By Chantel DeBoer
It was a day every child gets excited for, the night we would dress up and pretend to be our favorite character – October 31, 1991.
I was going to be a sweet little Dutch girl for Halloween. I was seven years old.
The day started out with a doctor’s appointment and I had been sick that week.
As most children expect, “If you're too sick to go to school, then you're too sick to trick or treat tomorrow.”
That’s not what my mom said, but I still demanded to go back to school after my appointment.
My parents picked me up later that day and took me to the hospital.
I was admitted for the next nine days with a blood sugar of over 55 (the normal between 4 and 7) and I had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
My parents were left in shock and disbelief and I didn’t fully understand.
I don’t recall shedding a tear, but I know my parents did.
What would my life be like? How much change would our family of five need to make? How did this happen?
By the age of 8, I made a choice that I was going to be independent with this disease.
I began taking my own insulin shots, and I began understanding what foods I could and couldn’t eat.
I understood that treats had to be worked into my special diet and I couldn’t have everything I wanted.
My family adapted well and I never once felt I was deprived.
Moving forward to my college years, I was very independent and knowledgeable of this disease.
I believed I could do anything with diabetes, a belief my parents instilled in me.
I began swimming in high school and obtained my goal of swimming for my university varsity swim team.
I spent my summers forest firefighting and competing in triathlons.
I travelled solo to Europe and lived in England.
I got top medals in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and did a Mixed Martial Arts fight.
I became ranked top 25 in North America as a fitness model after competing in four bodybuilding competitions.
I was determined to find a career in law enforcement. I pursued this dream and I now work as a peace officer with a major city transit system.
When I look back to all I’ve done, I’ve learned the most valuable lesson in life: weakness is a choice.
I’m now 32 years old and this year will mark 25 years of diabetes.
There are plenty of days I get frustrated and blame myself for a bad blood sugar.
The fact is, I know I’ve done the best I can to keep it under control. Every day may not be perfect, but I sure didn’t give up.
If you live with a disease and focus on the negative, life becomes a challenge.
I choose to focus on making life as normal as possible. This means pursing goals without the expectation of diabetes stopping me.
I simply adapt and move on.
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people!”
-Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
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