May 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Type A Personality, Type 1 Diabetes — A Student’s Perspective

Before last August, I thought my junior year would be crazy. It’s the year of APs, SATs and ACTs, college visits, sleep deprivation and most of all, the unbearable amount of stress caused by your future breathing down your neck at every moment. But what I never considered was that it would also be the year that I would be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an incurable disease that I must manage meticulously for the rest of my life.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where pancreatic cells are destroyed by the body because the body mistakenly thinks that these cells are “invaders” (such as a virus). Without its beta cells, the pancreas can no longer produce insulin — a hormone that is essential to the digestion of carbohydrates. Without sufficient amounts of insulin, one could easily die from malnutrition as well as a multitude of other complications.

So, each morning, I inject myself with insulin. Before each meal, I must also inject myself with a insulin. While that may seem like a big deal for those of you with a fear of needles, I would be misinforming you if I let you believe that the shots are the largest effect that this disease has had on my life.

Throughout this past month and a half, people have told me that I’ll “get used to the routine” of diabetes. I don’t mean to be rude or ungrateful for the support, but if one more person tells me this, I think I might just explode.

Nobody else knows what’s truly entailed in a diabetic’s “routine.”

Every day, in my third-period class, I bring a snack (carefully weighed and measured in order to calculate the exact amount of carbohydrate) and sit down to eat it. Except, first, I must prick my finger, squeeze out a drop of blood, and test my blood sugar to see if I should even permit myself the luxury of eating. And as I go through this “routine,” I watch other kids in the room open their snacks and eat them without a single care in the world. I can’t imagine being “used to” the jealousy I feel towards those who can live more freely than I can.

The stress continues, rearing its ugly head again and again. Every day, in my seventh-period class, I feel myself getting anxious. Did I use enough insulin to cover my lunch? Did I use too much? Do I feel sick right now or is it just the nerves? Sometimes, when I get called on, I’m so distracted by these thoughts that I must admit to my teacher that I am completely lost. I can’t imagine being “used to” the fears I experience in regards to my health and my day-to-day survival.

And every night, as I crawl into bed, I say an extra prayer to Hashem so that I don’t become the 1 out of 20 type 1 diabetics who pass away in their sleep due to hypoglycemia. I can’t imagine being “used to” the fragility of my life.

Add these daily emotional trials to the headaches and faintness from low blood sugars, the fatigue from high blood sugars, the soreness in my fingertips and the endless string of blood tests and hospital visits, and soon it becomes evident that being “used to” this sort of routine isn’t a possibility. But diabetes does not control my life, and it never will. I am still taking two AP classes, planning on taking my SATs this spring, writing all my essays, and studying for all my tests. Because, even though sickness, fear and jealousy are unavoidable, I refuse to sit and wallow in the symptoms of diabetes and the negative emotions that they bring. I must continue on with my junior year the way that all my peers are.

People are not successful because they do not face hardships or difficulties. They are successful because they carry on in spite of them. My junior year has become more complicated; that is undeniable. My diabetes will not fade into the background as some sort of “routine,” but I will face the difficulties it presents and I will make sure my year is successful regardless of the extent to which it complicates my life. I hope that this lesson cannot only apply to someone with a chronic illness, but to each and every person who experiences a hardship. Sometimes you cannot eliminate a difficulty and the difficulty itself does not become part of your “routine,” so you must move forward in spite of it. What other choice do you have when your most important year of high school is on the line?

By Becky Weisberg, RKYHS junior

 

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