The Change of a LifetimeHow would I describe my childhood? I would describe it as carefree and happy. I remember playing with my friends, climbing the neighbor's tree, playing in the yard with my dog on breezy, summer days, or hopelessly awaiting recess' arrival while staring at the clock in Language Arts. I remember the small, unimportant problems you face as a child that seem so big and unbearable at the time, such as getting in a fight with my best friend, and turning a cheek at one another in the school hallways, wondering when the time would come when one of us would give in and apologizeó-hoping to become friends again. Perhaps, even getting grounded for forgetting to one of my assigned chores at home. These are things you take for granted everyday, these carefree, problem free, sheltered childhood days.
These are things I took for granted. I remember going to the fall fair every year with my grandparents and watching all of the children's smiling faces become smaller and smaller as I approached the tippity-top of the Ferris wheel. I remember baking chocolate chip cookies with my grandmother. It was so hard for me to wait while they cooled off after baking in the oven. I remember sitting in the outfield, picking little wild flowers, hoping a pop ball come my way. When it did come I would be waiting for it. I would catch it in my worn, cushioned, tired old mitt. All my teammates would run up to me and throw me over their shoulders and carry me to be greeted by the roaring audience. I wish I appreciated these childhood memories a little bit more, even though some were merely fantasies.
I remember one time, around Christmas, when my mom had schedule a check-up for me at my pediatrician's office, because things did not seem quite normal with my health. I remember getting the test by the doctor. Worst of all, I remember the precise moment when the doctor called my mother in from the waiting room, obviously to tell her the results of the test. These results were not the ones I was hoping for. My mother and I glanced nervously at each other. She proceeded to follow the doctor out of the waiting room. I felt the hot, eager tears building up in my eyes. I yearned to be held by my mother, in her comforting, reassuring, maternal arms, where I would be out of harm's way. Even as I pleaded with her not to go, I knew she must. I was sure she had that same, awful pit-in-the-stomach feeling I had. I was suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of lonliness, as I sat, anxious and scared.
Moments later, I was called to join my mom and the doctor. I knew the bad news had been given and received. I could sense my mom was holding back her tears, in order to keep me from worrying. Then it came. The doctor told me my ailment. He told me that the tests read that I had a disease called diabetes. My stomach sank, and I began to cry, although I was ignorant as to what this disease was. My mom held and comforted me, along with the doctor. They told me everything was going to be alright, and explained the disease to me. As I ingested more and more knowledge, my nerves calmed slightly. They told me that my pancreas did not produce insulin, which is a hormone that controls the effects of sugar in the blood. This meant that I had to give insulin injections and perform blood checks on a daily basis. I also had to stick to a low-sugar or no sugar diet. One word stood out--INJECTIONS! That frightened me, but my mom always said that I was good with needles as a child.
We went to the hospital, where I spent four nights. I remember contantly learning about the disease, and watching my parents cry as I gave myself injections. "Don't cry mom," I would say with a smile. "It's not that bad." "You're so brave," all my visitors would say. I remember the little Christmas tree, with the little ornaments and bright, white lights. I remember my mom sleeping in the bed next to me, and the crying baby I shared the floor with. I remember the constant gifts, flowers and visitors I received from friends and family. I remember meeting a nurse named Darlene, who was not only a caregiver but also a friend. Most of all, I remember the sunny day when I left my room and went to the children's playroom and played a boardgame with a wonderful child who had cancer. I noticed his bald head and protective mask that surrounded his mouth. It was then I realized that I could have been in a lot worse shape than having diabetes. I knew then that having and coping with this disease was going to be a change of a lifetime.
I was ten years old going on eleven then. Now I am fifteen going on sixteen. It's been about five years since my diagnosis, and I am doing just fine. There are a few things in this world that my diabetes keeps me from doing. Although my will power is cut short sometimes, overall I am pretty good handling my disease. Sure, I sometimes think about those carefree, childhood days, wishing to return to them, or envy a child enjoying a big, pink puff of cotton candy at the carnival, but that just comes along with having the disease. In the beginning, I was rather embarrassed by my diabetes, and although the occasional puzzled looks in public places I receive while going through my procedure can bother me, over the years I've realized that I'm just as smart, capable and healthy as all of those around me. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but along the way I'll learn that I just have to play with the hand life has dealt me, and to the best of my ability.
Katie wrote this Autobiographical Essay on September 2, 1996 for a school assignment. She receives e-mail at katiemontgomery[@]childrenwithdiabetes.com.
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