When diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I was eighteen years old, scared, and confused. Although bone thin, I was older than the usual juvenile diabetic, so the doctor didn’t know if I had type 1 or type 2 diabetes. At first, the doctor gave me pills to lower my blood sugar. I avoided carbohydrates and threw myself into exercise, then watched helplessly as the numbers on my blood sugar meter continued to rise.
Seeing the numbers, the doctor diagnosed type 1 and declared that it was time for me to go on insulin. I was told to visit the diabetic educator for injection training the next morning.
During my drive home, I contemplated for the first time launching my Ford Mustang off a bridge. I wanted to end it all. The pain and the disease appeared so much stronger than I was. It seemed that I would never master the art of testing my blood sugar without a thirty minute cry fest. There was no diabetic online community at that time, and I felt hopeless and alone.
Just before my diagnosis, I had purchased a little white puppy, an American Eskimo named Allie. She seemed so helpless, and I adored the way she would cuddle up to me and rest her fuzzy little head in my lap. She went everywhere with me and even had her own seatbelt in my car. She needed me and I needed her.
On that distraught drive home, I began to think about Allie. What if I never came home? No one would ever be able to explain my absence to my little dog. She would feel abandoned and, perhaps, as lost as I was. Remembering Allie changed the course of my thinking, and I drove home safely to see her.
The next day, I went to my appointment with the diabetic educator for my first insulin shot and discovered that I’d be giving it to an orange. I held the syringe in my sweaty, shaky hands and plunged it into the orange, half expecting it to scream. I was amazed at how easily it slid in, though not convinced that I could do it to myself. When the educator directed me to give myself the next shot, it was the toughest moment of my life. I held my breath, sank the needle into the back of my arm, and injected the insulin. It really didn’t hurt much at all!
People often say to me that they could never give themselves shots. My reply is always the same: You could if you had to. I had no choice if I wanted to live. I felt a mixture of victory and sadness. I’d be okay.
Allie stayed with me through every ordeal. She went for walks with me to lower my blood sugars, licked my tears when I cried and swore that I couldn’t do it anymore, provided comic relief with her circus tricks, and laid her worried head on my bed when I returned from the emergency room after a blood sugar of 800 due to flu complications.
It has been nearly seventeen years since my diagnosis. I barely give a thought to taking my shots and testing my blood sugars anymore. The routine is just an accepted part of my daily life.
Allie has been gone almost ten years, having passed away quickly at age seven from cancer. But she taught me that life is precious and that I can accomplish anything. I will always be needed by someone.