Today we’re going to share our most memorable diabetes day. You can take this anywhere.... your or your loved one's diagnosis, a bad low, a bad high, a big success, any day that you’d like to share.
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It was the first week of December 1993. I'd been recently diagnosed with Type 1 at the ripe old age of 15. And, unsurprisingly, I was taking the news like most teenagers would - I was pretty blase, because wasn't I invincible?
Upon hearing the initial diagnosis, I was mostly unruffled despite my mom bursting into tears. I had no idea what Type 1 was, knew no other diabetics of any type at all. I don't think I'd realized it was a forever thing. I'm sure I'd thought it was like mono or a broken arm, both things I'd had and dealt with and - most important - moved on from no worse for the wear.
I didn't shed my first tears until I had to do my first injection - needles and I weren't friends then. (Not that we really are today, but I got over the crying years ago.) That was my first inkling that this might not be a small change.
We left Big Nan's office armed with a little training on injections and insulin, pages and pages of reading materials, and a very, VERY small amount of information on the next steps to take before we came back the next day. Among those next steps: a trip to the grocery store, and the instruction to avoid anything with sugar in the first three ingredients on the label.
We went to Gloversville's Hannaford and my mom and I began walking the aisles, trying to shop for our normal stuff. But each time we grabbed something, we weren't sure if it was "approved" - we had no earthly idea what we were doing, and I was overwhelmed. I walked away to gather myself, telling my mom I'd go grab stuff for sandwiches. But the bread wasn't "approved." And neither was the jelly. What the fuck kind of disease banned peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?! Nothing we'd grabbed was right, not even the simplest lunch items I'd been packing for years. How was I ever supposed to eat anything ever again? How was I supposed to actually live with this fucking thing?!
My mom found me there in the jelly aisle, holding a jar of Welch's Concord Grape, sobbing uncontrollably. That jar became the stand-in for everything I'd just lost in the world: the ability to eat without thinking, freedom from injections and carb-counting, the right to think of food as nourishment rather than the enemy, the blissful ignorance that health is not guaranteed, a lifetime free of chronic disease.
My actual diagnosis was, of course, a big day for me. But that jelly aisle is where I finally realized my life had just irrevocably changed. I think about that aisle every single time I grocery shop, every time I feel burned out on my disease, every time I feel incapable of coping with a shitty hand I'm dealt.
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