Brooks Roche

Brooks Roche wrote a letter to his Type 1 Diabetes as part of a social media campaign called #deartype1 put on by Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. November is Diabetes Awareness Month and the campaign is an effort to personify and raise awareness of the disease. Brady McCloskey Photography

Brooks Roche, 22, from Montague, is a current UPEI student who has battled Type 1 diabetes since the age of three. On November 2 he wrote a letter to his diabetes as part of Diabetes Awareness Month. The letter is part of a social media campaign by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation called #DearType1.

Mr Roche wrote the letter that personified the disease to help impact others challenged with the disease.

“At the end of the day it might just show someone out there that it’s worth fighting through and not giving up,” Mr Roche said.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and I’m taking this opportunity to participate in JDRF Canada’s #DearType1 project by sharing my story - you can do the same at jdrf.ca/deartype1/shareyourstory!, Mr Roche posted on his Facebook page.

Dear Type 1,

I used to be so, so scared of you.

We first met, as I’m sure you remember, a few weeks before my fourth birthday. Your arrival was sudden, unwelcome, and resulted in a week spent in the hospital – given my age, this kind of trauma means that many of my earliest memories revolve around sickness, pain, confusion, and frustration. While my friends recall playing outside or getting a new toy, I’m stuck with an endless loop of needles, appointments, tests, and a feeling of distrust toward my own body. Do you know what it’s like to struggle remembering your own childhood?

As I grew up and tried to take on “normal kid” activities, you were always there to stand in my way. I remember sitting inside by myself during recess treating my lows. I remember being violently ill because I had a piece of cake at a friend’s birthday party. I remember crying myself to sleep because I just wanted to go a day without the worry, the pain, and the uncertainty.

As the years passed, I slowly but surely began to fight back. I’m sure you remember it well. In 2005, I was among the first in my province to use insulin pump technology; with this tool, I was finally able to play organized sports and take better care of my nutrition. From shaky beginnings and despite the barriers you provided, I hit my stride and eventually claimed provincial titles in multiple sports, competed in five national championships, and even brought home a Canadian bronze medal. You were there the whole time, sulking, even chipping in with hypoglycaemia at some of the worst possible moments; but despite your best efforts, my best efforts won.

After experiencing the impact of advanced technology, I travelled to Ottawa to meet with key decision-makers and lobby for all Canadians in need to be equipped with these tools. It took two trips and two meetings with the Prime Minister himself, but by 2012 the entire country was granted financial support to fight back against you. (Yes, I’m still ironing out the details, but that’s a different story.) Meanwhile in the throes of high school, and despite your distractions, I had begun to earn a wide array of academic awards and scholarships. Against your odds, I couldn’t seem to avoid success.

I continued my march into university, as you tried with increasing desperation to slow me down. You landed a few punches but my academic, athletic, and personal victories shone through. I was accepted into an acclaimed architecture school and moved away from home. Once again, barring a few slip-ups I took new challenges in stride. I did really well in school, I worked hard, I ate well and exercised. Don’t worry, you still certainly succeeded in making my days much tougher. You wrecked a lot of great moments and gave my body and brain plenty of pain. You did your job, but I continued to push past you and live a good life.

At this point, as with all great stories, comes the response. Call it karma, call it Newton’s Third Law, call it whatever you want – you hit back. You hit back hard.

As I approached the end of my undergraduate degree, into which I’d poured thousands of hours and immeasurable effort, my health started to fail me. It felt like you were on the inside pulling at wires, clogging the machine, doing whatever you could to get revenge. I wound up in the hospital multiple times. I could rarely go a day without a severe high or low. My fitness and nutrition suffered, my mental health fell apart, and I barely crawled my way over the finish line to complete my degree. This was when I had to make the crushing decision to abandon my graduate studies.

I dropped out of school because of what you did to me. For a little while, I’m guessing that you felt pretty self-satisfied. You had foiled one of my longest-running plans, something I’d dreamed of for a long time – I’ll admit I was devastated. It’s taken me a long time to truly grip what had happened.

After you landed this knockout punch I moved home, laid low for awhile, and within a month I was rebooted with even more advanced technology and a deep desire to make change. I began advocating for systemic changes, sharing my story with those in power, and relentlessly pushing to regain my quality of life. Soon after, when I received word that I’d been appointed to the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, my first order of business was to directly propose measures to improve quality of life for the Canadians who fight you every day. I felt a vague but powerful sense that the world was on my side.

I could’ve given up. You gave me every reason to, but because you’ve trained me for almost my whole life to keep fighting back, I simply refused to let you win. I realize now that I was never fighting to be a “normal kid.” I was fighting to go way beyond normal, and whether I realized it or not, that’s where I’ve ended up.

You have made my life so much harder than it should be. You have made my days exhausted and my nights sleepless. You have cost me wins on the playing field and hours of training. You have cost me letter grades and life lessons by leaving me unable to work or concentrate. You have made me anxious before, during, and after every meal. You have made me self-conscious about the body we occupy and the machines connected to it. You have brought my physical, mental, and emotional health to crumbling lows. And every single day, I can feel you trying your absolute hardest to make things worse.

But that’s the point.

You have tried to beat me every single day for almost two decades. It’s a valiant effort, and while I’ll admit you’ve come close a few times, you have failed spectacularly. Everything that I achieve is achieved in spite of the challenges that you place in my way. I know that I will inevitably stumble. I will fall. I will, on occasion, even feel like giving up – but I promise you that I won’t.

So, after sharing my body for this long, after watching me grow from that scared little 3-year-old in the hospital bed into the person that I am today, and after seeing me work every day to be better and do more, I’ll leave you with one final thought.

After all this time, you should be scared of me.

Yours truly, until a cure do us part,

Brooks

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