Fruit Loops & Ice Cream

I don’t have many specific memories of my childhood before diabetes. Poking oranges with syringes to practice giving shots, the playroom in the hospital where I got to make all sorts of cool crafts, and the exact outfit I had on when I left the hospital the day before my 9th birthday; those things I remember in detail. I loved being in the hospital. I was not sick, sick, but rather there to learn all about this new disease I had. I was looking forward to being in the hospital for my birthday, as that would obviously mean a ton more presents. It hadn’t occurred to me that perhaps shopping for my birthday presents was not number one on my mom’s agenda, given that her youngest was in the hospital having just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She knew firsthand where the disease could lead since she was a R.N. who made home visits. Then, I just saw it as a way that I was unique and special. No big deal. The day before my birthday came around I was cleared to go home. I put on my pale yellow oxford shirt, railroad striped OshKosh B’Gosh overalls, tied my maroon with silver swish Nikes and pinned on my Garfield pin. I was ready to go.

It never occurred to me until much later that maybe my family wasn’t as ready as I was. My mom pretty much made my two older sisters and I eat healthy even before my diagnosis, so I’m not sure things changed all that much. She was what we now affectionately call “a hippie mom.” You know; made her own granola, made pizza at home, colored on meat trays… For the couple of years before diabetes, my sisters and I had all gone to camp together for a week or so in the summer, but now that I had been diagnosed with the disease I was going to Camp Ho Mita Koda (the name means welcome, my friend) instead. I loved Camp Ho. I cried endlessly when it was time to go home and back to the real world. Camp was a sort of vacation for me because almost everyone there had diabetes. We all waited in line to test our blood sugars then walked up to the dispensary for our shots. The meals and snacks as well as the exchanges were all figured out for you. Looking back now, I’m sure it was a vacation of sorts for my family as well. Their diets were not restricted and they didn’t have to worry about me while I was at camp.

Long after I had stopped going to camp my sisters confessed to me that after the family dropped me off, they got ice cream at a place down the street from camp. Then, once closer to home, they picked up Fruit Loops, Honeycomb and other ‘fun’ cereal at the grocery store to enjoy while I was away. The fact that for all those years they did this without telling did not make me jealous or angry but rather made realize just how much they, too, had to give up. It made me realize just how much they loved me.

Loved me then and still do now. I truly have the best big sisters in the whole world. Each would do anything for me and I for them. Sara & Krista, thank you for all the sacrifices you made on my behalf and for only getting to enjoy Fruit Loops and ice cream while I was at camp.


Sandra Miller said...

Melissa, this entry brought back Joseph's diagnosis-- he too was just shy of 9 when we found out. (And, like you, he actually enjoyed being in the hospital!)

I love the little details you share here-- right down to the Garfield pin.

And, what a wonderfully supportive family you have!

Thank you for sharing.

Kassie said...

what a great story and what a great family. kudos to you for pointing out what our diabetes means to those who love us. It's easy to forget in the daily battle.