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I often thought, as I sat in that colourful waiting room, “Would my parents be here if I happened to be suffering from cancer?” And it was a question that, when answered immediately by myself, broke my heart in two. Because I believed that they would not.
I was diagnosed with type one diabetes when I was 11 years old—apparently after eleven years, my pancreas decided to divorce me, to give up on our relationship. To stop working for me, without moving out. My pancreas was a squatter.
I look back now, at eighteen years old, and I realise that I probably suffered long before I was diagnosed. Perpetual thirst and repetitive urination came hand in hand, as best friends. It was as if as soon as I swallowed a sip of water, my bladder cried for attention. It was a love, more like hate, triangle between my dry mouth, my overactive bladder, and myself. They were the first symptoms, many others followed suit; blurred vision, loss of concentration, hyperactivity, fainting. Inconvenience, also being a symptom. Because how do you explain to classmates, to teachers, and even to paramedics, that you feel unwell when they do not believe you? How do you explain how you grazed the side of your cheek, without clueing your parents in to the fact that you had another non-consensual intimate moment with the gravel? It disappointed me every time it happened… What was I doing wrong? Passing out made me want to pass out. Going for a wee, made me want to drink. Drinking, made me want to go for a wee.
I was confused and scared. I think my parents were too—although they didn’t feel the need to do much about my episodes. Football became really tough, when before it wasn’t. A burst of energy (or maybe it was due to my passion and determination) fueled me towards the ball, but as soon as it was gone, so was I. Grass, it seemed, left me less bruised when I embraced it.
The most embarrassing was the bed wetting. At 10, 11 and 12 years old I sobbed as I was robbed of what little maturity I had acquired. I became good at lying to my friends—most of the time I blamed it on my dog (I’m sorry, Coco…). But as a pre-teen, what would you do? Admit to all of your friends that you are still in fact a child in double digit age, in need of nappies? That was a humiliation I wanted to leave on the shelf.
My grandmother was my saviour. She regularly checked my blood sugar with her blood metre (this was a contraption I was curious and excited about at a young age, but now I’m sick of the forced attachment I have to the device now) and when my blood reading came back without a number, she flew into action. As the metre stated "HI" I waved back with a childish giggle, of course this was cut short when she turned to me with a grave face and informed me that this was in fact bad. On the previous tests the machine had hollered numbers in their twenties, sometimes thirties, and being the ignorant child I was I longed for a higher number. Because higher meant better right? I thought of it as a high score of some kind, in order to take my mind off of feeling under the weather. She gave my parents an ultimatum.
“Take her to the doctors, or I will.”
An appointment was scheduled for me for the next day or two. I remember my mother telling me, and I remember shrugging at her. Why should I care? What could they do that paramedics couldn’t? They will just call me an attention seeker again, and Mrs. Pancreas chuckled evilly at me from her celibate corner. If I had had the vocabulary back then, I’d have called her a useless bitch. But her defect hid from me for quite a while.
So by this point I was used to my parents yelling at me for drinking a hole into their pocket. I was used to getting up slowly, just incase. I was used to feeling rotten—I began to feel like I was a rotten person, too. A rotten person for sitting here in this doctor's office without a broken arm, without high blood pressure. Without cancer… My mother fidgeted as I sat bolt upright, as if shock had replaced my spine with a thick steel rod. I wanted to act fine, just so we could go home and pretend there was nothing wrong with me. So my parents wouldn’t be so stressed at my expense. With silly humour always in my left pocket (this would later turn to dark humour, as years turned me more and more bitter as they passed by, waving at me from the back window of the bus of life) I made the doctor laugh by enthusing about how he looked quite a bit like Will Young—I went all out and sung "leave right now," just for the ironic kick. He asked for some of my urine, and when I told him I had plenty to spare he laughed again, as mum cringed. I had recently noticed that adults refrained from rolling their eyes at my hypochondria when professionals were around, because they usually got a frown in response, and my parents didn’t want that to happen seemingly as much as I preferred not to air my piss-stained laundry. A needle was stuck into my arm, and Doctor Young proceeded to dip a colourful strip into my pot of urine. He then left us with the loud ticking clock and the stethoscope with a staring problem. He returned with a similar look on his face to what my nan had—it was a grave look, which was ironic for him to hold as he told me I could die if I didn’t get to the hospital quickly. So rather than McDonalds, we had crisps from the vending machine at our local hospital (Well rather my parents did, because I was not allowed to eat at this point, so they sat teasing me with prawn cocktail—Bastards!). The nurse rushing around me caused a realisation to occur. I was being taken seriously. I had never received so many sympathetic looks as I described my toilet patterns. In a weird way, I missed the look of disgrace that I had now befriended. I felt like I had four extra arms with the amount of wires attached to me at this point, I also felt disappointment when I attempted to crack a joke about this and neither parent even replied in smile format. They looked panicked, which was new, since all I had really ever experienced was them being too self absorbed to notice they had forgotten to pick me up from school again. I felt a new sense of self. For a short moment, I knew who I was. I was their daughter.
“You’re type one diabetic…”
I was their type one diabetic daughter. And if I were to put my newly learned A level language lingo into practice I would say the following; The use of alliteration here presents the fact that being a diabetic, along with being a daughter, enhances one another. It shows that the parents of this diabetic daughter will care more, because surely they would not want her to die (I’m guessing it was a possibility with the panicked whooping going on around my cubicle). Correct in some instances, but wrong in others. And by that I mean they would grill me about forgetting to do my blood checks, but they were also happy to leave me to wait here for hours by myself, waiting to be seen by my consultant. 4 weekly appointments wore me down. Hospital admissions were worse; the displeasure in my parents stride as they brought me fresh clothes. It’s not so much that they didn’t care—they didn’t know quite how to display it.
So as I sat here, feeling bad about my lack of cancer, the "real" illness, I remembered the time where my hypochondriac cocoon turned into a less than beautiful diabetic butterfly.