When I was eight years old, my pancreas broke. It didn’t really seem so bad at the time; I got to spend two weeks in hospital getting looked after by some lovely nurses. For me, it was like being ill and having to get better in a place that wasn’t home. And it wasn’t so bad. I got given my meals and I had my own little room with a TV in. The man that brought the cart of magazines and food round became a firm friend and used to give me free cans of diet coke. It was like a holiday.
Yet looking back at it, I seem to remember my parents looking exceptionally gaunt and worried. For them, it wasn’t a holiday. They had just found out that their child had this horrible autoimmune illness that would be with her for the rest of her life. Even though it was difficult for me to start with, I took it in my stride. I relied heavily on my mum to do my injections, I hated blood testing. But I was a good girl. Ok, so occasionally sneaking chocolate out of the sweet tin, but hey, isn’t that what kids do? And sometimes, having a broken pancreas hurt a bit. It still does. Sometimes.
Yet, when I had to go back to school, I hid my diabetes from people. I felt that I couldn’t tell anyone other than those that really mattered. Like, only the teachers knew at school and I kept it from everyone except my family. One time, when I was testing my blood sugar feeling all funny, it immediately attracted the word ‘different’ to me. And for the remainder of primary school I was bullied mercilessly for being the ‘weird one who injects herself’. It didn’t stop until I was at secondary school and I took things into my own hands. I stopped hiding it; I began to be proud of what I had. They still tried to hate me for being different, but I didn’t care. I would stand on the rooftops and yell it through a megaphone if I could.
Being a child with diabetes is a very difficult thing. And having been there myself, struggling through the urges to be like everyone else, struggling with growing up and puberty; I admire every other child who has been through it and succeeded.
More so, I admire every parent out there who cares for a diabetic child. And I admire my own mother for her efforts in helping me to gain control of this condition. She was there for me through the highs and the lows, without her I still wouldn’t be able to inject myself, without her I would still be terrified of the medieval torture device known as the Finger Pricker. She always knew how to deal with my hypos, always knew the signs often before I did. And even just recently when I was staying at my grandfather’s and had a serious one, she jumped straight into mum mode and threw a load of chocolate cake in my general direction. And because of my mum, I had the courage to not hide this condition anymore. It may be invisible to most people, but it’s a part of who I am and thanks to my mum’s efforts I’m being the best damn diabetic I can be.
And ok, so I may be getting closer to the ‘Rotting Toes’ mentioned in the tagline, but that’s my own fault. I had a rebellion, I’m not proud of it. But I did. It was a part of the rollercoaster called diabetes. And its been a long rollercoaster, and not likely to end any time soon. Fourteen years is a long time – and my D Day is coming up on the 14th February (‘Morning darling, happy valentines day. Oh by the way, it’s my diabetic birthday too. Sod the roses, let’s have cake!’) which seems rather ironic to me.
But I couldn’t have gotten here without the help of some very special people – my mum and my dad, my friends and my partner. Without them, I would have fallen off the rails long ago, and been struggling to get back on them. Now, I’m back on track…though I will admit I do still sneak treats out of the sweet tin sometimes. But shhh, keep that to yourselves.
Samantha is Type One and regularly blogs at http://www.talkingbloodglucose.com/