Almost 10 years ago, my life turned completely upside down. I was faced with a challenge that I never saw coming. I feared my life in a way I never thought possible.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
A huge reason why I started my blog was to create a platform for people to learn about T1D, connect with others affected, and promote positivity. So, today, I decided to share my full diagnosis story along with how Type 1 Diabetes has changed my life.
Oh boy, where do I begin? Right before I turned 13 years old, my family packed up our bags and moved from Chicago, IL to Tokyo, Japan (crazy, right?!). Moving to a new country was a big adjustment, but, I had yet to discover that God had more in store for me. About 4 months after we moved, I hit rock bottom. The three weeks leading up to my diagnosis, I wet the bed, complained of extreme thirst, and, eventually, lost over 20 lbs. But, it wasn't until a Sunday evening in September when I began to put the pieces together.
Just like any other 13 year old girl in 2008, I was a huge fan of (you guessed it) The Jonas Brothers. Typical teenager, I was procrastinating my homework and watching videos on YouTube. I came across a live performance of Nick Jonas singing his song "A Little Bit Longer". Before he began singing, he explained the symptoms he had before getting diagnosed. I remember sitting at my desk thinking, "Why do I feel the same way?". I quickly went to Google and typed in 'symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes'. I started reading through the list...extreme thirst, fatigue, blurred vision, frequent urination, and unexpected weight loss. As I read off each symptom, I was mentally checking each one off the list. The only symptom I had yet to measure was my weight loss. Since I had been playing travel volleyball shortly before moving I had an idea of my weight (about 105 lbs. at the time). I rushed to my parent's bathroom and weighed myself. The scale read 82 lbs...
Afraid, I rushed over to the kitchen to where my beautiful mother was cooking dinner and blurted out the words, "Mommy, I think I have Type 1 Diabetes". I vividly remember her looking at me, very carefully, and after a long pause she said, "Ok, we'll keep you home from school tomorrow and take you to the doctor". I still had no true understanding of what Type 1 Diabetes really was, but, being the young teenager I was, was happy I got a day off of school.
Fast forward to the next day. September 22, 2008- The day that would forever change me.
I woke up and headed to the kitchen for breakfast to find my sister, Sofia, who is one year older than me, sitting at the table. I turned over to my Mom and said, "Why is Sofia staying home?". Her response? "Oh, honey, you know high school can be tough. We're just giving her a day off." Little did I know at the time that my parents were onto the fact that something was not okay with me and wanted to keep everyone home for precaution...
So there we are, all four of us, sitting in a pediatrician's office in Tokyo, Japan waiting for my medical verdict. After some urine tests and blood work, we painfully heard the words from the doctor saying, "I'm so sorry, but, Beatriz has Type 1 Diabetes and we need to get her to a hospital as fast as possible. I'll have my team immediately contact a bilingual endocrinologist." At this point, I was afraid, but didn't quite comprehend what Type 1 was all about. As we headed home to wait for the doctor call, we passed a Starbucks and I remember asking, "Can I have my last Frappuccino ever?!" My parents, very worried, declined; but, no worries, I can assure you I've had many Frappuccino's since my diagnosis.
After finally finding a bilingual endocrinologist, I was admitted to Toranomon Hospital in Tokyo. I was quickly becoming weak and the emotions of fear and panic began to settle in. I've always hated hospitals and doctors, so being there already felt uncomfortable. After doing some more tests and waiting about 3 hours, I finally was admitted and had been assigned to an in-patient room. They wheeled me over and, in broken English, offered me movies and books to keep me entertained. They quickly inserted an IV and began to push insulin through my tubing. Then, fear sunk in.
I remember having to use the restroom (high blood sugar problems) and had my Mom and the nurse wheel me to the bathroom. I had an IV in my left hand and a catheter in my right hand (so doctor's could draw blood while I slept, if needed), so I couldn't use my hands very well. I had my Mom wash my hands for me and, out of no where, began to feel my body fall apart. I immediately said, "Please, I need the wheelchair. I'm falling!". Luckily, the nurse and my Mom caught me just in time. I officially couldn't stand anymore and hit my weakest point. Once I got back to my hospital bed, my doctor came to the room and told me that if I had not been able to self-diagnose myself, I would have fallen into a coma that evening. My blood sugars were nearing 950 mg/dL (non-diabetics should be below 100 mg/dL at fasting or range between 70-130 mg/dL throughout the day). Chills ran down my spine as I tried to remain positive. I remember telling myself, “Everything is going to be okay, everything is going to be okay.” But, truth was, I was terrified of the unknown and had begun the process of greiving over the life I had lost.
10 Day Hospital Stay + Newly Diagnosed Plan
For the next 10 days, I lived at the hospital while medical staff helped me stand on my feet again. I remember video chatting my sister while she was back at school, my Dad working in my hospital room so he didn't have to leave my side, and my Mom hanging out with me, watching movies and helping me smile. I spent a majority of my days, learning about the harsh truth of T1D. All of the needles, the shots, the carb counting, and precautions one needs to take. The doctors in Japan recommended I go back to the USA, just to get set up on an American treatment plan. So, the day after I got released, my family hopped on a plane back to Chicago to see doctors. We were fortunate enough to remain living in Japan, though, while getting the necessary care traveling between the two countries. I was monitored by my Japanese doctor in the Fall and Spring, and would see my American endocrinology team over Summer and Winter break.
The care I had in Japan was incredible. My team of doctors and nurses helped give me hope in my darkest hour and took care of me, despite the language barrier. Every time I would see my doctor again for check ups, they greeted me with a smile and asked me how I was doing. I am forever grateful for this amazing team of doctors who did all they could to make me feel comfortable as a newly diagnosed chronic illness patient in a foreign country.
how i’ve changed
Having Type 1 Diabetes has completely altered my life. While it’s very hard to deal with, emotionally and physically, I am oddly blessed. T1D has taught me to be strong, to face challenges with positivity, and has made my relationship with God so much stronger. During difficult times, you learn who means most to you and who loves you. I’m so thankful for my family, friends, and Matthew for always supporting me.
Fun fact: Matthew actually asked me out on my 5th ‘diaversary’ in hopes he would take a sad and difficult day for me and turn it into a happy one. Moments like this are incredible—and it’s crazy to think this September we’ll be celebrating 5 years together!!
To anyone who supports a T1D, you are special. Thank you for devoting your time, energy, and heart to make such an incredible difference. Not every day is easy, some are even scary, but you make this fight so much more do-able. Also, shoutout to Nick Jonas for helping me self-diagnose myself, not sure I would’ve made it alive without ya.
We may not have a cure yet, but with all of your support I think we'll get there. This year, I'm excited to reach my decade of T1D, and couldn't be more proud of how far I've come.