The Newly Diagnosed Vacation

Mom saw me swaying and pulled me down to sit on a hot cobblestone curb of ancient Pompeii. She shoved Italian sweets into my mouth to help stabilize me. I burst into tears, sobbing that I couldn’t even walk a simple trail on a tour without having a crashing low. I knew that going on a cruise right after a Type 1 diagnosis was going to be difficult, but now it seemed impossible. We both cried in frustration, then wiped each other’s tears away before catching up with the group.

Our next scheduled stop was lunch at the Italian beach town of Sorrento. Before the meal, I went to the bathroom to use the insulin that I had packed on ice for the day’s journey. As I fumbled around in the bathroom stall, I discovered that my syringe had been forced-plunged into my purse and the needle had broken off. I doubled over, furious and sad. All I wanted to do was run away, but everything I wanted to run from came along with me.

My mom heard me sobbing from the bathroom and came in to commiserate. Then we found our assigned table and sat down with red, wet eyes. We tried to feign some sort of conversation with our lunch guests. My mom apologized, telling them that we were struggling with some issues. The couple at the table, a man and a woman, asked if it was a medical issue. We said it was.

The man smiled. “What is it? I’m a doctor, maybe I can help.”

I could not believe my ears. Fate had dropped this doctor on my lap. I told him about my Type 1 diagnosis and shared with him all my struggles on this trip. His face turned serious and he locked eyes with me.

“You’re going to be alright without the insulin for now, but I want you to hear this: everyone has something. No one gets through life without battling,” he said. “This just happens to be your something. No, it’s not fair that you have to deal with your something so young, but this was given to you and it is up to you how you live with it.”

shutterstock_136442012_woman_beach_300pxHis frankness stopped me completely. I stopped thinking. I stopped judging myself. I stopped killing myself with guilt. I simply accepted my something. It was as if a great weight had been lifted off me for the rest of the trip.

When I returned home, I made it my mission to learn about Type 1 and how to help my body. And now when I’m feeling down with the unrelenting process of managing my blood sugars, I think back to that doctor’s gaze, take a deep breath, and remind myself that it’s my choice to take care of myself.

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Gretchen Otte has been living with Type 1 Diabetes since the summer of 2014. She is a blogger at and a photographer, and she is training to become a certified diabetic health and wellness coach. She lives in Newport Beach with her bunny, Winnie.

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