Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Story

With this sugary holiday and the rest of the sugar-sane holidays coming up I decided to share with you a little story about me. Some of you may know that I am a diabetic. I am guessing that a large number of you may not know due to my reluctance to share this with people I don't need to. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was nine years old. Which means this February will be 15 years since that time. I cannot believe it has been that long. I wanted to share with you my story (the good and the bad) A lot of people have big misconceptions about the disease, either because they have been incorrectly informed, or because they simply feel they have no reason to know about it, because they don't have it. As a growing concern for many Americans, diabetes should be better understood. Many times in my life I have had people say some pretty ridiculous things to me, sometimes funny, sometimes very hurtful. Having Diabetes has never been easy, but I have learned to live with it. Lets see.. where should I even begin....

At the beginning of 1997 my family took a vacation to San Francisco. At the time I was having some major issues with my bladder. I had to use the bathroom... A LOT. Around every corner I had to go, several times after any meal...  I had to go. Any sweet thing I ate went through me especially fast. My mother had been concerned for some time, and had taken me into the doctor to be tested, but the tests were negative. (Just a side note, my mother always knows things) I remember it being a fun trip, but I probably drove my family crazy with all the pit stops. I knew where every bathroom was. No joke, my family still jokes about it. I had lost a considerable amount of weight. I mean considerable. I look at pictures from that time and it is unbelievable. My Mom was becoming increasingly concerned. When we got back from our trip my Mom took me back to my doctor. The test was positive for Diabetes. I remember not really knowing what was going on and not even really knowing what diabetes was? I was nine years old, and terrified because they told me I had to go to the hospital. All I remember is crying myself to sleep, mainly from fear, on the exam table while people made arrangements for me at the hospital. We had Mcdonalds for lunch on our way to the hospital... I remember my mom calling the doctor to find out what she should even get me. A happy meal... with water.

I will never forget my time at the hospital. I was terrified. I will always remember Joan. Joan was my nurse, an incredible woman. She was everything a nurse of a young terrified kid with a new disease should be. I was so scared. She told me that Diabetes is very manageable, and while difficult I could still be normal. She asked me if I could play sports with diabetes, or paint with diabetes, or go to school. She asked me all these questions and then said, "You can do anything with diabetes." I will never forget that. The first time she came in to teach me how to give myself a shot I remember hyperventilating and freaking out. I was thinking in my head how much it was going to hurt. I closed my eyes and squinched up my face, hoping this would lessen the prick. Amazingly I didn't even feel it?? I was so surprised. Joan was magic. She would take me down to the game room several times a day to play pac man in the little hospital arcade. She gave me a Jazz mug and told me if I drank enough water I wouldn't have to get an IV, which at the time I was horrified of getting. (refer back to my first needle encounter) I didn't have to get it. Thank you Joan. You were and are an inspiration to me. I only hope that she knows what a wonderful person she is, and how grateful I am for her.

I remember my brothers and my Dad being so brave when they came to visit me. The nurse had me give them placebo shots so they would get a taste of what I was going through. They were so sweet to let me, their nine year old sister to stick them with needles. My mother was such a strength to me. She stayed with me the whole time I was at the hospital and was so strong. I later found out that she held in her tears until she went home. She was so brave and kept her cool, something that was instrumental in helping me keep my sanity while in the hospital. I was in the hospital for a few days and then sent home to live with this new total life adjustment.

My family was wonderful. Through holidays and every day life they made adjustments for me. Even Santa knew... we started receiving peanuts in our stockings instead of the loads of candy we had previously enjoyed. For Halloween my mom ordered little toys to give out to trick-or-treaters. Everyone loved our house. After after we got home my mom would let us trade our candy for toys and special things she would buy for us. For our annual Easter egg hunt my sweet grandma would buy me little toys or things I would like so instead of candy I would get those.

Although my family was very understanding and caring, there were many who were less understanding and made me feel terrible about being a diabetic. I think this is where my complex started. I hated telling people I was diabetic. I was terrified of what they would think. One of my teachers told me I would never be normal, or a guy told me he'd never marry a diabetic, or a friend thought they could catch the disease from trading clothes. These instances made me feel terrible and defeated. I hated that I had been given this challenge. Sometimes things are just difficult, and people are just ignorant. At times like this I try to remember Joan and her wise advice, or how much the people I love have supported me and helped me along the way.

I am a diabetic. I have lived with it for most of my life and have been strengthened in ways I never would have been otherwise. I learned discipline and responsibility over the years and I am grateful for that. I am so grateful for the people in my life that have helped me deal with this difficult disease. I am so happy that I have four wonderful brothers who would give up candy to make me not feel so bad, and that would even wish so much that they could trade me places so that I wouldn't have to go through it all. I am so thankful for my parents for all of the scary times that they had to deal with my weird emotional ups and downs and low blood sugar. And I am so grateful for Steve. He is so supportive of me and my diabetes. I say some pretty weird things when I am low, sometimes hilarious and sometimes mean.. I usually don't remember but he is always so great to take care of me. I couldn't have asked for a better family and better friends.

Well there you have it. There are so many of you that have been so kind and compassionate. You know who you are. I truly appreciate you. I love you all.

On a slightly more cheerful note and maybe even a slightly ironic one... can I offer you a spoon full of sugar? This year we were Marry Poppins and Bert. It was fun to get these costumes together :)


  1. Love you Melissa Hope! You are so strong! I still remember walking to the office with you in elementary school every day before lunch. I felt so privileged to be "that friend" who got to go with you:)

  2. I loved this entry. My eyes watered up a little bit. Thanks for having to be one of those diabetics that "gets the chance" to help people out because of it. I love how much your family helped, and I LOVE Joan. What an awesome nurse. I'm sorry people have said such rude things about you having diabetes.. You are amazing Melissa. Thanks for your positive and strong example. I love you!!

  3. You are both so sweet! Thanks for supporting me and being such great friends. I love you both so much!

  4. Melissa! I'm so glad you posted this story :) You are so awesome, but I already knew that ;) We STILL need to get together for lunch! I think it's going on like 3 years now that we've been planning this! haha.

  5. Tara! Seriously we need to! My schedule is pretty free! Maybe we should go on a double date sometime?? Monday, Tuesday or Saturdays work for us, How bout you?

  6. Dear Melissa,
    You are so brave and cool!! I love you! I am going to print your story for a little girl in my class who just found out this year that she is diabetic. :)


  7. I'm pretty ignorant about diabetes. I'm glad you shared your story:) I'm always amazed by you Medu. You're really strong. I love your halloween costumes!

  8. Hi, my sister Bonnie cooper shared this link with me. Thank you so much for sharing your story! My six year old son was diagnosed with type one in november... We've been adjusting. Your story is wonderful!

  9. Thank you so much Robyn. It is never easy but it is good to know other people are going through the same things. You should look into the diabetic camps that they do. I went a couple of times and it was so fun to meet other people who were going through the same things. My non diabetic brother came too which was good for him to get more aquatinted with what I was going through. It was a great experience to help me feel more independent and in control of my diabetes. Good luck!