Taking a "Shot" at Growing Up
Olivia and I sat in our school library at recess, a syringe in my hand, a lunchbox in hers. While this may have been a funny sight to most outsiders, this was our reality. Within six months of each other, Olivia and I were both diagnosed with Juvenile Type I Diabetes (T1D). At age nine, I self-administered insulin shots six times a day, while seven-year-old Olivia relied on her mother to carry out such duties. However, that particular day, Olivia’s mom was stuck in traffic, delaying her lunchtime routine. So as her fellow diabetic, Olivia trusted me to administer her shot.
Over time, the insulin pump tubes and finger-sticking needles that accompany this disease have become mundane, and I think very little about my illness and how it sets me apart. However, in reflection, I see my disability as a foundation for super-abilities. By age ten, I knew the number of carbohydrates in any food. By age twelve, I understood a simple version of the endocrine system. Additionally, I have spent years explaining that my illness is not due to poor diet, but instead is an autoimmune disorder with no known cause. Consequently, I have learned exceptional patience and tolerance. Once at a birthday party, instead of cake, a parent served me strawberries and her weight-loss story, despite the fact that, at the time, I was five feet tall and weighed one hundred pounds.
It will forever amuse me that, even after eight years as a diabetic, many non-diabetics believe they know more about my disease than I do. Even though I am not banned from certain foods, as some believe, managing T1D does require a lot of maintenance; I spend a large amount of my time navigating needles, site insets, fluctuating blood glucose levels, and tri-monthly check-ups at the hospital. While most people live with a working pancreas, I have become the master of my own organ. I choose to take care of my body every day because if simply cannot take care of itself.
Living with T1D is exhausting; however, had a cure existed, I would not have acquired certain attributes that have shaped me as a person, such as my enduring self-discipline. While time-consuming, the constant task of micro-managing has made me a highly productive and goal-oriented person. My freshman year, I dragged myself out of bed at four in the morning and caught a public bus that took me to a ferry. There, I slept until I reached the sleepless city of Seattle and walked to another bus with my other commuting friends. As I hopped off the public transit and walked to school, the nurses, construction workers, and business men wished me a good day. I commuted six hours every day because I wanted to go to a school that would challenge me. I have always pushed myself to my full potential, even when it meant taking on adult responsibilities. By maintaining good health and tackling tasks at hand, I have built habits that allow me to do other work well, whether that is in school, in film, at home, or in service. Without this disease, I would not know my own personal strength, resilience, and perseverance, which impact my perspective on and approach to life.
I appreciate the person I have become through my T1D. Working directly with my health has forced me to take on adult challenges and foster constant grit as I grow as an individual. Living with this disease is time-consuming, draining, expensive, and often dangerous. However, with these disadvantages comes great reward. I am resilient, tenacious, patient, tolerant, and aware; I know when to ask for help and when to act independently, and most importantly, I’ve learned that obstacles are opportunities to become a better student, friend, citizen, and storyteller for tomorrow.