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BROOKE HARMER

Type 1 Diabetes

TELL ME YOUR STORY

"I have type one diabetes. It was super out of the blue when I was diagnosed. So it was February 14, 2014 and I was 13 years old, and for about two months I had been feeling off. I had just started getting really competitive with distance running. As a distance runner you are skinny as a rail so you don’t really notice if you lose weight. So every single one of my symptoms that I was having was attributed to other things. I was drinking 10-12 glasses of water and eating like crazy, but I was still so skinny. One thing that started bothering me though was how thirsty I was. I was getting just crazy thirsty and had dry mouth. So I was talking to my mom one day telling her about everything, how I was thirsty all of the time, I was super hungry, and how my jeans weren’t fitting anymore. My mom is a nurse and she just turned to me and said “I hope you don’t have diabetes” and we just laughed. We made a doctors appointment though and when I was telling my doctor  everything she kind of turned grey. She did a fingerstick test on me which is a blood sugar test and my blood sugar was 365. 80 to 150 is normal so she knew something was wrong. She took me by the shoulders and said “you have Type 1 Diabetes and you need to go to the emergency room right now”. I just started crying because it all just hit me. So my mom and I get in the car and we’re both crying. We rushed home to grab some clothes and drove straight to the emergency room.

 

When we got to the hospital, they started hooking me up to all of these IVs and just pumping me with water. So while we were waiting, the children’s hospital has these documentary type videos that you can watch about diagnoses. We found the one on Type 1 Diabetes and watched it. We saw these kids running on the beach and eating their snacks, and they’re just like you can do anything. We ended up staying in the hospital for the next 3 days. It was weird because I felt fine and I actually felt better than I felt in  months. I was getting insulin and learned how to give myself injections and finger pricks. It was super weird with everyone bringing me balloons and all these condolences. I remember thinking to myself, I could have it so much worse. I was like I can handle this, I’m going to be fine!

 

I had a hard time at first linking my blood sugar level to my self worth, which was challenging because I was at the peak of self consciousness at that age. I remember my mom sitting me down a few times and being like let’s figure out a strategy to make sure that my blood sugar wasn’t being linked to my self worth and that I was bigger than this. She was so good about not allowing me to determine my own value as a human being based on how well I was managing things.

 

It was crazy because about four or five years later, I was the one who diagnosed my brother and saw that he had Type 1 Diabetes too. When he was 14, he was officially diagnosed with it."

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST CHALLENGE?

"I think the hardest challenge was not wanting to be seen as different or as a freak show. I didn’t want to stand out at that age. I decided that I was gonna have to deal with this every day so I might as well own it. I just kept telling myself everything is fine and I was toxically optimistic. I just faked it for a long time. It wasn’t until my sophomore or junior year in highschool that it hit me that this wasn’t going anywhere. That was the hardest challenge, realizing that this wasn’t going anywhere and I was going to have to deal with it for the rest of my life."

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU'VE LEARNED?

"Honestly confidence. When I was in middle school I had like no self confidence. It’s weird to look back on it now because I am a weirdly outgoing person and very confident and comfortable with myself. When I was diagnosed, it gave me a reason to get up in the morning. Which is a weird thing to say. For most people, it’s like oh now it’s not worth it but for me, I was like now I have to put in some extra work here. I had to get to know myself on a whole other level now and I had to become comfortable with my body. I learned how to be my own person in high school and that I kind of had to just own it at that point."

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WHAT IS THE BIGGEST BLESSING THAT HAS COME FROM THIS?

"There’s lots of silver linings but the biggest blessing is that I can bring snacks anywhere I want to. Like literally anywhere. I maximize that wherever I go. Also, when my brother was diagnosed, we really became best friends. We started bonding and finally had something in common."

IF YOU COULD SAY ONE THING TO SOMEONE WHO IS STRUGGLING WITH THIS NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

"Don’t neglect your diabetes and you will have the most powerful life trajectory ahead of you. It is empowering to take on your diabete. It is not an expectation that you have to handle it 100%. It’s not even an expectation that you’re going to do it near perfectly because your blood sugars are going to be all over the place. You’re going to have highs and lows and it’s inevitable. It’s part of the process. You’re going to have days where you want to rip every device off of your body and just go lay in a bathtub and say that you don’t want to do it anymore. But, if you just take it on and own it, the process will be so much easier. Own your diabetes, don’t let it own you. Find ways to enjoy taking care of yourself."

CHARITIES

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