20 years

Twenty years ago today, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

I felt like I should do something more significant than just writing regular old reflections, so over the past week or so I’ve been working on a poem that cronicles my experiences with diabetes over the past 20 years. I found it challenging to write a poem that was more of a narrative rather than a detailed description of a single moment in time or phenomenon, as most poems are, but I found it fun to write and it really forced me to decide which things in the past 20 years have been the most significant for me, since there was such a limited amount of narrative space available. Of course, this doesn’t cover all my experiences by far, but it does cover the ones that I most clearly remember and/or that I think shaped the way I thought about tdiabetes. Also, many of the lines in this poem were taken from actual diary entries (I’ve kept a diary since I was 12, only three years after being diagnosed).

I will probably continue to tweak this until it is perfect, but I decided to post it here and share it with everyone. I hope you enjoy it! I haven’t written poetry in a few years so writing this was like going back to my English major roots!

Of course, I trust that no one would do this, but please do NOT take this poem or post it anywhere else without asking me! :slight_smile:

So thirsty. Always, always thirsty.

Juice, pop, is there any more?

Water, even from the tap,

My mom says I’m too skinny.

Doctor, blood test, hospital–

diabetes? What’s that mean?

I need shots now, every day;

finger pricks, even at school.

I am angry at the world!!

School is hard, life is hard, too–

they say I’m just “adjusting”–

all I want to know: why me?

Highs and lows, no reason why;

the honeymoon is over now,

but I don’t know what that means.

But the testing, shots and logs–

are starting to be normal.

I know what I need to do.

A phone call, my mom is scared–

she rushes out the front door.

She says a friend went so low,

her mom couldn’t wake her up,

they had to call nine-one-one.

It’s okay: I always wake up.

At school, some boys are teasing

me, and making fun of me

when I go low and need food.


I hate them! I wish I could

take a needle and stab them.

Starting high school: excited and scared.

New people, maybe even new friends.

How will I explain, not be a freak?

My French teacher says, on the first day,

that no one can eat in class but me.

That was the most embarrassing thing!!!

Mom wants me to carry a waste pack,

with food and sugar in case I’m low.

But I won’t–it’s ugly and uncool!

I can go get food from my locker.

She’s worried: I don’t always feel low,

But I know it won’t be a problem.

A friend of mine has diabetes–

I found out in science class today.

So weird: she was there when I got it,

and now I’m here when she gets it, too.

I feel bad for her, know what it’s like!

I went to see her today after school,

I hope that she gets to go home soon!

We are disecting in science class,

it’s time for snack (didn’t touched a thing)

so, I get my snack and start eating.

My teacher sees and he starts yelling

"Get out of the room right this second!"

I try to explain … he won’t listen.

At school I went very, very low.

I stumbled around, couldn’t understand,

collapsed while everyone stared at me.

Luckily my friend knew what to do–

so grateful!–what if I’d been alone?

I’ll carry food at school from now on …

I need to take responsibility soon

with figuring out food and doing my shots.

I do my first shot completely on my own,

at my friend’s house, while she watches the needle.

Off to summer camp, and I’m so high all week,

I call home in tears, not knowing what to do.

Mom asks why so many of my readings high.

I tell her I don’t know, and we fight about it.

The reason: the Doritos I buy at school.

But, well, I don’t think it’s any of her business!

My doctor says my A-one-c is too high

and shows me a graph of the complications.

On Christmas Eve it snows so much that we all

walk to the mall at midnight, through knee-deep drifts.

On Christmas morning I wake to confusion:

gunk squirting in my mouth–I spit the stuff out–

Parents talking, "Jen, you have to drink the juice!"

Mom says I went so low that I didn’t wake up.

College starting now, as well as part-time work.

Not thinking about diabetes a whole lot–

But I never miss a shot, I test each day,

though I should probably do more exercise …

But my control isn’t that bad, at least I think.

I’ll think about that later–too much to do!

Mom called in the morning, like she always does

and I didn’t answer, and she worried all day.

I’m so tired, could it be from my diabetes?

And always going high and low every day?

I missed a class because I slept, I was so tired!

I think I need to do something, take control …

I’m reading tons of books and autobiographies.

It scares me that all of them end with complications.

I feel like I’m learning everything for the first time!

And even when I try so hard and do what the books say,

I still can’t get good blood sugars even half the time.

I hate this disease! I’m so frustrated and it totally sucks!

At work today someone brought me some cake from upstairs.

They didn’t know I have diabetes … I kept quiet.

I took the cake, ate a bite, and tossed it when they left.

I sneak off to the bathroom to take my insulin

when eating out with people at restaurants and pubs.

Until one day when I drop my pen in the toilet …

I don’t want to hide or be self-conscious anymore!

Online, I’m finding whole communities of people

who understand what I’m going through daily, and more.

I take initiative and ask about a new inuslin.

From three shots a day to six takes some getting used to.

Will an insulin pump help me? I think maybe it might …

Every time I eat it’s like doing a math problem.

Logging, adjusting, dealing with daily highs and lows …

Through student teaching, subbing, and finally a job.

Take the plunge, find freedom I never knew existed!

Not perfection: pump failure, ketones, and gushers, too–

I’d never go back, ever. My control is so much better!!!

I’ll never be perfect; I can’t try, and fail, anymore.

Burnout. Like never before. Highs like I’ve never seen.

I can’t do this, either; I must somehow find balance …

I need to find some kind of order in all this data,

without ignoring it, or letting it rule my life.

I still try … every moment, every hour, every day.

I hope that, somehow, if I keep working, I’ll find that balance.