On Saturday, October 30, 1976 we moved out of my first childhood home in Rockland, Massachusetts and away from my best friend. She was 15; I had
just turned 12 on the 28th.
Sunday, October 31st I went to a halloween party and drank regular soda -
something I never did. Alas, I was still thirsty .. imagine that.
Monday, November 1st was All Saints Day so we had no school. I was sick
as a dog anyway, presumably with the flu. Mom went to work, my father
slept (he worked nights), and my not usually loving sister, brought me tea.
November 2, 1976 my mom came
home from work and decided it was time to pick me up and take me to South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Mass. where I was diagnosed and promptly sent by ambulance (iv
in arm) to New England Deaconess.
Three days later I was sent in the tunnel to the Joslin. Since I'd been
asking all sorts of questions for a few months, about why I was very thirsty
and urinating constantly, when my mother said "do you know what you
have," and I responded "yes, diabetes," she darn near fell on
the floor. Then she felt guilty because she had dismissed my questions as
it being hot outside. No big deal to me I remember thinking. We're
dealing with it now.
A total of 10 days later I went home to my new house. My father bought
and stained a desk I had wanted but we couldn't afford ... guilt I knew
even at that age. I had wanted to pay for it with my birthday money but
that wasn't happening. I went on about life, went back to school,
unpacked boxes, etc.
Around Thanksgiving I received a letter from my best friend ... she was in Floating Hospital. She had been diagnosed with an inoperable tumor
between her heart and her lung. She was to received radiation and
chemotherapy. Susan, as I said, was just 15 years old.
I was stunned. I wanted to see her but I couldn't. Our parents
didn't get along. They eventually both gave in and I was able to spend
one afternoon with Susan. It was probably the one and only time in my
life I was afraid to tell someone I couldn't have sugar iced-tea. I drank
some of it to be polite and enjoyed my afternoon even if I didn't enjoy the
aftermath. It was what I had to do.
I saw Susan one more time. Her mom drove her by my new house. I
gave her a gift of earrings.
Then one cold morning following the blizzard of 1978, I had teeth
removed. I had just come home cotton balls in mouth. The phone
rang. It was a former neighbor, we fondly referred to as "Mrs.
Ellie." I knew instantly. Susan had died. I didn't even
know she was that close to death. They'd all hid it from me. I was
instantly furious because they had not allowed me to say goodbye to my best
friend. I ran screaming out of the house and found yet someone else had
known for a week that she wasn't going to live. He hadn't told me either.
I went to her wake with my mother and Mrs. Ellie but attended her funeral by
myself. I walked a snow covered street approximately 1 mile with tears
running down my face.
We can pick our butts up, take control and "just do it." Susan
never had the chance that we do. I have never and will never complain
about being a juvenile onset diabetic. "