (often called Juvenile) Diabetes. After being instructed to eat dinner fairly quickly and report back the next morning, my dad and I visited Fazoli's and devoured spaghetti plates before heading home. Or, should I say, I devoured my plate, half of his, and countless breadsticks. My appetite was finally back and I was feeling as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Feeling more normal than I had in months, "I'll never get Type Two Diabetes now!" I exclaimed. My energy had been restored. By the end of the night, however, my whole family was home reeling at the news while I sunk into my dizzying first low blood sugar. Life was a seemingly uncontrollable roller coaster.

It's been almost four years living with diabetes now. Since then I've acquired Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, probably due to a bout of Mono mixed with my suppressed immune system from Diabetes. Four years ago I could have never picture being where I am now. I simply couldn't see past my disability as I attempted to hurdle obstacles that I'd never been confronted with before.

My challenges haven't all been strictly health related, however. Besides battling the strange but frequent "Why are you pricking yourself?" and "Are your toes going to fall off?", I have surprisingly had more trouble with adults than with people my age. Although school is currently going quasi-smoothly, I have had problems in both my junior high and high schools regarding absences due to illness, awareness, and the ability to test my blood sugar in the class room.

According to our school district's policy, blood sugar testing is only allowed in the nurses office (although I was allowed to test in class in eighth grade, an issue the junior high now denies). I have had extremely negligent teachers make rude comments, question my need to test my blood sugar, and even threaten to send me to the principal's office due to it. Through all this I've had both the junior high and high school call meetings regarding these issues. I have had to "do my research" as they say in defending myself with my rights under the ADA and the law. This information has helped me in both personal confrontations and the meetings the schools have called.

My battles with disabilities have been numerous, but I'm happy to say the situation is getting better every day. I will be a junior in high school in the Fall and will be involved in backstage drama and honors academic decathlon. I currently enjoy writing for both FVKASA.org and DisabilityCentral.com's ActivTeen Ezine. It's wonderful to finally be in a position where I have some knowledge to share about disabilities. I hope to major in Journalism and minor in Sociology in college.

Life is a journey, and if I could somehow turn back the hands of time and erase my disabilities, I wouldn't. Along with the heartache and trouble have come a lot of good experiences, relationships, and situations. In the end, I believe dealing with Diabetes actually makes life a little sweeter. I've finally found the silver lining in the cloud that loomed over my head for such a long time. I hope to help others find their silver lining also.

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