Ok, so everyone with Diabetes has one: a Diabetes Birthday. That fateful day when they were diagnosed. If you’ve got Type 1 and were diagnosed as a young child, you may not remember it. If you’re old enough to remember it, it is definitely one of those Before-and-After Moments– A cataclysmic event in your life where there is before that moment, and after, and nothing on the after side is ever the same. I know, I know, a little melodramatic–but it kind of is that way. So since I’ve got a whole Diabetes Blog thing happening here, I thought I’d paint you a picture of my Diabetes Birthday…it’s always easy for me to remember since I was diagnosed on my 16th birthday. Seriously.
Throw back to 1995 (yeah, can you smell the grunge movement and doc martens?). I was about to turn 16 and get my driver’s license but was a little concerned because my vision had been sooo bad lately (Blurry Vision, sign #1). But that didn’t matter. I was turning 16! And my pants seemed to be fitting more loosely. Was I losing weight? That’s awesome! (yeah, not when it’s related to diabetes. Sudden weight loss, sign #2). I was carting around drinks all the time because I was noticeably more thirsty (excessive thirst, sign #3). I was even waking up at night bc I was thirsty. Hmm, that’s strange. And then again because I had to pee (frequent urination, sign #4). My mom suspected something was wrong, but I knew she was just being overly cautious (complete denial, sign #5?) and nothing mattered anyway because did I mention–I was about to get my driver’s license!! FREEDOM!! (in my William Wallace voice).
My 16th birthday was a busy day. Got to school late because I went to get my driver’s license. Omg! Omg! I passed with flying colors, blurry vision and all (miracle!). I can even remember the outfit I was wearing that day. It involved double denim and crushed velvet, and that’s all I will say (It was the 90’s, people).
I had a cake from Becker’s Bakery (if you’ve had one you know what a mouth watering prospect that is) waiting for me at home that I was pumped up about, but first I had a doctor’s appointment. I drove myself. Just a normal yearly well-check until they checked the pee cup and then BAM!
“you have diabetes”.
I’m sorry, what?
“Type 1 Diabetes”.
The words rang in my ears. I literally can’t remember many of the details after that. That’s what happens with those Before-and-After Moments; so many of those very first “after” details are fuzzy.
Just like that I was scheduled for outpatient training at the hospital the next day with a pediatric endocrinologist named Dr. Najaar, very kind woman and yet my mom never got her name right and always called her Dr. Jafar. As in, the villain from Disney’s Aladdin.
Again, it was the 90’s, Aladdin was big. It is not lost on me that the first medical professional to treat my diabetes was (subconsciously?) vilified by my mom. Gotta love it.
I vaguely remember a long drive down familiar streets. Not understanding. Wanting to cry.
And then home, to my birthday cake.
With my mom and a couple of close family friends who were there looking at me, and then at the cake, and then back at me, I just took a fork and dug in. I ate like 1/2 the cake by myself. I was not going to let anyone take this long standing tradition of birthday joy from me…
And then, yes, I was miserable. My blood sugar had presumably been high for a while (hence the blurry vision, weight loss, etc) so I must have been used to feeling kind of “meh”, but I do remember feeling particularly yucky after all the cake. But I was so afraid! So afraid that tomorrow they’d tell me I couldn’t ever have that again. I had to get my fill.
My relationship with Diabetes has kind of been like that ever since. A little bit fearful of the unknown consequences to come, and many, many episodes of loved ones looking at me, then the dessert in front of me, and then back at me as I dig in, defiantly.
There are so many other memories from that day that I’ll leave in the vault for now. I did gain some freedom with my license , but I also got dealt a big fat lifetime ball and chain with a diabetes diagnosis. Isn’t it Ironic? There’s a bold-faced Alanis Morrisette reference just to make sure you remember the 90’s setting of this little tale. It’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it? It’s like raaaaiiin on your wedding day. Sorry 🙂
Fear, Defiance, Loneliness, Misunderstanding, Feeling Judged, Feeling Guilty. It can be a monster, Diabetes. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog: to share what was working (and not working) for me as I try to live the life I want while dealing with all that this disease can hurl at you. But just as with any fear, facing it head on is often the best course of action. As I educate myself, and take control of my blood sugar, take responsibility for my food choices, and lay down my guilt, I find myself feeling less fearful, and more empowered.
And I’ve had my cake every birthday since.
That’s how I was diagnosed. 1995 on my 16th birthday with a very 90’s soundtrack playing in the background. That means I’ve now had more “after diabetes” birthdays than “before diabetes” birthdays. And for that, I am grateful.
What about you? When is your Diabetes Birthday? Let me know in the comments. Or if you’d like to Share Your Story with me & the Charming Diabetes community you can do that here
If you’re looking for more facts and info on Type 1 diabetes and it’s signs and symptoms the American Diabetes Association is a great place to start. If you’re experiencing any of those warning signs and think you might be at risk, talk to your doctor or a medical professional.
Here’s hoping they find a cure, and until then, may there alway be enough insulin on board to cover your birthday cake.
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