I’m participating in Diabetes Blog Week!
Today’s prompt: Today we’re going to share our most memorable diabetes day. You can take this anywhere…. your or your loved one’s diagnosis, a bad low, a bad high, a big success, any day that you’d like to share. (Thanks to Jasmine of Silver-Lined for this topic suggestion.)
I have had type 1 diabetes for almost twenty years, and despite that fact, most of my memories of my life really don’t have anything to do with diabetes. I remember reading a blog post or maybe it was a comment from a mom of a child with diabetes (I’m afraid I can’t remember who — sorry!) and she was asking about how her daughter’s childhood would be different because she has diabetes. To be honest, I don’t really think my childhood, or my teenage years, or even my adulthood would be much different if I didn’t have diabetes. I mean, surely it would be different but I don’t think there is anything that I would have done that I didn’t already do.
I went to sleepovers and I went to camp (both diabetes and non-diabetes camp — the diabetes camp was better! Ha!). I helped out on a school play and I participated in high school clubs. I was on the school newspaper and I learned how to edit short films (and I learned how much I hate it). I went to prom (with a guy I met from diabetes camp… but that’s besides the point) and I got my driver’s license. I went to college and lived alone and went to Europe. I had my first kiss and I’ve had sex and I got married.
Diabetes obviously has colored each of these memories in it’s own way, but my point is that my memories of my life probably look a lot like yours. I don’t think of my life with diabetes as being anything extraordinarily different from what it would have been otherwise. Would it have been easier? Yes. Would it have been less fraught with worry and panic? Yes. Is there anything I would have done if I hadn’t had diabetes? Not likely.
That said, diabetes on occasion makes its own memories. Times where diabetes is front and center and you flash on that experience as being wholly diabetes influenced. I have a few that I mulled over. I have vivid memories of being in the hospital on my diagnosis day. In fact, I can still remember the exact words I said to my father when he came home the day I was diagnosed, just as we were going to leave for the hospital.
“I’m a diabetes girl now.”
I remember the weight of my body as it struggled to keep me upright in the music building at my high school as I searched for my friends. I remember seeing my friend Chris walking out of the band room and I remember suddenly realizing there was no way I could make it to the row of chair four feet away. I remember falling over and lying there, just waiting. My friends were there and I knew they would help me and for a moment I almost felt relaxed, realizing there was nothing I could do and that I just needed to wait.
I have a lot of favorite diabetes memories, too. I have been blessed beyond belief to have so many close D-friends. One of my bridesmaids is a type 1 PWD, and two of my best D-friends, Cara and Caroline, also attended my wedding. I have attended dozens of diabetes events — conferences, seminars, and meet-ups — and each one continues to bless me with information, camaraderie and hopefulness and I really cherish each one.
But I think the memory that really stands out to me is the memory of JDRF’s Children’s Congress that I attend almost 12 years ago. I was 15 years old and to be honest, I had never done an ounce of diabetes advocacy work. I had attended a few Walks here and there, but nothing substantial. Children’s Congress was the first time I really felt that I was apart of something bigger than myself.
It was the first time that I realized just how far-reaching the diabetes community really is, and the first time I realized just how varied our experiences are. I remember standing on the risers in front of our nation’s Capitol singing the Promise to Remember Me song. I remember sitting in the ballroom listening to Mary Tyler Moore. I remember meeting with my Senator and other legislative aides to talk about my life with diabetes. I remember walking through the streets of Washington, D.C. and feeling like I was apart of something really powerful.
JDRF’s Children’s Congress is what inspired me to continue working in diabetes advocacy and it helped forge a lot of connections in the diabetes community. Some of them I have outlasted, as diabetes advocacy can create almost as big of a burnout as the disease itself.
Next month there will be another Children’s Congress. I know some of the delegates who are going and I cannot tell you how excited I am for them to go. The diabetes community has really morphed into a second family for me, and I appreciate every opportunity I have to fight on our behalf.
With Miss American 1999 Nicole Johnson
Go get ’em!