Growing up with a chronic medical condition is definitely interesting. There are a lot of bad days, arguments, misunderstandings in the early years especially and plenty of unwanted doctors visits. On the other hand there have been plenty of good days, opportunities, friendships made and funny stories from mishaps. But when I look back at it all I realise how unusual my life must have been, and still is, in comparison to others’ childhoods.
Actually Having Diabetes
One thing that sticks out to me about always having had diabetes is that most of my earliest memories, if not all of them, are based in hospital somehow. The first IV cannula I actually remember getting when I was perhaps 3 is a good example. I have a very clear memory of being shown another little girl my age who had one in her hand which was all bound in bandages and being told how amazing it was and how it meant no more needles for a little while. That’s not really a normal memory is it?
In my first year at primary school, aged 5 or 6 ish now, I have the distinct memory of being sat in my classroom with everyone in silence doing a spelling test. Then I remember just gently leaning toward the girl to my left (I still remember her name!) and seeing her shoulder/lap getting closer as I passed out from a low blood sugar. I’ve been informed that it was not a slow and gentle situation and that my poor T.A. was in fact rushing to help me, but that’s how I definitely remember it feeling to me.
It’s funny what your remember from those young ages isn’t it? Those two memories are but a few of many I have from hospital stays, bad hypos, random visits to various HCPs and trying new treatments.
They’re not all bad memories though which is funny – I remember the moment I gave myself my first injection (one handed in my left arm no less!) at the age of 6, I cannot express how chuffed I was with myself! Sadly it was 2 weeks before I transitioned to an insulin pump so my newfound skills didn’t come in handy for long.
Growing Up with Different Treatments
One thing about getting diagnosed extremely early means your answer to “How long have you been diabetic?” is always quite impressive. 17 years is quite a long time in comparison to many people’s answers, especially to others’ answer that are my age. But it means I’ve seen a lot of treatments. Mixed insulins, MDI, insulin pumps, old bulky CGMs, the new CGMs with low suspend, tons of test kits, many different types of sets and sensors plus different locations for them and now with the development of the closed loop/artificial pancreas/bionic pancreas on the horizon, I think I’m safe to say I’ve experienced close to everything. If I’d only been diagnosed 5 years ago there’s absolutely no way I’d have tried all of that list.
Whilst I wish I hadn’t had the torture of the old Medtronic Sof Sensor (that we called a harpoon) and I’m sure my mum would’ve appreciated an insulin pump from day one as my blood sugars were not a fan of MDI, actually I don’t necessarily think it’s bad a thing that I’ve had so many experiences over time. I know exactly how each thing works plus how it works for me, how I have to alter things to my life at different stages and I’ve been privileged enough to see the progression of the treatments.
So I’ve experienced all ages of diabetes (minus the ones I haven’t reached yet of course!). When a 3 year old is having to stop playing for their parent to test their bloods, I remember how that feels. When you’re walking though the doors of secondary school for the first time with no one knowing your history, I remember how it feels. When you’re having a glass of wine for the first time and you experience your first alcohol induced low, I remember how it feels.
There isn’t one piece of advice I would give to another diabetic looking at my childhood. I could argue why I prefer having been diagnosed so young but also I could equally argue why I don’t like having been diagnosed so young. There’s positives and negatives to everything in life! But I would say this:
Life happens. Diabetes will have entered everyone’s lives at different stages and really that doesn’t matter. We’re all in it together once we’ve been diagnosed with diabetes anyway. For me, it was very young so I’m able to look back at it all and see just how much it’s influenced my life and who I am as person which I personally find very interesting. One thing I’ve definitely realised is it’s okay that most of my earliest memories involved diabetes or hospitals in some respect because they’re my memories. Diabetes is a part of my life, but it is my life. So I’m okay with that.