Sloane Wesloh, Stillwater, age 15
Living with type 1 diabetes for three years
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 12. I lost many pounds, I was drinking over 300 oz. of water every day, I was heading to the bathroom literally every few minutes and I felt horrible. By the time I was diagnosed, my blood sugar was well over 600 mg/dl (the highest blood sugar that a blood sugar meter can register) and I was skin and bones. I spent three days in Children's Hospital, surrounded by people who knew exactly what I was going through and way more stuffed animals than anyone would ever need. At the age of 12, the islet cell function in my pancreas had shut down for an unknown reason and I was now in charge of balancing my blood sugar and injecting insulin through the use of syringes several times a day. I went back to 7th grade with a backpack that held the typical textbooks and pencils, with the new addition of syringes and vials of insulin. Once I knew the basics on how to manage this disease and my parents knew that I was okay on my own, I would sit outside my locker before lunch with my lunchbox and slowly count the carbs of everything I was going to eat and then use a calculator to determine the amount of insulin I should inject. Would I go low? Would I go high? Would I faint? The possibilities seemed endless. I was the only diabetic at my small charter school. The school nurse spent most of her day at the other building that made up my school and the receptionist had a fear of blood and needles. I was on my own at school.
At the time of my diagnosis, I had played classical violin and viola for seven years. I loved playing viola. When I was diagnosed, my new goal in life was to achieve normal blood sugars. I quit viola. My fingers wouldn't move, I would tear up when I went to practice etudes, two hours of orchestra left me totally and completely exhausted. I was done.
For months there was nothing I liked doing because to me, I had to keep my diabetes under control and I had to figure this whole disease thing out before I could do anything else. I ignored my music, I quit Minnesota Youth Symphonies, I stopped going to my lessons. When you spend seven years immersed in music, a few months without it is like living in a world without sound.
I slowly gained back some weight and became more comfortable with the injections, blood sugar testing and eating routine. It was springtime, for Minnesota and for me. I dug out my viola.
Today, you can find me at orchestra on most Saturday mornings, with my bright yellow viola case covered in bumper stickers. My favorite one says, "Don't Underestimate the Power of Diabetics." It's true. I live with this disease that has the power to rule me, but like many diabetics I have chosen to rule my disease. When I play viola, it is the only time that I don't feel the scars, the needles, high or low blood sugars. It's in playing viola that I realize that I CAN control my diabetes, it doesn't control me.
Living with type 1 diabetes is a constant fight, with the knowledge that I will never win. I am grateful every day for the advancements that have been made and are being made in diabetes treatments, cures and technology. Type 1 diabetics are able to have long and healthy lives thanks to these advancements. Not only are blood sugar meters safer and insulin pumps more reliable, but they are starting to fit into my lifestyle. At age 15, I go to parties, I wear dresses, I am without my parents for most of the day a lot of the time and I absolutely do not want to wear a fanny pack. The fact that I can have one of the most reliable blood sugar meters in the color bright purple is fantastic. I AM more than a diabetic after all!