When you have a younger sister with diabetes, you are faced with the terrifying truth that you cannot protect her from everything. You will be reminded of life’s unpredictability, of its unfairness.
You’ll dream of wrapping her up in your arms and instantly fixing it. You’ll wish you had the power to keep her from any harm. That somehow your love could cure it, your love could regrow her pancreas into one that works properly.
But of course, it won’t. And coming to terms with that will gut you.
When the diagnosis is made, it will feel like a stranger walking into your home. Even if you see it coming, you still don’t. You still don’t know how to react when the word is dropped into your family’s lap.
Diabetes announces itself and everything else is brought into question.
You’ll become obsessed with all the times you were unintentionally hurting her. You’ll remember the Sunday brunch you treated her to blueberry pancakes, a special day for just the two of you, and the image of her sleepy face afterwards will read back differently. Even when the doctor assures you this wasn’t from anything you did, that genetics were at play, you’ll still beat yourself up. Were there signs you missed? Were there times she was grouchy and you called her a brat, but she was actually sick?
Everyone will be teary-eyed and trying their best to keep it together. She’ll bravely say, “I’m going to be okay.” And you’ll marvel that someone who appears so fragile can simultaneously be the strongest one in the room.
When you have a younger sister with diabetes, you’ll worry about her numbers, what she eats when she’s at school, and all these things that are not in your control. You’ll feel sick to your stomach when she’s too low at night. Even when her blood sugar stabilizes, you’ll toss and turn until morning.
You’ll check on her to make sure she’s breathing, which will disturb her and she’ll get annoyed. Because she is sleeping. But the nagging fear that, maybe one day, she won’t wake up only fuels your insomnia more.
When you have a younger sister with diabetes, you pay attention to food. You get so used to reading nutritional labels that it changes how you view the industry. You stop mindlessly snacking. You’re now much more aware of what is going into your body. It’s a strange side effect to her disease, that you are being more healthy.
And you also have no choice but to get better at math.
When you have a younger sister with diabetes, you are forced to stop taking things for granted. You learn about trust (injecting someone with needles will do that to you). You value your relationships and understand how important it is to say things like I love you every single day. You are appreciative for her smiling, for her happiness.
And maybe most importantly, when you have a younger sister with diabetes, you see what human resiliency looks like. And whenever you face your own struggles, you think of her, and she inspires you.