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Why Type 1 Diabetes Taught Me to Appreciate a Slower Pace of Life

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Type 1 diabetes.

The nightmare I never thought I’d have to live.

Things happen in life all the time that we don’t expect. However, this was something I never would’ve guessed.

October 31, 2015.

I never thought I’d step foot into an endocrinologist’s office. Heck, I didn’t completely understand what endocrinology even was. Low and behold, I figured it out pretty quick.

The whole day was a bit of a blur, but I remember crying (a lot), looking at my mom with fear in my eyes (a lot), feeling confused (really confused), and wanting to run out of those doors (as fast as I possibly could).

The words, “You have type 1 diabetes,” came out of the doctor’s mouth and I felt like I was going to puke. I didn’t know what to say or do. I didn’t know if I should cry or laugh (I ended up crying). I didn’t know who to tell. I didn’t know how to tell who I was going to tell. I felt overwhelmed and unprepared. I felt vulnerable and scared.

We left Children’s Endocrinology with a binder and a box in hand. The binder had tips and tricks on how to deal with type 1. The box contained my meter and lancet device (the poker you prick your finger with). I didn’t want to have anything to do with either. But I knew I needed to accept my situation as soon as possible.

three friends dressed up as a nerd, a doctor and a tourist to go trick-or-treating on halloween
Elise (center) and her friends trick-or-treating for UNICEF

It was Halloween weekend. I decided I wasn’t going to let this ruin my weekend. I had planned to go chaperone a middle school event for my church, I had agreed to go trick-or-treating for UNICEF with my friends and I was going to hand out candy with another friend. I was determined to deal with this extra piece of equipment so I could live my life.

I had a fun weekend, despite the unfortunate news I had heard just 24 hours before.

My friends were unbelievably supportive. I told my boyfriend at the time right away via text. He was an angel and didn’t make me feel like an alien. I told my four closest friends and they all wanted to know more and were there for me through it all. I am incredibly blessed to have the people in my life that I do. It’s these people who make me feel loved and normal (well, as “normal” as one can be). It’s these people who love me no matter what machine I’m hooked up to or how many needles I make them see. It’s these people who respect me and care for me.

It was my senior year of high school. I was 17 and already dealing with not feeling well. I was supposed to be careless and free. But no. I was on the fast track to being tied to a piece of technology, surrounded by needles, and smelling like a hospital wherever I went. I felt even worse, I was nowhere near being careless and I definitely was not free.

Or so I thought.

I quickly figured out how to balance life with type 1 and living my life the way I wanted. My family and friends continue to support me and cheer me on when I feel like giving up. I learned the steps of managing type 1, both physically and mentally. I know I have to take care of my body in a way that’s different from most others, despite other obstacles in my life. I got frustrated only a couple of times in the first month, and I threw my meter across the room only once in the first week. The routine of checking my blood sugar and administering insulin has become part of my daily life, and I am proud of myself for the way I’ve been handling diabetes in the last year.

Type 1 diabetes was and still is a bit of a roller coaster for me. It’s been one year since I was diagnosed. I am used to the pokes and pricks. I am not embarrassed by the needles and meters. This is my life, and I will deal with it.

I had to tell myself it was OK to be mad and upset about my situation. I had to learn to be OK with the sting of Lantus insulin (the long-acting kind), and I had to adapt to the two extra minutes it takes to count carbs, check my blood and administer insulin.

I was determined to embrace this. I wasn’t going to let it stop my life. I was going to continue to put one foot in front of the other, even if the steps were a little bit messy.

Type 1 is an autoimmune disease. This means that T1D is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells. Type 1 is not my fault, nor was it anyone else’s.

Type 1 diabetes has taught me to be patient, have humility and be flexible. Checking my blood sugar in the middle of American Eagle isn’t always convenient, but if it saves me from fainting, then I will do it. Administering insulin in the midst of 400 high school students at a hockey game isn’t always easy, but if I want that lemonade, then I will do it.

Going through this past year with a meter and needles in hand has taught me to appreciate the pace of life. We move through life so fast. We rush and we don’t see. With T1D, I have to take a couple extra minutes before I eat to check my blood sugar and give myself insulin based on the number of carbohydrates I eat; there is no way I can rush through this process. I can’t skip a step just to get to the dinner table faster. I have to take the necessary steps to keep my body functioning. I have learned to slow down, to stop and rest in the present. I have grown accustomed to pacing myself through my day so I can see all I want to see, so I can embrace each moment life presents.

Having T1D for the last year has taught me many valuable lessons, both in medical terms and general life terms. I am OK with having type 1 diabetes, I do not let it define who I am and I do not let it stop me from living my life.

My life is different, not difficult. I have my obstacles, but they are not walls. I will move forward as slow or as fast as I choose. My health is important, and I’m grateful for the care I am able to receive. My well-being is a priority, and I’m thankful for the support I have.

I choose to smile through every drop of blood I shed.

Originally published: November 2, 2016
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