I was about to give the biggest performance of my life, in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I didn’t look different on the outside but my dance costume was different than the other dancers – mine had a bag sewn underneath the skirt that was filled with an insulin pen, glucose tabs, and a meter. Clearly not what I had planned when I first registered to dance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
It was in May 2013, two months after registering for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, that I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Aside from the trainings of administering shots and doing math calculations before every meal, I had two paths to choose from: continue to train for the parade or quit. I chose to continue to train. It was difficult adjusting to this new routine and simultaneously training to dance in the parade; I just resolved not to let diabetes get in the way of this amazing opportunity — and it didn’t.
Leading up to the parade, I barely had time to sleep, as I was involved in every extracurricular activity possible. I had just come back from a weeklong trip to Canada, placing first in the High School Chorus and Band Competitions. Shortly thereafter, I was in full swing of dance classes, play practice, and voice lessons—not to mention the technical rehearsal and dress rehearsals for my school play. Needless to say, late nights of homework and dinner were becoming the norm. Throw a new diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes into this mix, being sixteen and trying to be independent clearly brought on some new challenges.
As the parade quickly approached, there were several emails and phone calls between my mom and the dance team, making sure the necessary accommodations were in place for the parade. Most dancers arrived the week before the parade without their parents staying with them, but that wasn’t the case for me. Since my Type 1 diagnosis was still fairly new, and we didn’t know what to expect, my mom stayed the entire week in the same hotel. The dance practices were long but I persevered and took juice breaks as needed. I’m not going to say the week was easy as there were a lot of highs and lows, literally, and a lot of eating to prevent lows! But, there were so many factors that gave me motivation to continue on this journey – the support of my parents, my friends and family and of course no one could inspire me more than Nick Jonas – if he could do it so could I!
So it was the day before the parade – making sure our costumes were set, hairstyles and makeup were finalized. For me it was making sure we had a medical plan/accommodations in place for marching and performing in the parade. Shortly thereafter the decision was made for my mom to walk in the parade alongside the dancers. We headed to the subway early, we needed to be there by 5:30 a.m., and thankfully my mom carried snacks and juices for me as it was a long wait until the parade actually started. It was finally time to start marching in the parade towards Herald Square where the performance would take place – there I was, about to be on National television and my mom was handing me gummy bears to eat to prevent any lows during my performance.
On this journey as a Type 1 diabetic, the lessons I have learned are invaluable, and I have developed a new appreciation for people with a chronic illness. My diagnosis has opened more doors than it has closed. I am now a Youth Leader for the American Diabetes Association and I still do all of my extracurricular activities. I work, I do not sweat the small stuff anymore and I do not take my health for granted. The moral of my story: when life hands me lemons, I make lemonade — or better yet, grape juice!