“Well Titi, first I had the orange,” then she shifted on the couch and my 12-year-old niece moved into one of her funny and fast paced impressions of the world around her. ” I had to make fun of the nurse, she just talked too funny.” She switched to a high-pitched and nasal voice. “You take the orange and feel around for a firm spot of muscle and then inject the insulin.”
“I was so mad Titi, I took the orange and stabbed it hard and then made faces when the nurse looked away!”
It’s hard to see these small bouts of rage in my niece; she is sweet, loving and always flashing her “chipmunk smile” so genuinely.
But I try to understand or even imagine how hard it must be for her to be only 12 years old and battling diabetes every day of her life. She was 11 when she was first diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes. Family was stunned by the sudden weight loss the disease brings, taking her plump baby fat and leaving a thin and fragile pre-teen. Having a maternal and paternal link to the genetic disease was not a total surprise but it’s still difficult to see her suffer through the difficulties of the disease and the teenage offense of being different.
The reality of checking her sugar levels, giving herself daily insulin shots and watching every meal carefully for sugar and carbs sometimes takes its toll. Scooping up a pear after dinner for dessert wasn’t allowed and she got mad, her hazel eyes turning dark and tears threatening to fall. My sister (her mom) reminded her to eat it tomorrow and save the sugar boost for another day. Retreating into her room and her music puts everything at ease for a little while, reminding me that my “Chipmunk” is growing up but not as fast as I had feared.