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Dear Diabetes MAG
I know my A1C isn't perfect, but honestly, I don't think it ever will be. I refuse to never eat candy, cake, or cookies again for your sake. You see, I am a teenager, and it's asking too much to make me live on lettuce and cheese. I am not going to eat so self-consciously that I have a heart attack whenever I see birthday cake.
Why was I the fortunate girl to acquire you, anyway? I mean, I was already blessed with red hair, ADD, and being a lefty. I guess you saw me and thought, What she needs is another issue!
So you came into my body and told my pancreas, “You're on vacation from now on. You don't have to make insulin anymore.” So I was hungry and thirsty and tired. And I had to pee all the time.
I was still eating like a normal teen, and the carbohydrates and glucose all went into my bloodstream. They swam around, searching for cells that were open so that they could be stored for energy. But, you see, insulin is the key to allowing carbs and glucose into blood cells, and since I didn't have any, that stuff just sat there.
I started wetting the bed. Eleven years old and wetting my bed. I can't go tell people that without being looked at funny. You know, that sideways stare like I'm an alien? I'm sure you know that look. Whenever I say your name I get that look. That look that says, “You mean that disease old, fat people get?” Yes, I am a secret old fat person. And this chunky, left-handed redheaded secret old lady has more to say. Come one, come all – listen to the tale she spins about test strips and pump tubing!
Sleepovers. Every girl goes to them. Boys too. But they stress my parents out. Girls invite me and I'm like, “Well, my blood sugar is great and I feel great, I've got nothing planned … so no, I can't come. My parents are too scared.”
Going to a friend's house is tricky. Before each meal, I have to test my blood sugar then use my pump to give myself enough insulin for the carbohydrates in my meal. When I'm eating at a friend's house, on numerous occasions I've been told by their parents, “No texting at the table!” And I have to tell them about my diabetes and pump, and once again a dinner that was supposed to be fun and easy becomes awkward.
And then there are the times where I have to call my mom in the middle of a meal. My hosts will put out a casserole full of god-knows-what and I have to call and ask my mom, “How many carbs in this casserole that looks more like roadkill than a meal?” and this stresses her out even more. She pulls out a carb book, looks it up, I use my pump, and life goes on for two hours. Then I test again. And of course our best guess about this family's idea of dinner was wrong and my blood sugar has skyrocketed up to 356. And this scares Mom more. She tells me to correct it with my pump, and I think, No, really? I was just going to eat some candy now!
You know my friend, Trevor, right, Diabetes? We have this joke about you. I'll be sitting at the lunch table, setting my pump. He'll walk by, and say, “Put that away, young lady! I know you'll die without it, but it looks too much like a phone or an iPod to have in school!” And we laugh and laugh. We laugh at those who think they know who you are, Diabetes. We laugh at those who think I'm too skinny for you. And when we laugh, all of the needles and pain and hassles go away for a while.
I really wish you hadn't been with me at Kelly's house. We were preparing for the school dance and were both excited that my boyfriend would be there. She suggested I wear the beautiful black dress hanging in her closet. I put it on, and it looked amazing. But then I had to put my pump on. Once again, there you were, Diabetes, waiting to rain on my parade. The pump sitting on my hip under the snug dress made a rectangular lump that ruined the everything. I looked lopsided and ugly. I was a hideous monster. I hated you, Diabetes.
I tore the dress off, crying. It was all my fault. I deserved to get diabetes. I felt like an ugly, pathetic, loser. Kelly held me while I sobbed. She shushed me. I remember another time when she was trying to convince me I was pretty, and every time I said I wasn't, she would take a marker and write “yes, you are” on my leg. I'm glad she didn't do that this time. Instead, she ran to her closet and pulled out some blue leggings and a black skirt.
“Look, you can tuck your pump inside the leggings. Forget the dress; wear this skirt. You're beautiful, Kaily. Don't forget it,” she said.
I am Kaily. Not you, Diabetes. I slithered into the leggings and skirt, and I looked great. I stood there in awe. I was beautiful. I put on a striped long-sleeve shirt and over it a cupcake shirt with a cheesy joke on it. So what if I wasn't like everyone else? So what if my fingers were callused from relentless blood testing? So what if I had to wear a pump wherever I went? I was Kaily, and I was beautiful.
I owe Kelly for that night. It was amazing. I had my first slow dance, and Kelly was there for support.
I owe a lot to my friends and family, but I guess I owe a lot to you too, Diabetes. Thank you. Yes, you heard me, thank you, Diabetes. You've made me stronger and more resilient than I would have been without you.