I have a memory of being 7 or 8, in elementary school, and seeing a girl in my class– her name was Brittany– standing in the hallway with a teacher. She was pale, shaky, clutching a bottle of Sprite. I knew she had diabetes, and intuitively I knew she had the Sprite because of the diabetes. But I didn’t actually know why. I didn’t actually know what diabetes was, how it worked, why her disease allowed her to consume such a delicious carbonated beverage.
I remember being confused, I remember wanting the Sprite. I do not remember wanting the diabetes.
I had a friend named Athina in elementary school, and her younger sister, Alex, had type 1 diabetes. Diagnosed very young. I remember, in 4th or 5th grade, going to the nurse’s office once with a nosebleed.
I got nosebleeds quite often as a child, I was used to them. I had a friend, Tara, who’d never had one before, and she asked me once if they hurt. I thought it was a strange, silly question and I told her no. I said that she would probably have one one day, and could then understand and see for herself.
I was sitting in the nurse’s office in a plastic chair, holding a paper towel to my nose, head slightly tilted back, while I watched Alex draw blood from her own little fingertip and give herself a shot. I wanted to ask her if it hurt, but I didn’t. Maybe she would have said no. I doubt she would have said that I would probably have to do it one day, too, and that I could then understand and see for myself.
But if she had said it, she would have been right.