TuDiabetes! I am back! I haven't posted a blog in months and months and I have missed TuD and everyone here a lot. Things have been pretty exciting lately. Last week, I performed in Indiana with my quartet for a taping of NPR's "From the Top". It was incredibly fun and the show will air on National Public Radio the week of April 16th. Anyways, on the topic of viola-ness and diabetes, I wrote something recently that I wanted to share. I've been on a pump vacation for a few weeks (back to MDI) and memories of being diagnosed and figuring out a new life made up of syringes and insulin have been on my mind. So here goes...
When I was diagnosed with diabetes, my endocrinologist met me for the first time in the emergency room. I was tired, hungry, pale, limp and hooked up to IVs. He saw this scene every day. This was nothing new to him. The first thing he said was the same thing he said every single time I came to see him. “Nothing changes when you are diagnosed with diabetes. Nothing changes.” I understood that at first. It was fine by me… nothing changes, sure. I’ll go back to school and back to orchestra and just continue life. Sounds good.
Once my paleness was gone and my blood sugar was consistently in the “safe” zone, I went home. My room was the same, my friends were the same, and my homework was still there. He was right, nothing had changed. I couldn’t let this change me, either. I had to stay the same. I had to be the same Sloane that I had been before I was poked and prodded and thin as a stick.
So I smiled. People would say, “Oh my god, I am so sorry. You must be going through a lot.” And I would just smile. “It’s fine. No, the needles don’t hurt. No, poking my finger and squeezing blood out of it doesn’t hurt. No, going low or high doesn’t feel awful.” I would do shots in the middle of a restaurant and feel the stares and I would just smile. I couldn’t let this change me.
Why did I feel so different when nothing was supposed to be different? Why had everything changed inside me and nothing had changed around me?
I kept up that front. People told me I was doing so well. They would ask how I could even deal with the pain and the roller coaster and the whole entire disease and I would shrug… I had to deal with it. There was no way around it.
Somewhere inside me, the world was so twisted and I knew that everything was different for me. So I made life simpler. I shoved the thing that I had loved so much for years and years into a closet. My viola slowly gathered dust for months. And I grit my teeth and smiled. “No, it doesn’t hurt. It’s a tiny needle, see?”
After some amount of time, during which I felt that I would spend my whole life counting carbs, doing shots and testing blood sugar- not doing anything else- I drew up another syringe. I counted up the units and tapped out the air bubbles. I held it against my arm and did what I always did without realizing it; I moved the fingers on my left hand and tapped out a rhythm. I played music in my head and then the needle was out and I was capping it and getting rid of it. I hadn’t felt a thing.
So I picked up my viola and I made music that everyone around me could hear. I worked through the emotional pain of being diagnosed with such a life-changing disease with music. I would spend hours running scales or dissecting etudes because it gave me a chance to live a life away from diabetes, which allowed me to accept the disease in its entirety.
No matter what I play, where I play or when I play viola, I can’t feel the physical or emotional aspects of my diabetes. It is what I love.
I don’t believe that diabetes doesn’t change your life. I don’t believe that you shouldn’t let it change your life. It can bring the best kind of change in your life. It can show you what you love, it can show you where you can go and it can show you that you have the ability to do things you never thought were possible.
I would not be where I am without diabetes. It has given me incredible hardships, but in overcoming them I have found my limits and surpassed them. Diabetes is a real part of my life that I can’t deny. Those tiny needles hurt more than you can even imagine sometimes and it’s not a bad thing to say that it hurt. It’s not a bad thing to have a high blood sugar and break down. All of those little moments build you up to a place where you can’t be torn down.
Next year, I will be going to school in Boston and beginning a whole new chapter in my life, with my viola by my side at all times. I can say with complete confidence that I feel more than ready for this. Diabetes changed me and I accept that fact wholeheartedly. Without diabetes, I would not be a violist. Without viola, I would not be me. And with my diabetes and my viola, my test strips and my scars, I am me. And I love it.