By Amanda Bock

The events we experience as we age mold and shape us into the individuals we are. How, exactly, we let ourselves be molded and shaped is entirely up to us. In the words of Wayne W. Dyer, “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” There is always something positive to focus on in a situation, no matter how terrible it might seem. Looking back on my life so far, I can think of one distinct moment where I chose to grow and treat what happened as a gift.

In January 2010, when I was 9, my life took a 180 degree turn when I returned home from my first day back at school from winter break. I had been feeling off for quite some time. I was very thin, easily upset, and eating and drinking an extreme amount. My mom asked me to take a test, telling me to pee on a stick, which seemed very strange, but I did it.
I did not have the slightest idea why my mom was so worried when she saw the result show a dark purple color; a color not even shown on the test’s result diagram. As my mom went to call the hospital about the results, I remember going to sit by our family fireplace, eating a strawberry ice cream bar. My sister Annie sat next to me, a middle schooler at the time, and we talked about our first day back to school. My sister turned to me, realizing who mom was on the phone with, and said jokingly, “Wouldn’t it be funny if you had diabetes?” Little did she know that a couple hours later, I was in the emergency room at the University of Michigan Hospital with the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus type one.

Sitting in the hospital later that night was terrifying. I still had very little idea of what was going on, and how this disease I was diagnosed with would affect me. My blood glucose had a reading of 855, which means I was nearly comatose. I was lucky to still be conscious, I was lucky to be alive. My mom was with me for the first night and helped keep me calm. Most of my hospital experience was a blur. All I seem to remember was how hungry I was the first night, as I hadn’t eaten anything since my strawberry ice cream. I became increasingly frustrated that the nurses wouldn’t give me any food. I understand now that they were waiting for my blood sugar to lower, but at the time it made me grumpy. My father came to the hospital on the second day to stay with me. He brought me a little stuffed dog that I named “Carmelo,” and allowed me to have chocolate cake for dinner. It may have seemed insignificant to him, but it was my way of rebelling against the strict diet I had to follow in the hospital. I spent a total of three days in the hospital learning what diabetes was, how I had to manage it, and how it would affect the rest of my life.

It was a massive life change for me and my entire family. I could no longer go about my day as a normal kid. All my food needed to be counted in carbohydrates and then calculated into an insulin injection. I had to constantly prick my finger and check my blood glucose every time I exercised or ate food. My whole family had to learn how to give injections. I had to learn to manage one of the hardest to control diseases and not let it stop me from participating in the same activities as the other kids my age. I soon went on a new type of equipment called an insulin pump, which replaced my syringe injections with an electronic device that administers my medication in a way similar to an IV. Within the first three years of having diabetes, I became almost completely independent with my treatment. I learned how food, medication, exercise, illness, weather, and hormones affect my blood glucose. I faced diabetes burnout, a form of depression people with diabetes often struggle with when the overwhelming task of management becomes too much.

The reality of my diagnosis was that life wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, and I had to learn that I was going to be different than others around me. I have dealt with pain and responsibility that very few people will ever endure. Yet, despite the struggles, hardships and downfalls, I have learned how to be
independent and take care of my body. I have been able to understand the science behind my diabetes and how my choices impact my future. This has ultimately helped me develop a healthier lifestyle. I have learned what love is, by the patience and support my family has shown me. Being diagnosed with diabetes has caused me take on many responsibilities and helped me to gain understanding and maturity different than many kids my age. Diabetes has caused me to look at the bigger picture of life, to find silver linings, and to give everyone grace with their own personal struggles. My diabetes has even impacted my future, influencing the type of career I intend to pursue. I will be majoring in biochemistry to train for a career in technological advancements and research on diabetes to help others facing similar hardships.

Diabetes sucks, there is no other way to say it. What happened as a result of the hardships though, was a gift. I grew as an individual and learned lessons no textbook could ever teach. I have taken this life experience and made the choice to view it as a gift that will drive me to better the world for others.