Just last month, I had the privilege of sitting down with Sysy Morales, author of The Girl’s Guide To Diabetes blog. I must admit, one of my favorite parts about the DOC is that each and every one of you has your own unique story that never fails to teach me something new and leave me inspired.
My meeting with Sysy was a true testament to that unfailing inspiration. She was gracious enough to share the details of how both she and her sister, Ana, were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes within the span of a year and the impact that has had on her life since. Her powerful story literally brought me to tears, which is why I’m excited to be able to share the first part of our conversation with you today.
Q: When you were 11 years old, you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. What do you remember about your diagnosis?
A: My youngest sister had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes eight months before me; I was 10 at the time. I have other siblings and we all felt like we had to protect her. I come from a really religious household and I prayed for God to take it away from her and give it to me. So, here I was, a child expecting to get type 1.
A few months later, I started feeling kind of weak and getting really thirsty, and I already knew what Ana’s symptoms were before she was diagnosed, so I assumed the plan was going how I had expected. By the time I was 11, I started to feel worse for wear, so I told my mother “I think you need to check my blood sugar, I think I might have type 1.” Of course, she knew that it was rare to have two people with type 1 in a family, so she thought I was just being paranoid. But I insisted and she checked my blood sugar and the number was high.
At first, I was really good with it because I thought this was the plan and my sister wouldn’t have diabetes anymore. Of course, after a few months, I realized she still had it. I think that was the hardest part for me.
Q: What do you remember about Ana’s diagnosis?
A: I remember that my dad would pick her up and say “She’s lighter. I really think she’s lighter.” My mom is very much a multi-tasker, always moving here and there to take care of the family and getting things done, but he would say things to her to grab her attention like, “Young kids are supposed to be getting heavier, not lighter.”
He started doing some research on the internet and he suspected type 1 diabetes based on some of her symptoms including the fact that her personality had changed from easygoing to easily irritable.
He recalls that on the day before he and my mom took her to the doctor, we all got up from the dinner table and he was peeking in on Ana, so she wouldn’t see. Ana secretly went around the dinner table and finished off all the remaining liquids from everyone else’s glasses while looking around to make sure nobody saw. They took her to the doctor the next day and, sure enough, a type 1 diagnosis.
Q: How did your parents handle the fact that two of their children were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?
A: My mom created a routine. Back then, we were told not to have any sugar and we had a very strict schedule. We had to have the same meals every day, the same carb-load every day. It was a very structured routine.
I remember going on vacation and it was just such a normal thing for my mom to say, “Stop. It’s 5 p.m. and we need to check blood sugars.” She was so good at staying on top of everything and handling two kids with type 1, along with everything else that moms do, without being emotionally crippled. My dad was a little more overwhelmed, emotionally. He often preferred our mom give us our injections. My mom’s attitude was very much like, “just do it.”
But, together they were a really great team. My dad was the one that was a more emotionally available and observant parent and my mom managed all the tasks and got stuff done. Together they created a healthy environment for two type 1s.
Q: With both of you being diagnosed, did you find that you and Ana took part in each other’s care?
A: Early on, it was really left up to our parents. I was much more independent and took over as much as I could. My parents would look at my syringe before I injected and they would monitor my blood sugars on my meter, but I did a lot by myself. Obviously, Ana was a lot younger and my mom had to do everything for her.
The way I helped with Ana was being responsible enough so my parents could go to the grocery store and feel confident that I knew what to do. For a while, I kind of felt like an aunt, like I was so much older and I cared for her. As we grew up, our relationship evolved and there were more discussions between us about our diabetes.
Now, she’s off to college and we email a lot. She’ll ask me questions, because I’m so immersed in learning about diabetes, and I’ll write up a really long, thorough email and I often wonder if she thinks, “Thanks. I didn’t need all that.” On the other hand, I ask her for advice about how she handles it emotionally, because she does it so well, and that’s where I struggle. We help each other by sharing our weaknesses and our strengths.
I am so appreciative to Sysy for her willingness to be so candid about her family’s experience. At 28 years old, Sysy is wise beyond her years and has so much more to share. So, stay tuned for part two of our discussion, where I chat with Sysy about her passion for diabetes education, sharing knowledge, and how that led her to blogging.
All the best,
Disclosure: Sysy Morales received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.