Lauren's Essay - My Life Changing Event

Lauren is a freshman at St. Edwards University.

   English writing 1301 Lauren Massey 2-2-05   
My Life Changing Event
Lauren's picture When asked what event changed my life the most, the answer came to me faster than the solution to 2+2. My life defining moment happened on March 11, 1997, when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. In all the years I have had this disease, I have found it to be both a blessing and a curse. It has contributed to my positive outlook on life but it has also caused me physical and emotional hardships. While I wish I did not have to live with the daily grind of diabetes, it has made me a more responsible, mature and empathetic person.

The best way to describe the circumstances surrounding my diagnosis was that it was basically routine. I was very sick, worn out and nervous when I walked into John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, Texas. I was a frail and pale 11 year old girl weighing 78 pounds and standing at a mere 5'2". My blood sugar was off the charts; they quickly hooked me up to an IV and diagnosed me with Type 1 diabetes. Being a young girl, not knowing what diabetes was nor having the capability to cope with its diagnosis, my first response was "cool." Fortunately, my condition was caught early unlike the young boy who came to the hospital in a coma and remained in intensive care for several days. He nearly died before he recovered sufficiently to join me in the training classes. In class, we learned how to stick our fingers so we could draw blood to measure our blood glucose, to count carbohydrates and to draw insulin to inject ourselves. We also learned about diabetic seizures from low blood sugar, DKA or comas from high blood sugar, and the long term complications of diabetes such as blindness, kidney damage and amputation of limbs. My initial reaction of "cool" quickly melted into lukewarm emotions of "why me?" But one of the best life lessons diabetes has taught me is to accept things as they are. To dwell on things that cannot be changed will drive one crazy, so I decided to change to meet the needs of my disease. I walked in the hospital a sick child and I walked out of the hospital an insightful young adult.

Initially, I did not have the ability to handle the personal situations that I was going to have to face on a daily basis. The social pressure brought on by feeling different was difficult for me. When returning to elementary school, I had a paranoid fear that other kids would find out about my disease and quickly dismiss me as their friend. I feared rejection, so I took every precaution possible to keep my disability masked. I told only my two best friends. I was fortunate to get an insulin pump in middle school, but still did not have the maturity needed to deal with the social pressures of the disease. I hid my pump in my sock because it strongly resembles a pager. I was terrified that if I wore my pump in my pocket, a teacher would stop me in the hall and chastise me for having a pager when it was only my pump. I constantly worried that its alarms would sound and embarrass me in front of my classmates. After ninth grade, I realized the how petty I was and decided that hiding my pump was foolish and superficial. It was like hiding who I was in my sock. Now I wear my pump in plain view in my pocket. To this day, people ask me if I have a pager. I now realize it is better to be open and it is not a big deal to let people know about my pump and the condition I have. I have discovered that most are very interested and compassionate about my diabetes and I have learned that those who are not accepting of my disease are not worthy of a friendship.

When I left the hospital at such a young age, I realized I was going to have to grow up and deal with the realities of my disease. Living with diabetes has forced a level of maturity in order to survive my condition, which has been particularly hard for me since growing up and accepting responsibility was the last thing on my to-do list. When I was first diagnosed, I had to take shots four to eight times a day and eat the same thing at the same time. The rigid structure of my life required intense commitment and motivation to keep my blood sugars in control. The regimen is almost too much for an adult to handle much less a free spirited adolescent like myself. Due to medical advances, today I am fortunate to have an insulin pump which allows me to live a basically normal life. An insulin pump is a machine about the size of a pager, which automatically injects me with insulin by just pressing a button. For the most part, I can eat whenever and whatever I want just as everyone else does. So life has gotten better over the years.

Yet, diabetes is an erratic disease and being only human, I do get frustrated with the neverending challenges of my condition. However, as a result of dealing with my problems and differences, I have developed empathy for others and their challenges. Diabetes has changed my whole outlook on life. I accept all people for who they are because I would want the same for me. After all, life can be difficult. Having diabetes has made me aware of the immutable fact; none of us are perfect. Growing up paranoid and self-conscious about my disease has given me a gift of understanding and non-prejudice. I try to never be one to judge another. I strive to be empathic which the whole world needs more of.

Finally, I have learned to cope with what life has given me. When one is diagnosed with diabetes, they are given a choice, to accept their condition or not. People who die from diabetes choose to live in denial about the disease. I have chosen to take control of my life and accept it. Diabetes has taught me that when life gives you lemons you have to make lemonade. During challenging moments, I just tell myself it could be so much worse. That is the mentality I live with as a result of diabetes. I make a conscious effort to avoid pity-parties and to avoid hiding behind my diabetes when I fall short. I have learned to take care of myself and manage my condition. As a result of this disease, I am more responsible, mature and empathetic. I wish it had never happened, but it has been life changing for the better.

If you have a child with diabetes and would like to talk to other parents about the Insulin Pump, please contact or visit the Insulin-Pumpers website.