"A number five with mayo and cheese, and a frozen cherry Coke," I requested. My stomach was commanding me to eat, even though I had eaten less than two hours before. My body had become a mystery to me as I experienced a surge of appetite along with rapid weight loss. I didn't want to understand why this was happening, though - I loved losing weight while eating excessively and not exercising.
"Kev, I am so tired, can we finish this movie another time?" I asked. It was only 9 p.m. on a Saturday night. This is insane, I thought. Am I a teenager or a senior citizen? My body was screaming for help, but I was oblivious.
My mom finally made a doctor's appointment, and the nurse cheerfully said, "Let's prick your finger to make sure you're not diabetic." Even when she reached for my index finger I was not the least bit nervous. There was nothing wrong with me ... but then I watched her eyes enlarge as she thoughtlessly exclaimed, "Well! I'll have to let the doctor see this!"
Then the doctor entered the room with a grave face and directed us to his office. My eyes surveyed the plaques, family photos, and scores of pamphlets pertaining to illnesses. As he took his seat, my mother reached for my hand. We listened intently as he told us that my blood sugar was far too high. He was 99 percent sure I was diabetic.
"It runs in your family, doesn't it, Joyce?" he asked my mother.
Now I understood her distress. She saw this disease as her genes at work, her fault. I would spend the next month trying to convince her otherwise.
Now I was in the emergency room. I leaned back as my father tried to distract me. We talked about everything but the fact that I was in a hospital gown, lying on a hospital bed, looking at hospital curtains, breathing hospital air.
A new nurse was ready to administer my I.V. As she wrapped a rubber strip around my arm, my fist tensed. I looked at my parents as I felt the first surge of pain shoot through me. The nurse could not find my vein and was determined to do so. I had felt pain before, but never enough to make me moan. She adjusted the needle in different positions, and I begged her to stop. By now I was tearful, but my life in hell was just beginning.
Sure, I had my family and friends, and my hospital room was decorated with bright balloons and flowers. My merry room, though, was the polar opposite of what I felt. Whenever I allowed myself to think about what had happened, I felt hopeless. The balloon-covered walls would start to close in on me, and I would pray to God that I could just wake up.
The doctor who took over my care came to see me the following day. He looked the part, with his crisp white lab coat, spectacles, and small notepad. Our conversation, though, proved a scarring one that haunted me for months. He began by explaining that I could have either Type 1 or 2 diabetes. I had read that Type 2 only occurs in older and extremely obese people. It was bad enough that he wasn't as knowledgeable as he should have been, but he also proceeded to play with my mind in a pathetic attempt to act as though he was.
"You're going to crave sugar like an alcoholic craves alcohol," he warned. He must have been taught tough love as a child. There was no comfort, encouragement or truth to his speech; it was exactly what I didn't need to hear. At that moment everything began to fall apart. All the strength I was displaying for my mother withered away. I was sobbing, and mad at myself for letting this stranger affect me.
In that room I lost touch with reality. In my head, the questions were spinning like the room. How will I be able to live like this? How will I be able to give myself all those shots? My world had fallen apart, and I didn't think I would be able to pick up the pieces.
The next day I left my room to attend a diabetes class down the hall where I learned the ins and outs of my disease. It all came together: I'd been losing weight because my body wasn't converting sugar into energy. My body was living off my tissue and muscle. This, of course, made me exhausted. It was in that room that finally, after about 20 minutes, I mustered the courage to give myself my first shot.
On my way home I felt nervous and not too confident about my new responsibilities. But the hopeless curtain had lifted. I came home to a house full of family and friends. My dog was barking and wagging his tail, and I was so happy to be home, I wanted to kiss my kitchen floor. I ran to my room that I had longed for while I was away. Now I was back. I looked at myself in the mirror and smiled. I'd be okay.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.