Ryan

 
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Age: 28  Year Diagnosed: 1995 Location: East Hollywood, Ca

"I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on my sixth birthday. Some might say that's the worst birthday present of all time. Truth be told, they wouldn't necessarily be wrong. This disease is not fun. The roller coaster ride of life can be hard enough, and diabetes has a way of adding extra loops and corkscrews which make it nauseatingly difficult to bounce back from. To be clear: I hate having to make myself bleed multiple times a day; I hate having to constantly be aware of the carbohydrate content of everything that I eat; I hate the semi-bionic nature of my existence as I'm tethered to a machine that people consistently mistake for a pager (because we're still in the 90s?). But most of all, I hate the feeling of not being in full control of my life when I have to put it all on hold because my blood sugar is either too high or too low to function. And yet, despite how negatively I can feel about all of it, I can honestly say that type 1 diabetes has been, in its own twisted way, the best birthday present I've ever received. If I wasn't type 1 diabetic my life would be a much emptier place. I would never have ever known about Camp Conrad-Chinnock, where the community and network of lifelong friendships I've made with fellow type 1 diabetics continues to define me incalculably. If my pancreas worked like it ought to, I would never have received preferential treatment in surprisingly awesome ways throughout my life (i.e. getting all my textbooks paid for through a handicapped students program during college was extremely helpful). And if I was never insulin dependent I would never have known myself as much as I do. Diabetes is a condition that makes one feel, often in excess and to exhaustion. But it has been through that depth of feeling that I was able to forge my creativity, my passion, and my sense of humor. In my life as an aspiring so and so in this town I am told those qualities will get me far; as a human being living life day by day they've shown me that this struggle is, in fact, a strength.