Living Out Loud: Diabetics 'R' Us

A One-Year Anniversary Salute, Sara-Style

(Editor's Note: If the title of the story sounds familiar, it should. Last summer, I wrote the first Diabetics R Us essay telling how I came to know Sara and I wrote about some our diabetic trails and tribulations (Diabetics R Us). Now a year later, here's Sara's take ­ take one.)

Larry Gross

(Take One)

"Hi...my name is Sara and I'm a diabetic."

"Hi Sara."

"I have been a diabetic for 24 years. I was 3 when it hit. My mom took me to the hospital concerned that I had a bladder infection because I was going to the bathroom so much. Longest bladder infection of my life."

I remember small takes from my diagnosing hospital stay: rolling down random hallways with closed doors and fearful curiosity of the mystery & misery behind them; painting in the rec room with other kids; Dr. Dolan, his ties, and nurse Debbie; waking for the routine nighttime blood sugar checks every 2 hours; my parents sitting at a table repetitively pushing needles thru the layers of an orange and how silly it seemed; death-gripping my mom's hand while multiple nurses held me down to draw blood from my arm; a dietician instructing my parents on the "what and when your daughter can and cannot eat - 3 snacks & 3 meals a day" meal plan.

I have no recollection of a defining moment cutting the line of diabetes as an unknown to a reality.

I consider myself fortunate in the sense that I was young enough to not have learned a "sweet" life yet ­ didn't miss what I didn't know to miss. That's not to say it wasn't a childhood challenge to be around normal kids eating twinkies & oreos at lunch, ice cream & skittles at the pool or cake at birthday parties.

Lucky for me, my parents recognized this and got creative in substituting healthy snacks or went with a 'less than none' premise allowing smaller amounts in place of eliminating foods altogether. No it wasn't the corner king-cut piece of cake swallowed by icing that I swore had my name on it; but I got my piece...minus icing (although I usually managed to catch a minute with the cake to get some of the good stuff).

Why me?

Why is this happening to me?

What did I do to deserve this?

Why do I have to be different?

The difficulty with being diagnosed with diabetes - or any chronic ailment - at a young age is not understanding. No, I didn't do anything nor was it my fault. But I considered it punishment. Punishment as a consequence of what action? What had I done? That doesn't make sense to any kid despite infinite reassurance from her parents. I just wanted to be the same as everyone else. I didn't want kids noticing I was different, asking why I had to go to the nurse's office every day, why I got to eat snacks, why I couldn't drink Coke, why I never stayed the night at slumber parties.

I continued suppressing the delinquent D through high school and the start of college, as diabetes was an aspect of my life that didn't fit in with anyone I knew or knew of. The relatively brief experiences of meeting a couple of diabetics in college my first year finally opened me to accepting my diabetes from the outside in, the inside out.

In doing so, I stumbled upon my conceptions as backward with the clichés still setting in: I was the only one hurting myself...Like someone was really going to "call me out" or laugh at me for being a diabetic...Like I'd want that for a friend...Everyone's dealing with something...Life is relative...and the infamous Different is good.

Older is wiser, turns out, but it still took me a few to get rolling in the good grass.

When next we meet, Take Two continues on this most vital bit to tell what I've made of these clichés and discuss if such a place as the good grass exists.

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