Letters From the Cusp of Childhood/Adulthood

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You might not be able to eat that doughnut when you have high blood sugar, but you can still become a doctor or a famous baseball player.
Cindy ChenBy Cindy Chen
(17 years old, California)

Dear parents,

This coming school year, I’ll be a senior?and then it’s off to college. All parents worry about their kids. A parent of a kid with type 1 diabetes (T1D) finds an apartment within a one-mile radius of his or her child. But parents, as hard as it is, you eventually have to let your kids go. It’s okay. Most of us have lived with T1D for a long time, and we know the tricks of the trade. We know to carry glucose tablets with us everywhere we go; we’ve learned how to aggressively bolus when our blood sugar just won’t go down. But it’s more than that?T1D has taught us a lot about how to live life.

As a delegate at the upcoming JDRF 2013 Children’s Congress, I will be called upon to represent the approximately three million people with T1D in the United States. As a teenager who has lived with T1D for 10 years, maybe I can represent others like me to worried parents everywhere. My message to you: we are independent enough to deal with T1D on our own. Not convinced? Read on?you will be.

As a child, I was very reserved about my T1D. I didn’t like the other kids knowing about my T1D, because I didn’t want to be different?I wanted to be “normal.” In high school, I met Allison?the only other student with T1D. She and I became close friends. We started a JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes team sophomore year, and got 10 of our closest friends to join us. Junior year, there were 20 kids on the team, and I reached a revelation. My friends don’t care that I have T1D. They accept me for who I am. The fact that they were willing to bear pouring rain and scorching heat to walk with me literally made me cry.

At that moment, I decided to not be so closed off about T1D. I even found a joy in talking about my T1D, which led me to become a T1D advocate. Later, I even did an internship at a research center (you can read about that here) and T1D became my motivation to pursue a career in endocrinology.

I think T1D makes me stronger as a person?and it makes me unique. Obviously, I’d rather not have this disease, but I am confident about making the best hand I can with the cards I’ve been dealt. And the truth is, I didn’t come by that perspective by accident?a lot of it came from my parents. So to all those other parents of teenagers with T1D, just remember: it is because of all you have done for us and everything you taught us that we will excel in the future.

So parents, thank you for all you do. Thank you for committing social suicide by asking in public whether we’re high. Thank you for dealing with airport security as you try to explain why you’re carrying around a bunch of needles and shots. And to my mom, thank you for waking up every single night to make sure I’m not low. I know I will take everything I have learned from my parents and from my own experience with T1D and put it to great use in college.




Dear fellow type 1 diabetic,

Hey there! I haven’t met you yet, but we already have one thing in common?type 1 diabetes. And it bites?I know it does. But T1D won’t stop you from accomplishing your dreams. You might not be able to eat that doughnut when you have high blood sugar, but you can still become a doctor or a famous baseball player. As someone who has lived with T1D for 10 years, I’ve learned a few things I’d like to pass on to you?especially those of you who are newly diagnosed.

First of all, you are not a type 1 diabetic?even though I addressed you that way. You are a kid with type 1 diabetes. And type 1 diabetes will not stop you. In fact, T1D can make you stronger. Think about it. When other kids complain that they hate shots, you secretly laugh, because you’ve taken at least a thousand more shots than they have, and you don’t complain. When clueless people ask you if you got diabetes because you ate too much sugar, you say, “Of course. So if you don’t give me that cookie right now, you’re going to get diabetes too.”

But in all seriousness, I know that we all reach a point where we want to just give up. We feel as though we can’t go on anymore, and we’re sick and tired of having to poke ourselves with needles, and change our infusion set, and on and on. When that happens, talk to someone?someone who has T1D, if possible. Because let’s face it, no understands a person with T1D better than another person with T1D. Talking about your struggles with T1D to someone who understands you is a fantastic way to get your frustrations off your chest. Talking about T1D has helped me personally.

That leads me to my next bit of advice. Find other kids with T1D. They are honestly the coolest, because they understand what you go through. I am part of the JDRF Youth Ambassadors group at my local chapter, and we hang out at JDRF events and really have a blast!

I think my most important piece of advice?and my own personal mantra?don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you have T1D. Not only can you do it, you can do it better.



Learn more about Cindy, please visit her Children’s Congress delegate page.