Type 1 Diabetes

Spice Girls, Sleepovers and Snacks – School Life With Type 1

December 9, 2014
The Sporty Spice Phase. On the right = the week of my diagnosis. Happy Birthday to me.

“Jenny? Are you ok?”

I hastily got up from the giant beanbag my Year 4 teacher had caught me resting on and snapped out of my daydream. It was lunchtime, and ordinarily I would have been relishing every second outdoors that the break afforded me. But I was so tired. I didn’t want to play.

“You’re not being bullied, are you?” my dear teacher asked me, clearly concerned.

“No, no Miss,” I replied, feeling sheepish that she had caught me behind the screen in her big store cupboard. I didn’t have an explanation as to why I needed to lie down in there. I just didn’t feel very good.

Pre-diabetes, and a show off.

Pre-diabetes, and a show off.

A few weeks later I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (click to read my full diagnosis story) – a word I’d never heard before – and subsequently plunged into an entirely alien world, at the age of eight. I was pretty confused, fairly overwhelmed, and very shocked. Injections? Insulin? NO MORE SWEETS?!

But I kind of took it in my stride for the most part; my parents were busy doing the panicking for me while I was just told what to do and when to do it. But the leaflets, the DSN visits, the overwhelming amount of medicine that had suddenly appeared in my life; it was utter chaos for all of us. Big fat yellow sharps bins and so much patronizing kit that I was just a little bit too old for – the certificate I got for doing my first injection; the ‘snazzy’ (not snazzy) cases for my insulin which my mum diligently stitched my name into. If it didn’t have a picture of the Spice Girls on it, I wasn’t interested.

That’s not to say that some of it wasn’t exciting – I had time off school, people were paying me a lot of attention, and finally I had an explanation for the teacher (and myself) as to why I’d needed to lie down on that beanbag instead of spending my breaktime doing cartwheels and handstands.

The Sporty Spice Phase. On the right = the week of my diagnosis. Happy Birthday to me.

The Sporty Spice Phase. On the right = the week of my diagnosis. Happy Birthday to me.

While it was fun for a while, it definitely made me stand out from my classmates, and I was at the curious and naïve mercy of my peers. For the most part I was fine; I was well-liked and had some cheek chat. Being a bit different at that age isn’t really cool. Some weird disease where you have to inject yourself multiple times a day, get to eat snacks in class AND skip the dinner queue?! Uh oh.

After the initial shock/relief of discovering that something was actually wrong and I wasn’t just a really really tired girl with some sort of bladder problem, there was all the learning, adapting, and trying to fit in regardless.

I started to feel pretty awkward when the insulin made me put on weight and I became chubby for the first time in my life – just at the point that us girls had started to notice each other’s bodies. I learnt the hard way that diabetic chocolate is really not good for you. The first time I had a hypo in the middle of a lesson I was too embarrassed to put my hand up so I just sat there in the hope it would go away, until I just burst into tears instead. On the first overnight school trip we’d ever had, Mum rocked up to the coach with a toy box FULL of snacks in case I went hypo four hundred thousand times over the week. Oink.

But despite having enough packets of crisps with me to feed the entire year group, I still WENT on that school trip away. I still went to sleepovers too, and bought sweets in the shop on my way home with my leftover lunch money. I still went to my dance classes, and to house parties when the time came some years later. As protective (and panicked) as my dear mum was about whether I would faint when nobody was watching, we just had to get on with it. It didn’t take long for me to start injecting in class instead of in the secretary’s office. To wear my SOS bracelet with pride because I was the only one allowed to wear jewellery. I OWNED that disease, to the point that one of my friends, albeit ignorantly, told me she wished she had diabetes too so she could eat chocolate after PE.

Diabetes was a big part of my childhood, but it didn’t take over my childhood. Had I not carried on regardless, with the help of my parents, supportive teachers, knowledgeable diabetes specialists, and my own playful attitude, I probably wouldn’t have the opinion of it that I do now – that it’s just mildly-irritating background noise and for the most part, nothing that means I can’t do the things I want to. And as comfy as that bean bag was that lunchtime, I never refuted an opportunity to practice my cartwheels at lunchtime again. It seems a shame that now, at 27, that’s probably not acceptable lunch break behaviour anymore…

This has nothing to do with my diabetes, but I really wanted to show you all what an excellent Noddy my little brother once made...

This has nothing to do with my diabetes, but I really wanted to show you all what an excellent Noddy my little brother once was…


  • Reply Actually Mummy... December 9, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Oh how I wish there was a ‘LOVE’ option to click on this post. You just made me cry, because you could absolutely be my daughter right now, in this post. As we struggle to get our heads around this (again, and again, and again as it changes) I need a regular injection of optimism and ‘It’ll be okay’-ness. You are totally it for me today. She is currently at a rehearsal for a stage production of Bugsy, and goes on her first post-diagnosis sleepover at the weekend. I may be a nervous wreck, but she is determined to live her life, to find a way to do everything whilst keeping diabetes in its place as much as she can.
    I’ve read some of your posts, told her about your love of food, and experiences with the pump, and now I’m going to ask her to read this post when she gets home. If she turns out to live her life in a similar vein to you, I’ll be happy. More importantly, I can see that she will be happy. x

    • Reply missjengrieves December 19, 2014 at 2:43 pm

      Oh my goodness this comment made me well up so much!
      Thank you SO much for reading and writing such a lovely comment, I can’t tell you how much that means. How did the sleepover go? It’s all so daunting and unknown at first, but honestly I did just crack on and I think I’m all the better for it now. We were very cautious at first (hence all the snacks!) but I had good control all through school because we weren’t afraid of me being active, it seemed to be the best way to keep things under control.
      Thank you again for taking the time to write such lovely, lovely words. Merry Christmas to you xxx

      • Reply Actually Mummy... December 21, 2014 at 10:54 pm

        Well I stuffed up the sleepover good and proper: I was so keen to avoid an overnight hypo that I reduced her ratios and basal too much and she went to bed at 16! But it’s another first ticked off, and those are always good. She had a great time and was safe, so that’s what mattered for just one night. Onto the next first now – Christmas!
        Thank you, it does mean a lot to see someone not only surviving this diagnois, but properly living with it :)

  • Reply Mother Goutte December 9, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Really interesting post. As a mum I can understand you own mum’s anguish though! The story about not putting your hand up when you were hypo and bursting into tears just about broke my heart…! x

    • Reply missjengrieves December 19, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Yeh it was a very nostalgic post to write! It’s funny the things you remember. It’s all just such a learning curve, and it still is now. College, uni, work, travelling etc you never stop learning really. Mum still worries, but she wouldn’t be Mum if she didn’t :) xxx

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