By that, I mean Diagnosis. Not Diarrhoea. Or Donkeys. Definitely not Doughnuts.
Do you remember what your concerns were when you were eight years old? Tammy Girl and Take That. That is honestly what I recall. Embarrassing, but true. Everyone used to slate me because Gary Barlow was my favourite. I like to think I was just one step ahead – we all know how much the ladies love him now.
These are the concerns you’re supposed to have. That, and who your best friend is that week. But being eight takes me back to only one place. One day. 16th May 1996.
I was woken that morning by Mrs G. She was whispering; it was early. She wanted to get me up before my brothers were awake and thus nosey. She took me to the loo and got me to pee in a jar. An empty (washed out) pickled onion jar no less. Even at eight, I was aware of my dignity. This was not a good start to the day.
I have quite a few awkward memories of the weeks running up to me being diagnosed. Things were happening to me that I couldn’t explain, or understand. I remember being at a friend’s house and feeling overwhelmingly guilty because I’d guzzled a whole carton of their orange juice in the space of a few hours. Yes, it was Sainsbury’s Basics but still. I had manners and I knew that wasn’t very polite. I just had an overwhelming, unrelenting thirst. I needed the juice, and I needed it now. And again. And some more. What I didn’t realise at the time was that the juice was possibly the worst thing I could drink. It was sending my sugar levels soaring, and thus making me thirstier. To this day I buy orange juice to correct my hypos. There’s gotta be something weird about that.
Memory Two: Out with Mum, uber excited because I was allowed to go to Tammy Girl (yes, there it is again. I loved Tammy Girl. And what of it?!) to try stuff on for birthday presents. I was stood in the changing room queue, clutching a rather delightful blue and white checked shirt with no sleeves and a tie knot at the bottom. Sounds hideous, doesn’t it? It wasn’t that bad, but I often wore it with a pair of blue stripy flares. My eight-year-old self should have known better than to mix checks with stripes! Seriously. I digress…
There I was in the queue, planning birthday party outfits in my head. There was no need really, we were going bowling. Nothing was ever going to match those shoes. Suddenly I was overcome with the need to go to the loo so badly it physically hurt. I was bent over double; yet unable to stand still for fear of what might happen. This is not something you want to be dealing with when you’re just at the age of learning about what’s cool, what’s not, how to apply (blue) eye shadow, dreaming of the cute boy in Year 6.
Mum snapped, I still remember it, clear as day: “Why didn’t you go earlier? You’ll just have to hope it fits, won’t you.” It was in that tone of voice that you just know as a child, even an eight-year-old child. You’ve done something wrong. Not that I blame her, we were both in the dark together. Coincidentally that same shopping trip we bought those mini cans of fizzy you used to be able to get in Woolworths (ahhh, Woolworths). Cans of non-diet Lilt, and 7Up. Liquids that I needed so much, yet silently doing the same damage as the aforementioned OJ. Sending my sugars rocketing, making me thirstier, more desperate for the loo, more lethargic. I became a tired, withered, shadow of my annoyingly sparkly younger self. Grumpy is something I’m rather immaculately picking up with age. We were all in the dark. I was confused, tired, fading away. I couldn’t go out and play because I knew I would need the loo, or feel sickly. I didn’t want to play anymore anyway. Something was definitely wrong.
So, 16th May 1996. Things didn’t really get any less confusing that day. There I am, sat with the family GP; wishing mum would put that bloody pissy pickled onion jar away. It was sat on the desk, shining like the most embarrassing humongous spot you’re guaranteed to get on the tip of your nose before the hottest date of your life. “What the hell am I even doing here?” I remember thinking. Maybe not quite so blasphemously, mind. The doctor had taken a blood sugar reading, my first ever one. It sat there, next to Jar of Piss (there was no escaping it, to the point it credits capitals), screaming 30.4. Weird that I remember that number. I guess everything else he said didn’t make sense to me; at least I could read that for myself. Then we were sent to the hospital, where I cried my little heart out as Mr G carried me down the bright, white, offensive corridor, clueless as to what was happening to me, or why I felt the way I did. It was late in the evening; people were all around me, doing this and that, prodding and poking. I don’t remember being scared at that point. Hospitals meant special treatment. I liked the nurse, she was funny. I remember it being ten past nine on the clock, telling me as she took yet more blood, “I’ll have to hurry, another twenty minutes and we’ll have to keep you in.” Weirdly, I was definitely trying to delay it all because I wanted to stay in overnight. What’s that about? If only I could tell my eight year old self how many bloody trips to the hospital I would have to make in the next couple years. I would have been out of there like a shot. There was more peeing, too. I upgraded from the jar, you’ll be pleased to know, although only slightly. They gave me a silver tray, something akin to a Chinese takeaway pot. Delish.
Incidentally I have no trouble eating Chinese. Or pickled onions. Although I favour pickled onions much less than I do Chinese. But I’m pretty sure that’s got nothing to do with my diabetes. Just working taste buds.
I don’t recall hearing the word ‘diabetes’ – I can’t remember them telling me I had it. But I remember knowing in the car on my way home, crying crying crying my eyes out, tears of frustration because I didn’t know what it was, what I ‘had’, this thing that I would have forever, that meant my life would be different now. Nine days before my ninth birthday, 16th May 1996. Pretty catchy, that.
What baffles me to this day is how I took it all in my stride. This word I didn’t even understand and all the patronizing shit that came with it. The certificate I got for doing my first injection by myself, the funny equipment in all manner of offensively bright colours and patterns. They, whoever “they” may be, were trying to make diabetes cool. Like the next pogs, or yoyos, or Tamagotchis. TamagotchNO. Do me a favour.
But ultimately at some point, someone must have said to me, “You’ve got to inject every day, four times a day, for the rest of your life.” Eight-year-old Jen was good for it. Okay. Hit me with it. Let’s go. Not a problem. If someone said that to me now I’d think my life was over, I’m pretty sure of that. I think that’s the wonder of children, and also the wonder of ignorance. I was a pretty smart kid (I saw to that in the next few years), but this world was alien. Maybe even slightly, dare I say it, exciting? I didn’t know the half of it. Still don’t know the half of it! Once again, there appears to be a moral to this one…
This is why we’re here. On this page. With this blog. Tammy Girl may not have survived (May she Rest In Peace). Hell, Take That have even come back from the dead. Back For Good, if you will. And thank the lord, I thought I’d lost Gary forever. BUT. I’m still here. And I don’t intend to go anywhere. Not just yet.
Low Carbing Day 4…
Early Morning BS 3.9
Breakfast BS 7.6, Novorapid 2
Lunch BS 6.0, Novorapid 3
Dinner BS 4.8, Novorapid 4
Bed Lantus 25
Hurrah! Amazing blood sugars. This appears to be working…