It was 2009 and I was standing in an Old Navy shopping for a dress in the "teen section" with tears streaming down my face because none of the clothes fit me. I was 14 years old and very skinny. Earlier that day, I had searched through my older sister’s hand-me-downs discovering everything was much too big for my thin frame. My mom put her arm around me, handed me a wrinkled tissue from the bottom of her giant purse and reminded me I was beautiful no matter my size. (It's hard being underweight because people will judge you similar to when you're overweight. Wherever you land on that weight spectrum, it's important you check with a doctor. A professional can guide you to the best balance for your body type. As well as investigating thoroughly for any problems developing you may not be aware of). During my teen years I felt embarrassed to shop in the kid's section, but sometimes it was the only option to find clothes that fit properly. On one of those shopping excursions I found a size 00 dress! Once the dress was purchased we drove to the nearest McDonald’s to celebrate. I usually ordered a large fry, 10 chicken nuggets, and large water. This should be shocking because it's A Lot of food, especially for a girl so small but that was how much food I needed to feel full. I was always hungry and extremely thirsty. I'm sharing these details because they are a few symptoms of juvenile diabetes. Additional symptoms are 1) Mood swings/depression. 2) Underweight 3) Large appetite/very thirsty. There are more, but I'll leave it at that.
My mom had been confronted by some of my friend's mother's expressing their concern for my energy levels when hanging out with my peers. I had always been a lean little girl, so there was not a dramatic shift in weight initially. The weight factor was not a cause for alarm in the beginning. However, the energy levels brought new concerns to my mother. A week after Mothers Day (2009), my mom was in prayer and the Lord told her that I had Type One Diabetes. The next day, she canceled my horseshow and took me directly to my pediatrician’s office. I had fasting blood sugars over 700 and was spilling ketones. Next stop, ER.
When I heard the diagnosis I didn't cry or feel fearful...I didn't understand what this change meant to my life. The family was concerned but no one had grasped the monumental adjustment I would have to make. Like most people, I thought pricking my fingers for BG monitoring and maybe I'd give a shot here and there. This perspective quickly changed. Just 24 hours in the hospital, I had to prick my finger roughly every hour during a 24 hour period. The nurses taught me to administer my own shots - which was terrifying because I have always been afraid of needles. Injections were my number 1 fear growing up. We spent 5 days in the hospital absorbing a crash course on diabetes care and learning the importance of insulin. This medicine keeps people like me alive. The hospital staff do their best to make it "fun" in these classes but as you're sitting there in your hospital gown, connected to an IV, you get lost in your thoughts. I began to tell myself this situation will be a temporary set back. The reality of this disease is, it is indeed a life sentence. “ Your numbers" will be the first thing on your mind as you wake and as you drift off to sleep, it's a 24-7 job. That day in the hospital, as I sat there staring at a round table stacked with medical information, I had my mom, siblings, and even grandparents attending class for moral support. Although this new normal was hard to accept, having family surrounding me actually made it better. They have always made this disease better in a way. For all the laughs, the compassion and just the desire to learn about Juvenile Diabetes takes the edge off. I was so grateful I had them in those early days.
The diagnosis really hits hard when you arrive home from the hospital. You're so concerned with your sugars, you know that too much insulin can kill you just as too little insulin can do the same. You're trying to measure food and all I wanted at that time was to consume boxed food because it was easy to carb count. I went back to eating a non-nourishing diet and was still hungry all the time. I had grown used to my large appetite (similar to a growing teenage boy haha) and eventually, my body caught up. Insulin is a fat storing substance and if you're eating a lot of processed carbohydrates, mixed with unhealthy fats and refined sugars the pounds will add up. Processed food requires a lot of insulin... which eventually stacks up causing weight gain.
I gained just over 70 pounds in less than a year. While some of the additional weight was needed on my body, it caused me to enter a state of depression. Here I stood again, none of my clothes fit well, I found that it made me feel awkward navigating my own movement with the added weight. Lot's of tears, frustration and fear in the first 2 years of diabetes.
I eventually started working with a holistic based doctor (Dr.Peter Glidden; recommended by some of my closest friends) who changed my world with food for the better! This Naturopathic Doctor taught me the importance of eating a whole foods diet. Such as organic grains (rice, oats), beans, all vegetables, all fruits, etc. This concept changed my entire life and really put me on the path I've chosen today. The story from this specific point is a long one ( the last 8 years ) including dietary changes, education and research has broadened my understanding associated with this disease. I have found a low fat Whole Foods plant based is what works best for my management. All of these learning curves have influenced my life for the better, much to share but I'll save that for another day.
I will never forget the tears or the times I've cried out to God asking "why me" ? I know one day I will have an answer, and that will be when I meet Jesus. For now my "Why” is giving me the push to learn more, exposing myself to the power of food as our medicine, sharing the knowledge which gives others an option for a healthier lifestyle.
xoxo- Your Faithful Friend