My Sister and I have Type 1

WRITTEN BY: Crystal Lopez

The year is 1999. I’m 8 years old, in the 2nd grade. My little sister is a year and a half old and had recently been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes shortly following her first birthday. I didn’t know what it meant. I thought it was some foreign diagnosis, very rare.

In the hospital, we were taught how to give shots to oranges, for practice. I played with the other children in the pediatric ward. I guess they also tested me to find out if I would also become diabetic. I remember feeling … jealous isn’t the right word, but it’s a placeholder for lack of a better one. She was the newest member of the family sharing attention with me, and now she had this thing that required her to have even more attention. I also felt excluded because I couldn’t help her. I was a bad big sister. But it was what it was.

I started to get into trouble at school; spending too much time away from class for requested “restroom breaks.” My teacher reached out to my parents and I was overly emotional about it when confronted — I just needed a break. I was too tired for class. I was just thirsty. I just needed to use the bathroom.
My mom brought me along to my sister’s “diabetes doctor” (pediatric endocrinologist, as I would later learn) appointment and I got a check up too. I liked these appointments because we got to drive all the way to the beach and I got to leave school early. We would even get to play at the park and sometimes stop for McDonald’s. Mom didn’t like the appointments. Mom REALLY didn’t like this appointment. The doctor told us that I was diabetic too, just like my sister. I was excited! I had something in common with my sister! I could help her and be a better big sister! Mom called Dad and talked to him through tears, while I sang in the backseat to tell Daddy how excited I was.
We began going to support group meetings at the hospital. I liked them because all the kids got to hang out in a room and watch movies and eat popcorn and drink diet Rite. Another kid gave me a pack of glucose tabs and told me, “It’s okay, they’re good for diabetes …” so I ate them. They tasted great! (It’s literally just flavored sugar.) My mom found out when I felt sick later and I got in trouble. Not long afterwards, we ironically received the results from the initial c-peptide test I had taken weeks ago that stated no, I was not likely to develop Type 1 diabetes.
In the time since, I had learned how to count carbs, calculate insulin dosages, use one syringe to fill two different insulins (long acting and short acting), how to give myself and my sister shots, how to test my and my sister’s blood sugar with finger pricks. I learned how to be a role model for my sister. I made friends at school who also had diabetes; we compared blood sugars. I went to summer camp for children with diabetes every single year and made some of the best friends who my sister and I could relate to. I got to be one of the first few kids at my summer camp to wear an insulin pump — I didn’t need multiple daily shots anymore! Years later I would get a new insulin pump that would sync with my meter to log my blood sugars and calculate my bonus dosages. No more calculations! A few more years later would bring the innovation of continuous glucose monitoring. I could now wear a separate sensor that would automatically send my blood sugar readings to my pump and alert me if it went too high or too low. Fewer finger prick blood sugar tests!
All of this bring us to today: I have had Type one diabetes (T1D) for 19 years. I recently received the newest insulin pump, first of its kind, which not only continuously monitors my blood sugar and sends readings to the pump, but it will also automatically stop and/or start giving me insulin based on my blood sugar reading. A true “artificial pancreas” and a huge milestone in diabetes management. This is all just a VERY brief recollection of my life as a T1D.
With age has come wisdom (sort of) and realizations that I was not the only one to struggle with this. My sister and I did not bear this burden alone. Every single person we were close with or became close with has shared a sliver of the burden. The burden of knowledge, fear, well-wishes, sadness, pity, love, misunderstanding, and much much more. I have 19 years worth of these relationships and I am extremely humbled by this. I just want to give a huge thank you and share my appreciation for everyone who helped me get here.

Crystal Lopez

Crystal Lopez was born and raised in the Antelope Valley in Southern California. She and her sister are Type 1 Diabetic and grew up attending a diabetic summer camp in SoCal. Within the last year (2017) she got married, celebrated her 27th birthday, and began training for and participating in obstacle course racing. Participating in these races is a compliment to her recent commitment to lose weight and become healthier over the last few years.