I can't live without it.
by Claudia Havoc
I’m a 17 year old girl from Massachusetts with type 1 diabetes. I was diagnosed at 5 years old on mother’s day weekend and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was constantly sick and lost 15 pounds in a week and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. The last time my mother brought me into their office she wouldn’t leave without an explanation of why I was so sick. They did a finger stick and my blood sugar was roughly 800. All I could say through the whimpers and crying was “I don’t want to have an operation.” I was sent to Children’s Hospital in Boston for 5 days and recovered so quickly that I thought I was cured and I didn’t need to take shots anymore.
I went back to kindergarten and got questioned and picked on constantly. I can remember kids saying “don’t come near me, your contagious” and “I’m afraid that I’ll catch diabetes if you even breathe on me” when I would try to play with them in the classroom. I used to come home from school, lock myself in my room and just cry till my eyes couldn’t produce anymore tears. At 5 years old being asked and teased constantly about any kind of disease is scarring and it made me feel horrible and from that I ended up having no friends within that school and eventually I stopped going to school because of the harassment. I used to stay up all night crying to myself and asking myself why it had to be me. As the years went on I stopped taking shots and checking my blood sugars off and on. I just wanted to feel like a normal kid and eat cake and sweets or bouncing off the walls without having to keep checking to see if I was going high or low. My mother and grandparents tried to regulate everything but I still got away with things that I shouldn’t have.
I started going to Clara Barton camp when I was 6 years old and I went there till I was 13. I can honestly say that CBC has been my second home. Before I didn’t feel accepted or welcome and that first summer was my golden ticket into happiness. I thought that I was the only one who had diabetes and then I looked around and there were 50 girls who felt the same as I did. I didn’t have to feel like I was some sort of freak or outcast and I could just be myself without having to be harassed by dirty looks and stares when I pulled a syringe out of my pocket like a junkie to give myself insulin.
When I was 9 I decided enough was enough and I was going to take care of it myself. I got my 14 A1C down to a 10 and felt great. At 13 I wanted to go onto the pump and I made sure that I checked my blood sugars at least 6 times a day and over time I got my A1C down to a 7. When I was 15
I went on the pump and everything changed for me. I was happy and enjoyed my life and for once I didn’t care what people said about me having diabetes.
I can remember being denied for sports teams or gym memberships because of diabetes. Some schools wouldn’t take me because no one was “trained” for that type of commitment. When I would go through metal detectors and I would take off my pump I would get blank stares. I’ve been pulled over before because I was swerving a little and the officer thought I had been drinking when in reality my blood sugar was at 37. I got questioned when I went for my driving permit and they almost had me get a signed note from my endocrinologist.
And now I’m 17, still on the pump and going into college with almost 12 years of experience of diabetes under my belt. I do have minor problems with my eyes because I wasn’t managing it properly and I am scared that I will have other complications in the future. I’ve been through mostly bad times and I would be lying if I said that the remarks of diabetes is contagious didn’t bother me today, because it still does. Sometimes I’m scared to tell a new friend or boyfriend “hey look, I’m a diabetic and this is what you need to do if I get so low that I don’t respond”, but I have to because I’m not going to put my health on the line again. I don’t smoke cigarettes, I don’t drink any kind of alcohol, and I don’t do any kind of drug whatsoever because I know that it’s all a risk to your health and it’s the same thing as not telling a new person in your life that you’re a diabetic.
My grandfather was diagnosed with type 2 a few years ago and he is turning 83 this year. When he first got it I helped him try to control it the best I could and now he has it down pretty well. Whenever I hear about a new medicine or way to treat I tell him because I know how hard it is to take 4 shots a day for so many years.
I get asked all the time, “if there was a cure would you take it?”, and every time I say no. Diabetes is all I’ve known and I can’t remember not living without it. It has made me who I am today and I’m very proud of that. Back when I was first diagnosed I would have given anything to take it was but it has made me a very strong person and I wouldn’t change that for the world now. I love having diabetes and diabetics are 10 times cooler than regular people! I have a fantastic team at Children’s Hospital with Kristen Rice and Joseph Wolfsdorf and it feels really good to know someone is there to support you.
I just want to tell my story and let people know that diabetes isn't a horrible thing. It could turn out to be positive.
Thank you for reading :] - Claudia.