The household has been turned upside down these past few months as we prepare to send the oldest She off to college. financial aid, scholarship and housing applications have made me keenly aware of just how much time and energy she’s put into becoming a well-rounded 18-year-old young woman. I’m insanely proud assisting in filling out the application for her to be a Junior Counselor at our local ADA Diabetes camp this summer. She’s to list references that pertain to working with children. There are three slots. The first two references come to her easily; a Girl Scout camp director who’s known her since Kindergarten and a friend with three kids (one a T1D) whom she’s been a sitter for here and there over the past few years. She had to ask for help on the third. We were stumped, and as we sat in our silence, reality slowly sank in. Somewhere along the way, my ready-and-willing yes girl had turned into an Uhm-I-don’t-think-so girl. I knew it was happening as it was happening, and I feared it would eventually catch up to her, limiting her in some way. But, it was in this instance where She finally knew it herself and my heart squeezed in pain.
As the mini-me daughter of a volunteer extraordinaire, she often followed my example with sure, I can do that. That was before diabetes. The before her was actively engaged in a whole list of various activities, volunteered her time, was consistently on honor roll at school and engaged in a diverse network of friends. She worked hard at whatever she did and was giving of her time and energy when she had the energy.
When diabetes came into our lives in December of 2011 she was in the midst of starring in a play and being the cover model for an international magazine for girls. These exciting activities kept her going and diabetes became a driving force inside her that challenged her to greatness. By mid-2012, things were changing and the yes’s turned into no’s. Depression from dealing with the never-ending chronic nature of the disease hung around her like a cloak, weighing down her bones, killing the spirit of the girl who was sure of herself; strong, independent and confident.
Her narrowing focus carved away one activity after another so that what remained were two main areas; anything-my-diabetes-friends-are-doing and instrumental music. So, diabetes and music. (And sometimes school when she is motivated by the fact that good grades equal the ability to get her driver’s license.) Even in those two areas I still hear some no’s. And, while she’s saying no, she can’t help but notice that her once shy, awkward sister had blossomed into the kind of with-it, driven spirit she herself had once been. Despite her own chronic zebra illness (Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome), big She was able to flip a switch and conjure up a rich life filled with fun and diversity.
Recently, little She applied to serve as a teen Youth Ambassador for our local JDRF chapter (praying it happens). Girl Scout camp, where she’ll serve her fourth year as Program Aide is right around the corner. SweetÂ 16 comes in early June (yay), as does her temporary driving permit (OMG) and a job (hmmm). This might be enough to ignite her, allowing her to kick away the depression, and letting the weight of diabetes challenge her to reach once again for a life filled with activity and opportunity.
I look at that empty space and imagine writing the word DIABETES MONSTER. Working day in and day out to survive should count for more than any one person’s reference as to how incredibly capable my kid is to serve as Junior Counselor at a diabetes camp. I’m sure there are more no’s coming my way._______ because, teen. And, in two short years as we work on her college applications I’ll have to say ______ to those empty spaces and instead help her focus on writing kick ass essays.
Surviving diabetes has to count for something.