Lots of Sugar – Not Always So Sweet

by Allison Levin, age 11, from PA (Written in 2005)

My name is Alison Levin and I am eleven years old. In November, I will turn twelve and become a Bat Mitzvah. I live in Pennsylvania with my mom, dad and big brother. Some of my favorite things are hanging out with my friends, singing, and going to the mall. When my friends go to the mall, they carry a purse with a wallet, lip gloss, and a maybe a cell phone. When I go to the mall, I carry a purse with lip gloss, a juice box, and a glucometer, a little machine that tests my blood sugar. The juice is in case I have low blood sugar. I carry these things with me because I have type one juvenile diabetes.

I was diagnosed when I was in the third grade. I began to feel sick in January. I was constantly drinking and going to the bathroom. It seemed like gallons and gal- lons a day! I was always tired and weak, and I never was hungry. I also craved candy. My parents were worried and took me to the doctor. The doctor told us that I had dia- betes, and on that very day, January 22nd 2003, I was admitted into the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). I was given an insulin shot for the first time. I was educated about diabetes and how to handle it.

They taught me that type one diabetes is when your body stops making insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by cells from the pancreas (an organ about the size of a hand that is located behind the lower part of the stomach) to manage the levels of the blood sugar. When the body cannot make enough insulin on its own, a person with diabetes must inject insulin from other sources. There are two ways for type one diabetics to receive insulin. 1) Insulin injections with needles or 2) an insulin pump. The weblink here can help navigate to centers that can help provide hormonal treatment.

At the end of August, 2003, my family, my diabetes team down at CHOP and I decided that I should get an insulin pump. An insulin pump is a little machine that gives me insulin with a push of a button, instead of giving myself needles whenever I want to eat. The insulin pump connects to your body with a little clear wire going into my midsection. It goes inside of my skin by a tiny catheter. (A catheter is a little plastic tube, about a centimeter and half.)

Now I have the option of wearing my pump or using needles (like when we go to Florida for Pesach), but I always have to check my blood sugar. Sometimes, I check my blood sugar seven to ten times a day depending on how I am feeling or what I am eating. I try my best to take care of myself, but sometimes it is not easy. My parents and friends are always there for me and I try to remember that I am not alone. My friends are so helpful to me! They even like to take my blood sugar! My friends do not treat me differently, even though I can’t always eat the same things that they do. They accept and respect me for who I am. I feel very lucky because I have friends in school, shul and camp.

Did you know that diabetes affects more than 18 million Americans? The most severe type is type one or juvenile diabetes. It usually strikes in childhood, but lasts a lifetime. Diabetes can cause many serious health problems. No one outgrows juvenile diabetes. I hope to make people aware of this disease and help raise money to find a cure. That is my only hope.

For the past two years, I have participated in the Walk to Cure Diabetes. The first year, we had about twenty friends walking with us. There were thousands of people from all over the Philadelphia area walking in small groups, families and big teams. My mom helped me make phone calls and buy matching t-shirts for everyone. We named the team “Alison’s Athletes!”

Last year, I wrote letters family and friends asking them to walk with us or make a donation to JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). I could not believe all the support I got: Over forty friends and even one dog came out and walked with us! My team raised $3000.00! It was the best feeling to have my family and all my close friends come out and walk with me. We all wore t-shirts with our team name and took lots of pictures.

Now I am getting ready for this year’s walk. This is my biggest and most important goal ever. It would be so wonderful to know that I was in some way responsible for helping to find a cure. For my Bat Mitzvah project, it is my dream to help raise over $5000.00 for the JDRF. I am working on my letter, and we ordered the new t- shirts. I have to address envelopes, make phone calls, arrange carpools, collect and record the money that comes in. When the walk is over, I write thank you notes to everyone who helped me. Many more of our friends and family will be joining us for the walk! It should be a beautiful and meaningful morning for my family and me.

Hashem (G-d) does everything for a reason, and I believe that there is a reason that I have diabetes. Maybe having diabetes has helped me look around and realize how much help diabetics need. I feel that it’s my special mission be a part of the cure for diabetes. Having diabetes has helped me become a more responsible person and a better human being.