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My name is Stephanie. I am 8 years old and in the 3rd grade. I live in Scottsdale, Arizona. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on August 15, 1998 about one month after my seventh birthday. When I started displaying the symptoms of diabetes, nobody recognized them as signs of a disease. I began losing weight (my mom thought I was growing taller and therefore, slimming down). I was always thirsty (since I live in the desert, my mom thought this was normal too). My mom was actually happy I was drinking so much water, because I usually liked to drink soda and stuff that isn't really good for you. I also had to go to the bathroom ALL the time (my mom thought this was normal too, since I was drinking so much water)!

It is embarrassing to say, but I also wet my bed a few times. This wasn't normal, since I had been potty trained when I was about two years old, but my mom and dad attributed it to the fact I was drinking so much water before bed. They got mad at me for not waking up and going to the bathroom. Finally, in mid August, my mom made an appointment with the pediatrician because I had lost ten or more pounds (which was about 20% of my total body weight) and my shorts were literally falling off my body. She was beginning to realize something was wrong, but didn't know what. Before making it to the doctor's office, I ended up in the hospital!

On Friday, August 14, we went to the mall with my grandma for lunch. She thought I looked terrible and was very worried. My mom explained my symptoms. My grandma said she thought those might be signs of diabetes. We went about the rest of our day, but when I went to bed that night I had a really bad stomach ache and felt awful. After my mom put me to bed, she got out her "Dr. Mom" book and looked up diabetes. She got very scared when she realized that I had EVERY symptom. My dad took me (and my urine sample) to the emergency room about midnight. The nurse checked my blood sugar and it was over 700. They had me transported, by ambulance, to a bigger hospital, where I spent the night in intensive care and was diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes. I spent a week in the hospital, while they tried to stabilize my blood sugar levels and figure out how much insulin I needed. I missed the first day of second grade, which was the same day I checked out of the hospital.

The second day of school, I spent some time teaching the other kids in my class about my disease. I showed them how I test my blood sugar (they thought my purple meter looked like a Gameboy). I also brought in an orange to show them how to do a shot (I told them I would have to have a shot of insulin three times a day and none of them thought they would like to have diabetes). I explained that I wouldn't be able to eat lots of sugary foods anymore (that convinced them they wouldn't want to have diabetes) and that during the day, I would need to eat snacks to keep me from getting too low. The first few weeks, I still didn't feel very good, but I gained my lost weight back. I hated the shots, but tried to be brave. Eventually, when I was able to get my blood sugar in my target range (80-200), I started to feel better.

When Miss America, Nicole Johnson, came to Phoenix last spring to do diabetes screenings and help raise awareness of the disease, my dad took me to meet her. I wanted to have my picture taken with her, but we were told that wasn't allowed, because everyone would want to do it. My dad talked to Miss America's chaperone and told her my story. Nicole not only agreed to have her picture taken with me, but we also talked about diabetes. She showed me the holes on her fingers from being pricked and I showed her mine. She also told me never to let having diabetes prevent me from achieving my dreams. She told me I could do anything I want with my life and I had to promise her I would never give up trying to make my dreams come true! True to my promise, I still do all the things I love...sing and perform in the theater, swim, ice skate, do gymnastics, play with my dog. I haven't let diabetes slow me down! But I do get frustrated at times. Even when I do all the "right" things, my blood sugar numbers can be out of range. Sometimes I cry and tell my mom that I hate having diabetes. She'll give me a hug and say she understands. She tells me I'm a very brave and special little girl! Today (November 6, 1999, they day before my mom's birthday), I started using an insulin pump! It's the new blue one from MiniMed. I had half of an Oreo shake at lunch (usually eating this amount of carbohydrates would have been my WHOLE meal allocation, but I got to eat lunch too) and CAN'T WAIT to sleep in tomorrow! My mom said the smile on my face is the best birthday present she's ever had!

Here's a picture of me with Nicole Johnson! If you have questions about the pump, feel free to e-mail me at

  Stephanie with Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999
Stephanie with Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999.

Published November 7, 1999

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