one until none.


once upon a time there was a sixteen year old girl. she was healthy, liked baking (and eating) cookies, spontaneous road trips with her family were one of her favorite things, and she had no idea how quickly things could change from normal. she did normal teenage girl things. she went to school and did homework, she hit snooze too many times in the morning, pushing the limits on how quickly she could get ready to go places. she went to church every Sunday, volunteered in a homeless shelter, and was a student leader. she thought that normal meant fighting with her older brother for being way too overprotective and with her younger sisters for being annoying.

she didn't know, you see, that normal isn't set in stone and that it can change -- quickly, drastically, and overwhelmingly.

one day, two weeks before the end of her sophomore year of high school, when she was sixteen and just returning from a missions trip to Mexico, she was sick. not normal sick where you have a fever and chills and can't breathe from being congested, but the kind that lingers.

she lost weight, despite being constantly hungry and always eating. a lot of weight. twenty-five pounds in less than two weeks. she was constantly thirsty too, drinking anywhere between one and three gallons of water per day. she was tired and lethargic and overly emotional. her parents worried about her, but she swore that she was fine, that she just had something that she caught in Mexico and that it would fine.

but then, on Mother's Day in 2012, the girl passed out. her mom wanted to call an ambulance. her dad talked her out of it, but her mom wanted her to go to the doctor the next day. "I think you're sick," her mom said.

the girl knew she was sick. she was scared that it was something serious and that her perfect, normal life would change forever.

in some ways, she was right, and it did change forever. you see, on May 14th, 2012, the girl was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. she spent a little under a week in the ICU. she watched movies and cried and quickly grew frustrated with the nurses who checked on her and the beeping of the IV when she needed a new bag of fluids and the blood draws every six hours and when the nurses told her that they were sorry, but her blood sugar was too high and she couldn't eat just yet. she was frustrated with the dietitians and the social workers and the diabetes educators that acted like she wasn't normal and would never be normal again.

she cried at the little things, mostly, like when they told her that they recommended that she only drink juice if her blood sugar was low. (would it ever be low? she wanted to know. all she knew was high and sick and the inability to eat until she came back down within a 'normal' range.)

what was normal, she wondered. was it the new regiment of blood sugar tests and injections and doctors appointments? was it how things were before? was it when her blood sugar was between 80 and 150?

she thought that things were supposed to be easy. she thought that God was supposed to have her back and that, since she was trying to follow His plan for her life, that he would look out for her, not let her own body turn on itself. she wanted to know why it was her, and not one of her siblings, although she would never want her siblings to have diabetes. she was scared, mostly, that she could never have something normal.

now, three and a half years later, I've realized that normal is overrated. that there is no normal day in the life of a diabetic. that no two days -- even if you do everything exactly the same -- will have the same outcome. that there will be people who don't understand, that there will be days where crying is absolutely necessary, that there are days that you can sit down and eat and entire tub of Ben and Jerry's and your blood sugar will be okay and days when you eat an entire tub of Ben and Jerry's and instantly regret the decision. there will be days when you forget to change the battery in your pump and you have to leave class early to do so. that people will surprise you with how they handle knowing that you have a chronic condition. that you should always have at least two extra packages of fruit snacks in your bag because you never know when someone's having a bad day and might need some Scooby Snacks. that when it comes down to it and you don't have anything left in your bag and your blood sugar is at 37 and your hands won't stop shaking, your math professor will give up her snack to make sure that you're okay. that it's okay to not be normal anymore, because sometimes normal is just boring.

if we're being completely honest, I don't really remember what it's like to eat something without counting carbs and taking insulin. I don't remember getting up in the morning and not immediately reaching for my glucose meter and test kit. I don't remember not worrying about going somewhere new and not knowing if there will be someone there who knows what to do if my blood sugar's too low and I can't get something to eat right away. I don't remember being able to just grab a cookie without first checking my blood sugar and I don't remember the last time my mother made pasta for dinner without first checking to make sure that I was having a day with good numbers.

three and a half years later, I'm still learning. I'm learning to rely on others and that I don't always have to have it all together. that sometimes I just need to sit back and let someone take care of me, instead of always needing to be independent. I'm learning not to put of homework until the last minute because sometimes the blood sugar strikes back and I can't focus when I need to. that there will be times when my pump alarms in class and everyone turns to stare. that, while I can never forget that I'm diabetic, sometimes the people around me do forget and need gentle reminders that sometimes I need a break.

my normal is very different now than it was three and a half years ago in that I don't have a normal anymore. and that's okay. until we turn type one into type none, I'll be okay with this crazy, unpredictable life.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. every year approximately 40,000 people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas are attacked by the body's immune system and cease to do their job. this leads to elevated blood glucose levels and the presence of ketones. if untreated, type 1 diabetes can lead to death. treatment for type 1 diabetes includes careful monitoring of blood glucose levels and taking insulin every time carbohydrates are consumed. insulin is administered via injections or by insulin pump. there is currently no cure for type 1 diabetes.