A Blessing in Disguise

“But, you don’t look sick?” “Whoa! Did you just stab yourself with a needle?!” “Is that a pager on your waist?” “I had to get my finger pricked once. It hurt SO MUCH.” Comments like these hurt more than the finger prick I give myself 6-8 times a day. Having a chronic illness, in my case, Type 1 diabetes, is difficult in more ways than most people realize. Because there are no outward signs, unless you happen to catch me in the middle of an injection or see my insulin pump on my waistband, most people do not think it is that big of a deal. They don’t understand when you say your diabetes is the reason you didn’t make it to class that day. You get puzzling looks when you blame diabetes on your three hours of sleep. Professors sometimes look at you in confusion when you hand them your disabilities letter of accommodation at the beginning of the semester. Diabetes is silent to the outside world, but screaming every day in the mind of a diabetic. It is the thing that keeps them up at night, that determines every action they take, that causes them to pause and reconsider before the indulging in the spontaneity of a moment.

I am a type 1 diabetic. Diagnosed 5 1/2 years ago, at the age of 16, I am still learning and navigating my way around this invisible illness. I have honed my skills in finger pricking, shot distributing, and carb counting. I have developed a tolerance for blood work and a patience for long waits at doctors’ offices. I have learned more about my body and have become more in tune with it than ever before. More importantly, though, I have learned how to be a voice, a support for others, and the best version of myself that I could possibly be. Diabetes may have given me scars on my fingers, sleepless nights spent tending to low blood sugars, headaches, blood tests, and more stress than one should ever endure, but it has also given me so much more. It has given me a voice. It has given me the drive to educate, to encourage, and to empower other diabetics and non-diabetics alike. It has forced me outside of my comfort zones and into a world in which I never thought I would have experienced.

Prior to my diagnosis, I was content with the idea of attending college in my hometown, being fifteen minutes away from the comfort of home and a good meal, able to be on my own but still close enough to home. My diagnosis was a humbling and terrifying experience. Once a fiercely independent and confident teen, I suddenly found myself afraid to go too far from my parents, the ones who knew what to do if my blood sugars went awry. I could not remember the last time I felt so dependent on someone else, so afraid to live my life. It was during this time, as I sat in my dance studio, attempting to explain to those around me what my new normal consisted of, that I realized I needed to regain my independence. I recognized that I could sit back, let my diagnosis limit me from living a life I loved, or I could move on. I could take this disease, this silent and invisible cross I now had to bear, and use it as a tool. I could take my illness and turn it into my platform, develop my voice using the one thing I feared would hold me back forever. So I did.

I chose a college that I fell in love with, two and half hours and one state line away from home. Beginning on day one of freshman year, I educated. I talked about diabetes. I normalized it. I explained to my roommates what a high and low blood sugar was. I showed my RA where I kept my juice boxes. I let my friends watch me as I changed my pump sites. I taught them how to prick fingers and calculate carbs. It wasn’t to make my life easier. I was not trying to train a group of people on how to care for me. Rather, I wanted to make diabetes as normal as could be. I wanted to give my invisible illness a face and a name and a group of people in University Heights, Ohio that understood what it was.

I couldn’t just stop with my friends, though. I recognized that people in general don’t talk about their diabetes. I found an amazing online community and learned that many colleges have organizations for students with diabetes. When I realized my school did not have such an organization, I started one. I recruited diabetics and non-diabetics alike through emails, through conversation, and through happenstance. We were small, fifteen people at the beginning, but we met. We shared our struggles and stresses. We explained our invisible illness to those who wanted to learn. What started as one young woman feeling alone in her battle quickly grew as she did something so simple; talked about it. Before I knew it, at the beginning of my junior year of college, I found myself in the atrium of our student center, passing out facts about diabetes attached to lollipops, as people made those harsh comments that come with the ignorance about the subject, “lollipops?! Diabetics can’t eat candy!” I felt myself glowing with pride on the inside as I explained that was exactly the point of the movement; to prove that diabetics can indeed eat candy, and anything else they want, as long as they take insulin, and this is just one of the many stigmas that surround diabetes.

If I could go back in time to January 4th, 2011, I would. I would waltz into that Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh emergency department exam room, where a scared and confused sixteen-year-old lays on a hospital gurney, with an IV in her arm and a feeling of her everything crashing down around her in her heart. I would dry her tears, hold her mother’s hand, pat her father on the back, and say, “this is a blessing. This will not break you. This will only lead you to the person you are meant to be. Just wait.” I would assure her that she will be okay. She will be great. She’ll learn so much and grow as a person. She will take on this battle with courage and grace. She will become a voice for those who are too afraid to speak of their disability. She will become an educator, an advocate, a symbol of strength and perseverance. She will break down barriers, disband myths, and combat ignorance with facts. She will use this diagnosis as her catalyst. She will have diabetes, but diabetes will not have her. She will be okay. And she is.

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Why Donald Trump’s Comments Represent One of Society’s Biggest Issues

My phone buzzed with yet another New York Times update containing the words “Donald Trump.” I swiped left to dismiss it, figuring it was just another story about his taxes, his late night tweeting, or predictions for the impending debate. It was not until a few hours later, while I was browsing Twitter and kept reading phrases such as “Donald Trump” “lewd comments” “sexual harassment” and that disgusting phrase “smack her right in the ****y” that I realized something much bigger than tax evasion was going on. I scrolled back through my Gmail and found the NYT article, anxious and slightly scared to learn what our Republican presidential candidate had said now. Through shock and horror, I read the comments he made while talking with Billy Bush on Access Hollywood. I watched the video showing the camaraderie and light-hearted nature between Trump and Bush as they discussed how frustrating it is when a married woman turns someone as “famous” as Trump down. I read the thousands of stories being tweeted every minute to Kelly Oxford, a Canadian woman living and working in L.A., who shared her own story of sexual harassment growing up with the hashtag #notokay. Then, I heard Trump’s remarks in regards to the leak of this video, which had conveniently been kept hidden for the past 11 years. My blood boiled over as I read Trump call this nothing short of “locker room talk,” essentially saying “boys will be boys.”

I have four brothers, all of whom have spent a great deal of time “hanging with the guys,” whether that be in the locker room after practice, playing video games or poker on a Saturday night, or sitting around in a friend’s basement watching a basketball game and eating wings. I have no doubt they have spent their fair share of time talking about new crushes and former flames, gently ribbing one another about potential interests, and seeking advice when it comes to relationships. Friends are the people we lean on for things such as this and it is only natural that they might feel more comfortable going to a friend rather than a parent. I pray, however, that my brothers have never spoken about a girl in terms as demoralizing, degrading, and harassing as those used by Donald Trump. I pray that, before saying something like that, they would think about what would happen if they heard someone talking about me, their only sister, like that. I pray that they have the strength and courage to stand up to those who speak in such ways about women.

Calling such language “locker room talk” is like calling an addiction, “a really strong habit.” Changing the wording does not take away the root of the issue; the actions themselves. Claiming that this is just how some people talk does not change the fact that it is wrong on every level. There is no excuse for language like this.

And yet, so many people in today’s society do this. Women are demoralized, objectified, stripped of all assets that cannot be measured in terms of letters and numbers. They become nothing more than their bodies; as if their true value and worth lies in whether they have a “nice rack” or a “juicy butt.” If a woman is not pretty by society’s standards it is often said, “well at least she’s [smart, rich, nice, funny]. Society consistently places beauty on a pedestal.

And it is not just men speaking about women like this. Women are guilty of it as well. We constantly judge and scrutinize other women. If there is a woman that we are not fond of, we instantly say “oh, she’s a bitch.” When we go for the jugular, we immediately think to criticize looks. “Ugh, look at how ugly her haircut is.” “Oh wow, she’s definitely gained weight.” Sometimes, it is done unintentionally as well. We as a society have been so conditioned that a person’s worth lies in their looks. We have been taught to value beauty before all else; to look at a person’s appearance before their personality.

While Donald Trump’s disgusting comments do not deserve an excuse of any kind, they are not quite an exception. They are a magnified example of the concepts that we as a society discuss quite frequently. We can, however, make these lewd remarks the exception in the future. We can teach our children, our little siblings, the future of our world, to treat one another with kindness. We can teach our girls to see their beauty and worth in their minds and hearts, rather than their looks and the way they dress. We can teach our boys to not objectify women; to stick up for them when their peers criticize and critique them, and to view women as their equals, no less. In the future, we can ensure that locker room talk is no longer synonymous with the objectification and sexualizing of our peers.

I don’t know what is going to happen in this election. I don’t know who is going to end up in the White House, come January 2017. I don’t know what the future holds for our country, our economy, or our world. I do know, however, that we have a long way to go in regards to our language about women. It won’t be easy, but I am confident that we can make it happen.

I am a Child of 9/11 and I Take Offense to the Phrase “Never Forget”

September 11th, 2001. Where were you? What were you doing? I bet as soon as anyone says that date, if you were alive, you know where you were. For me, I was in Mrs. Moore’s first grade class. It was Jimmy’s birthday and we were eating the cupcakes his mom had sent in as his treat. I remember Mrs. Druga coming into the room and calling Mrs. Moore out into the hallway. We didn’t think much of that — teachers called each other into the hallway to talk all of the time. But then, our secretary, Mrs. Giles, came on the loud speaker. She called for an entire family of children to come to the office “and bring your things.” That was rare. Whole families were never called to the office and sent home early! I thought maybe they were going on vacation and felt a little jealous that they got to go home. A few minutes later, Mrs. Giles came on again and asked yet another group of children to come to the office with their things.

I don’t remember actually sitting in our desks that day. I don’t remember playing outside for recess. I do remember looking out the window of our classroom on the second floor of our castle-like school and noticing how bright blue the sky was. It was an absolutely beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, the sun shining — the kind of day that would have been perfect for drawing chalk on the hot black asphalt parking lot we played in and jumping rope to the rhyme book that Mrs. Moore would read aloud to us. “Cinderella, dressed in yellow, went upstairs and kissed a fellow…”

We never went outside for recess. Mrs. Moore let us play on the carpet all afternoon, never once making us go to our desks. So many children had gone home already that Jimmy had enough cupcakes left over for everyone to have seconds. As I sat there, looking around at the five other children left in my class of 22, I wondered what was going on. Mrs. Moore never told us — and I silently thank her every year for that. She sat and watched us play, asked Jimmy about his plans for his birthday, helped us with the listening station, and kept us occupied. Occasionally, she went back into the hallway to talk to a teacher, but always came right back to us. We never turned on a TV. She never told us about the bad men who crashed the planes, or about the thousands of people, mommies and daddies, who died when those towers fell. I would learn all of that when I got home. Seeing my dad’s car parked in the driveway (Daddy’s home?! He’s never home before us!) I would walk in the house, drop my backpack on the kitchen floor, turn the corner to the living room and see Dad sitting there, strangely glued to the TV. Mom would seem nervous, asking us about our day, trying to keep us distracted. When I mentioned all of the other kids that went home that day, Mom and Dad would explain the events of the morning. I remember the first thing I said was, “Why didn’t you come get us?!” My mom would calmly say, “we thought you were safer staying put at school.”

For a while, I was angry with the way my school, Mrs. Moore, and my parents handled September 11th, 2001. Growing up, hearing stories of friends from other schools who were sent into lockdown, immediately evacuated, sent to the church to say the Rosary for 2 hours, I felt my school missed the mark in some way. Why didn’t they react?! Why didn’t we do something more drastic?! However, as I got older, I slowly began to appreciate the way those who were charged with my care chose to carry on that fateful day.

September 11th, 2001 was a day that truly changed lives. Not only the lives of those affected — the wounded, the killed, the missing, their families and friends, — but everyone. It changed the way Americans viewed their country. It changed the way we looked at our everyday lives. In an instant, in a matter of seconds on sunny September morning, America was a totally new country. However, back in Crafton, PA, in Mrs. Moore’s first grade class, my life as I had known it carried on. I sat with my classmates, I ate cupcakes with blue sprinkles, I played at indoor recess. Mrs. Moore made a conscious decision that day, one that I will be forever grateful for. On a day where our world was changed, where it was clear to see that her room of 22 bright eyed first graders were no longer going to grow up in a world where war was something we read about in history books, she chose to preserve our innocence, even if just for six more hours. She chose to shield us from the pain that the rest of the country was experiencing. She chose to not let us see her cry, and I am sure she cried at some point that day. Rather, she watched us play. She laughed as we got icing on our faces and helped clean us up. She allowed us to be children for a little longer, to still believe we lived in a safe and happy world, where bad men were only found in movies and books, and everything was okay.

Soon afterward, our world drastically changed. The school installed a new buzzer system to see who was trying to get into the building. We practiced “lockdown drills,” where we had to cram into the boys bathroom and stay as silent as we could. At some point, the word terrorism entered our vocabulary. We flinched when we heard planes flying overhead. We got scared when Dad said he had to go on a business trip. And then the war came. We saw images of young men on our news every night. We saw the bombings in the Middle East, the shooting, the violence. We heard about the explosions. And, when the soldiers started coming home, we saw the true effects of war. We saw missing legs, soldiers with no arms, soldiers with disfigured faces and scars. Soldiers that couldn’t be in large crowds, that couldn’t stand the sound of fireworks. Soldiers that didn’t know how to go back to their lives before they were soldiers, before the towers fell and the nation became afraid.

We grew up in this world. We allowed the fear and terrorism to creep slowly into our lives. By the time we entered college, mass shootings, terrorism, and war heroes were as common to us as they were foreign to generations before. We watched movies about events we had lived through, and recalled with fuzzy memories what we were doing when this instance occurred.

We never forgot that day though. It has shaped our lives in more ways than we could ever imagine. We couldn’t un-see the images that flashed across our television screens late at night. We had no choice but to learn how to cope with the fear, to take special note of the exits when we entered a room. We watched, with fear, as the hatred and spite magnified in our country. We saw our own people turn on one another; gunning down their fellow Americans because they were “different.” Our country turned from one founded as a place of refuge, a place where individuals could come and live in peace, back into a place of hatred, violence, and disgust.

We cannot forget that day, though. We cannot disregard the way in which our country was changed. We can, however, take a note from Mrs. Moore. We can work to see the good in the world. We can try to teach the next generation to be the good in the world. We can help our children to preserve their innocence. We can change this world and make it a better, more peaceful place. While we are doing all of these things, we are not forgetting, we are remembering.

A Thank-You Letter to My Freshmen Year Friends

Throughout life, different people will come into your world for all kinds of different reasons. Some are meant to stay forever; some, only for a brief moment. Sometimes, you get to say your goodbye, end the relationship, gain the closure. More often than not, however, this is not the case. Friendships end abruptly. People move away, die, change. It is a natural part of life.

I had a group of friends freshmen year. A big group. We did a lot of things together, spent a great deal of time together making memories, sharing stories, and experiencing our first year of college. Now, entering our senior year, we have drifted apart. They are simply classmates; comrades in the world of Academia with whom I share a few precious memories and a handful of pictures. I do not necessarily miss their presence in my life, but their absence is definitely felt. We all sort of branched off; there wasn’t a big blowout or a fight to end our time together. Chunks of us remain friends in some aspect with others, but as a whole unit we are no longer a thing. Still, I felt as though I was missing something. Not really a sense of closure, but a feeling of lack of acknowledgement. These people were the ones with whom I navigated the murky, choppy waters of our first year of college. They were my listening ears, my steady movie nights, my safe bubble that I surrounded myself in before I made the leap into the world of Undergrad on my own. And so, I share with you now the thank you letter I would tell them if we were together again.

Dear Freshmen Year Friends,
Thank you. Thank you for the laughs. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for allowing me to stick to you like glue when I was too nervous to fully experience college on my own. Thank you for the bubble that we created. Thank you for the goofy memories, the late nights spent watching movies and having dance parties. Thank you for the safe haven; for the unspoken but fully understood agreement that this was a safe place.

Thank you for showing me that a family does not always have to be blood. Thank you for the love that constantly surrounded our little posse. Thank you for the comfort of knowing I did not have to go at it alone. Thank you for celebrating the big moments and providing comfort in the disappointments. Thank you for the twelve person dinner tables, the nights spent making cookies and watching movies, the Saturday morning brunches that seemed to last all afternoon.

It is often said that the people you are friends with freshman year, won’t necessarily be your friends by the time you graduate. People will change, transfer, grow. Coursework and classes and activities and interests will draw you to new friends, and further away from that core group. That does not mean these friends should be forgotten. They should be acknowledged, celebrated in a simple and quiet manner, for the role they played in your development. And so, I ask only a few simple things of you. Say hello to one another. Give a gentle wave or a small smile of acknowledgement. Do not turn a blind eye. Do not act as though they are invisible, or worse, unknown to you. Allow them, and the countless memories you all made together, to creep into your mind, even if for just a moment. Allow yourself the vulnerability of remembering the person you used to be.

I have not forgotten you all, and I never would. I am forever grateful for the foundation you helped me build during those first few nerve-wracking semesters. The time we spent together were some of the greatest moments of my college years. For that, and for you all, I am thankful.

All the best,
Ciara

My Thank-You Letter to Mr. Right

I was waiting for class to begin last week when my boyfriend’s name popped up across my phone screen. As I swiped open my phone and giggled quietly to myself at the funny text and picture he had sent, the girl next to me smiled and asked, “what’s so funny?” I tried to downplay it, partially out of embarrassment that I had laughed loud enough for someone to notice and simply said, “oh my boyfriend just sent me something. We’re going on a date tomorrow night and it’s kind of a long story.” She looked at me with a half-smile and said, “must be nice.” Her comment stuck with me for the rest of class and I thought to myself, “yeah. It is nice.” I know I thank my boyfriend a lot in private for being such a wonderful person, but I felt a public recognition was appropriate, especially as we wind down our time shared as undergrads at our university and he prepares to graduate. So, here we go. My thank-you to Mr. Right.

 

My dear best friend,

First, thank you for being just that; my best friend. Thank you for being my Friday night Chipotle date. Thank you for being my Saturday afternoons spent snuggled on the couch watching basketball or baseball or whichever episode of SVU we’re on. Thank you for being my afternoon lunch date. For meeting me in the atrium and watching me get a piece of grilled chicken every single day, only to never eat it in lieu of two more cookies. And thank you for not saying anything about that, even when you know those cookies probably aren’t the best thing for my blood sugars.

Thank you for the car rides. Whether it is to your family’s house for dinner or just down the street to get gas. Thank you for letting me be the DJ, for not making fun of me when I sing completely off-key. Thank you for detours on the way back to campus, when the trees are brilliant shades of reds and oranges and our homework can wait just a little longer. Thank you for knowing when I’ve had a crappy day, or a crappy week, and a little time off campus is just what I need.

Thank you for the Sunday nights at mass. Thank you for holding my hand during the homily and squeezing it when you feel there is a message God is sending to us. Thank you for always hugging me first at the sign of peace, for holding my hand a second longer after the Our Father. Thank you for letting me cry in mass when the thought of you not being there next year breaks my heart.

Thank you for letting me express my emotions fully. Thank you for not telling me I’m being “over-dramatic” because you know that I am just an emotional person. Thank you for wiping away my tears, for holding me when I’m scared. For celebrating with me when something great happens and tying to help me understand when something disappointing occurs. Thank you for not judging when I cry at a HoneyMaid cracker commercial; for simply chuckling a bit and kissing my forehead.

Thank you for being my biggest inspiration. For the constant encouragement, the never-ending “I know you can do it” and the continuous praise. Thank you for helping me recognize what I am capable of and opening my eyes to all that I can achieve. Thank you for supporting my dreams and being my biggest cheerleader.

Thank you for making an effort to understand my disease. For learning how to count carbs and calculate insulin doses. For knowing what to do when I’m high and when I’m low. For holding my hand when the insulin burns. For researching new developments in the search for a cure when you know the burden is becoming too much to bear. For asking if it is possible to trade pancreases, even though that would mean you would have my disease, because, as you said, “I’d rather do it than watch you go through this.” You don’t know how much just the thought of that means to me.

Thank you for these past 18 months. Thank you for the laughs, for the tears, for the kisses, the hugs, the back scratches and the head rubs. Thank you for the lazy nights in, watching chick flicks and eating ice cream, and the adventurous nights out, exploring new sections of the city and foods we’ve never had. Thank you for always being there, whether it is at 3 A.M. or 2 P.M., whether you’re in the residence hall next door, across the parking lot, or 143 miles and 1 state line away. Thank you for loving me as I am, no matter the day, time, or mood. Thank you for recognizing my beauty whether I am all dolled up or rocking wet hair, baggy sweats, and a monstrous pimple on my forehead. Thank you for being my number one fan, my biggest supporter, my best friend, my eating buddy, my soul mate, my missing puzzle piece, and my Mr. Right.

Most importantly, though, thank you for giving me the opportunity to love you. Thank you for letting me into your life, your family, your heart. Thank you for opening up to me, for letting me learn things about you, for giving me the opportunity to experience life with you. Thank you for making these past 18 months the greatest of my life and thank you for giving me a reason to look forward to the future.

Always and forever,

Your girl

Cheers to You! Why You Don’t Have to Party to Love College

It is the first Thursday night back at college for the semester — syllabus week — and the halls of the freshmen residence hall where I am a RA are buzzing with the sounds of students getting ready to go out, filled with the smells of burnt hair and too much cologne, and crawling with residents hurriedly opening and shutting their doors in fear of a RA walking past. It is a scene all too familiar in our halls, and the sounds and smells can send the RA on duty into a fit of fear, worrying about having issues or documentations when they are finally out of the office and able to get some sleep. I happen to be a RA in the very same building where I lived my first year of college. These halls were the ones where I met my best friends, cried on the phone to my mom, stayed up way too late watching movies and eating any kind of chocolate we could find. This building is the first ever “home away from home” I had experienced. It is where I grew from a nervous, anxious freshman, fresh out the high school womb, into a calm, confident (although still anxious at times) junior, knowledgeable in more than just academics, confident in who I am becoming and where I am going in this world. However, living in this building brings back a flood of emotions sometimes, and I am often reminded of that timid, nervous freshman, unsure of how to remain true to herself while still making friends in the fast paced world of college.

I’ll be honest, I am not a drinker. My diabetes puts some limitations on that and, while I can enjoy a few drinks safely with proper insulin and blood sugar testing, I usually do not like to push it. I have been 21 for over a month now, have consumed 2 glasses of wine since becoming legal, and was only slightly tipsy for the very first time a full month after my birthday. I don’t know how to mix drinks, I’m still not really sure what some drinks are, and didn’t even know I was tipsy until my boyfriend pointed out that the reason the room was spinning was because I drank a large glass of wine on an empty stomach in a short period of time. It’s safe to say I’m not very good at this stuff. My three best friends have a goal to see me drunk before we graduate (three semesters to go!) and when I told them I was tipsy I was met with texts of  “OHMYGOD I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS DAY!” and “THIS IS THE GREATEST TEXT I HAVE EVER RECEIVED!” with a plethora of emojis.

Freshman me dreaded the party scene of college for this very reason. I feared that the only way I would be able to find and keep friends was if I went out with them, and I feared the idea of going out in a social situation where I would be unfamiliar with the location and the people, most of whom would be in a compromised state. Even more so, I feared the people coming back into the halls after their wild escapades out. I was blessed to be paired with two roommates who were just as unfamiliar and uninterested in the partying scene as I was, so strange people ending up in our room was never an issue. I feared drunk people though. I feared the bluntness and sudden courage and loud voices and lack of control over actions that seemed to accompany every drunk person I had ever encountered. I feared what they would say, what they would do, just their presence in general. Becoming an RA helped me to overcome this fear for the most part. My hands still get clammy and my voice still waivers a bit any time I am faced with an alcohol documentation, however I know I am doing my job and some kids need to be stopped before things get out of hand.

Nights like this though, where every single person in the building seems to be going out, always strike a chord with me. Perhaps it is because I know, somewhere on my floor, somewhere in the building, there is a girl that is just like freshman me; anxious about fitting in while avoiding the party scene, unsure of what could happen to someone who drinks too much, and wondering if they are really missing out or are going to regret not riding Cabbie D at least once in their college career. To that girl, I say, keep on doing what you’re doing. Keep on making friends and memories in the ways you are. You will find friends, best friends, like I did. If they are your real friends, like mine are, they won’t care if you don’t want to go out. They’ll invite you to be inclusive, but they’ll say, “I know it’s not really your thing, and I totally respect that. I just want you to know the offer is there.” and then when you politely decline, citing a massive load of laundry, a movie you’ve been dying to watch, or just simply, “I don’t think I can do it,” they’ll understand. They’ll give you a hug. You’ll help them curl their hair or pick out an outfit. You’ll tell them to call you if they need help, which they know they always can. Then, they’ll head out, with their flasks in their purses and their “Gatorade” bottles filled with mysterious smelling liquid. You’ll go on with your plans; watching a movie, doing laundry, whatever you decide to do. As the year goes on, you’ll realize there are plenty of other people who don’t enjoy the party life, who are staying back while their friends go out too. You and these people will bond. They’ll become your safe zone, your weekend people, always up for a movie night, a board game tournament, or an evening spent talking and laughing, sharing stories. You and these people will make your own kind of memories and share your own nights. And then, in the morning, you’ll drag your hungover friends to the cafeteria with you, where you’ll load up on hash browns and swap stories. They’ll have tales to tell of the fun they had, and so will you. And the best part is, only one of you will have a headache. So, to the non-partiers out there, keep on being true to yourself. The real friends you make won’t care how you spend your nights, as long as you have fun and are there to share the stories the next morning.

Diabetes and Dogs: Man’s True Best Friend

This is Mac. He is my 7 1/2 year old, very ungroomed, shaggy haired, Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. He loves to go on long walks, takes his job as the house guard VERY seriously, has a personal issue with squirrels, and has been a key role in my type one diabetes care and management, going back to before I was even formally diagnosed. He’s not an actual service dog (although I sometimes think of him as my own type of service dog) and he actually has no training beyond the basic housetraining whatsoever. (When I say no training, I mean NO training.) Regardless of his lack of schooling, his ability to detect my blood sugars is amazing.

It all started about 4-6 months prior to my diagnosis. I was a sophomore in high school (I was 16 when I was diagnosed), becoming more involved in school activities, and had started going out with my first boyfriend. That summer before my diagnosis, I had gone on a trip to Italy without my family, leaving my beloved Mac back in the good ol’ USA for nine days. When I arrived home, he began to follow me around the house, laying on me while I slept at night, and keeping a “vigil” in my room whenever I wasn’t around. This continued all throughout the fall. While I played tennis and went to soccer games, had bonfires with my friends and continued my dance lessons three times a week, Mac stayed in my room, followed me when I was home, and ALWAYS slept in my bed with me. At one point, my mom jokingly remarked, “Mac seems to be obsessed with you!” We all thought he was being silly old Mac. Little did we know what he was really doing.

Then, January 4th, 2011 happened. I was sent straight from the pediatrician’s office to Children’s Hospital, with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at age 16. My mom and I spent four nights in Children’s, with my dad going back and forth from home with my four brothers to the hospital with my mom and I. I wasn’t super sick, thank God. I was never in a coma, I was never in ICU, my blood sugar was only 420 upon entering the hospital. I had exhibited a few symptoms, mainly an unquenchable thirst and a five pound weight loss, that prompted my mom to call the doctor and a urine test to be run. After four days of IV fluids, learning how to check my blood sugar, calculate carbohydrates, inject insulin into my body, and generally become my own functioning pancreas, I was sent back home. I walked in the door, exhausted, overwhelmed, and scared to hell as to how I was going to manage this on my own. I felt a small wave of relief rush over me when I walked in the door, knowing Mac and his sister Molly would be there to greet me and cuddle up on the couch with me. However, Mac had a different idea. He walked up to me, sniffed me, gave me a small lick on the hand, and walked away. That was it. He didn’t follow me around. He didn’t lay in my bed with me. Nothing.

I was a bit taken aback about Mac’s nonchalant reaction to my return home and didn’t understand why he was behaving so strangely. However, as the weeks went on and my diabetes became a more normalized part of my life, my family and I soon realized why Mac behaved the way he did. One night, my mom awoke in the middle of the night to Mac licking her hands and standing on her. She got up, went into my room, checked my blood sugar, and lo and behold, I was low! She woke me up, gave me a juice, and, once I had come up, Mac disappeared.

This has become our thing, Mac and I. Sometimes, my mom will walk past my room to go to the bathroom and see Mac “in position” — either laying straight across my legs or laying on the floor of my room staring up at me — and wake me up to test my sugar, which is almost always either low or high. Sometimes, when I’m  2 1/2 hours away at school, Mac will be in position in my room at home. My mom will call me or text me to ask how my sugar has been, and I will either be in the middle of treating a low or dealing with a high. He has this remarkable ability to know my sugars before I even do. Just last week, I woke up to Mac laying so tightly across my legs I couldn’t get up. Once I finally convinced him to let me go, I tested and realized I was only 55. It is truly amazing.

Just tonight, as I was brushing my teeth, I heard the jingle of a collar and the clicking of nails on the hardwood floor. I walked out of the bathroom to find Mac, who had been sound asleep in my mom’s bed moments before, sitting on my carpet, staring at the door, waiting for me to come in. I gave him a kiss on the head, and reached for my meter. He immediately walked out of the room and up to his bed on the floor above me. I tested and came up 97, which is considered a good number during the day, but too low for me to go to sleep safely. I took a few minutes before reaching for a juice, checking my phone and moving some things on my bed. As soon as I crinkled the plastic wrapper on the straw, however, I heard that oh so familiar jingle come rushing down the stairs and looked up just in time to see a curly, cream colored head, peer into my doorway. Once he saw the straw inserted in the juice box and me lift the juice to my lips, he was gone, as quickly as he had come. I drank the juice and smiled. I know if I need another one, he’ll be there to let me know.