78: Strength in Numbers

78: Strength in Numbers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

Strength in Numbers

Nothing in life is to be feared.

It is only to be understood.

~Marie Curie

On the night I found myself waking up on the bathroom tile of my parents’ bathroom, I tried to remember how I got there. My left cheek was on the cold floor, and I felt almost soothed by it, as the rest of my eleven-year-old body was in a cold sweat. I closed my eyes and had a distinct vision as I laid waiting for someone to find me.

In my mind, I was lying in a bed that wasn’t my own and, like in real life, I couldn’t move. I could see my family and friends standing around me, looking at me fearfully. I wanted to ask them what was wrong, why they were all looking at me with such worry, but I couldn’t speak. They touched my hands, my dad cried, my mom covered her mouth, and my grandmother muttered prayers, but all I could do was lie there and look at them.

I drifted back to sleep soon after, and I was shaken awake hours later by my mother. I told her that I’d gotten up to use the bathroom, but I’d felt too weak to walk, so I’d lain down. This, of course, was a lie. I had gotten up to use the bathroom, but I’d passed out in a cold sweat. However, I didn’t want to worry her more than she already was.

Mom knew that I was sick — too sick to go to school, too sick to eat, too sick to stand. She would help me to the kitchen to get the gallons of water I was desperate for. But she didn’t know that I also had to pee seven times each night. I didn’t want to bother her, even if I had to crawl to the bathroom.

After four missed days of school, my mom finally phoned our family doctor. He told her I probably had the flu, that I needed more Gatorade and rest. We did that for a day, but she finally took me to the doctor’s office after I threw up all of the Gatorade and soup she’d been trying to fill me with.

At the hospital, I was tested for every type of disease while my parents sat next to me, holding hands for the first time in years. When the doctor came in to tell them that I had Type 1 diabetes, I pretended to be asleep facing the wall with my eyes closed. I listened intently, confused, and I heard my dad asking questions while my mom sat next to him, sniffling back tears. Dr. James explained to them what my days would now look like: I would be checking my blood sugar, counting carbohydrates for everything I ate, taking insulin shots to cover said carbs, and on and on and on. I was eleven years old at the time, and while I knew everything would be different and more difficult, I didn’t feel afraid. As I heard the door shut behind my parents, I turned over and stared at the ceiling.

Am I going to die? I wondered. My mom and dad came into the room a few hours later with a bag of supplies I would need for the next week in the hospital. My mom had packed my toothbrush, pajamas, and Winnie the Pooh. They told me what the doctor had told them, and I nodded, pretending it was the first I’d heard of it all. “We’re going to go home and do some research,” Mom said, “but everything will be okay. You’re okay.” My dad’s face was turned, pretending he was looking at my monitor so I wouldn’t have to see the expression of doubt he wore on such occasions when he was worried and unsure.

“Dad,” I whispered. He looked at me. For some reason, I felt like this was my fault, like I had done something wrong. He wore the face I had been seeing in my dreams for months. The same anxious eyes looked back at me as I lay in the hospital bed, frozen with fear for my dad, not for myself. I realized that I would be fine, but my parents were going to be a mess. “I’m okay, Dad. I dreamed all of this before, and everything was fine. In my dream, I was alive and not even a little sad.”

He stared at me for a while, and then he smiled, leaned down to hug me, and whispered into my ear: “You’re my hero, little lady.”

When the diabetes educator came in later that day, I was determined to learn everything, to control something that wasn’t tame so that I could protect my parents from worrying about me.

For the next few days, I learned how to prick my finger to test my blood glucose, count how many carbohydrates were in a banana or a potato, and determine how I would feel when my blood sugar was high (tired, thirsty, a need to pee), or how I would feel when it dropped (shaky, confused, hungry). I learned how to give myself shots, and how to track my entire life, recording blood sugars, carbs, units of insulin, and exercise on an Excel spreadsheet my dad created and faxed to my doctor weekly. I grew up a lot in that one week.

The day before I was released on December 20, 2000, my mom arranged for a Christmas party in my hospital room. Friends from church and school showed up. My entire family was present, and even Santa Claus came with a gift of play make-up and fingernail polish. People brought balloons and flowers. One friend even brought a gallon jar of pickles as he knew they didn’t have any carbs.

At one point during the celebration, I lay in my bed, attached to tubes and beeping machines, and I felt the love from all of these people spreading across the room. I realized I was living the same dream I’d envisioned the night I’d fallen on the tile. People had been looking at me with worry and concern, but here, in real life, in my non-dreamy struggle, I had people supporting me, trying to learn about my new way of life, and holding my hands unconditionally. This reality filled me with joy.

Worry had been replaced with understanding, compassion removed concern, and I was not anxious about this new way of life thanks to the people around me. This was simply a new routine. My dreams had prepared me, and my family and friends were here to help me through the rest of my life as an independent, adventurous, and optimistic person living with Type 1 diabetes.

~Lauren Dyer

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners