DSOK Spotlight: Tiffany Harper

By Tiffany Harper

Hi, I am Tiffany and I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1994 when I was 12 years old. My view on life since I was 12 years old, is to not let something like diabetes detour me from doing and being who I want to be.

I feel strongly that it has taken an army for me to get where I am today, as much as I like to take all the credit. So this short story of my life is a thank you to my mom for all she has done and still does.

As much as I have tried to not let diabetes rule my world, I have some very specific memories in my life regarding diabetes. For the most part, many of my memories revolve around my mom. Bless her heart; she has been by my side from the day I was diagnosed.

My very first memory is when I was in the hospital after being diagnosed. I ended up having to stay an extra day in the hospital because my sweet mom would burst into tears every time she got close to me with a needle. I also remember how hard she tried to keep me on the rigid “diabetic diet.” She would bring me a little paper plate of cheese and crackers covered by plastic wrap every afternoon in 6th grade. After about a year, she started to realize I was quite capable of making my own decisions. Her loosening up was probably better for the mental sanity of both of us.

As I grew up, I was a great student and extremely social. I was a high school cheerleader and as you may remember, image was everything during those years. I kept the diabetes quiet, not in a way that harmed me or put me in any bad situations. It just let me be who I wanted to be without having someone look at me differently. My close friends knew about it and kept an eye on me, but for the most part I did great.

My big milestone memory during those years came when I was a senior and got my insulin pump. I had made up my mind that I was going to Oklahoma State University, but the stipulation from my parents was that I had to be on the pump. Up until that point, I had seizures at night from low blood sugars and I wasn’t able to wake myself up from them. So, just weeks before my senior prom in 2000, I got my first pump… and I cried. To me, a social teenager, this was in some way blowing my cover. Instead of quietly taking my insulin shots I now had to wear this giant machine (as it was in my mind).

Regardless, prom went off without a hitch and off to OSU I went. I know my worried mom would have preferred I stay at home and go to a local college (as she voiced countless times), but that wasn’t what I had planned for my life. I wanted to be an Interior Designer and OSU was the best place for me to do that.

College came and went with only one semi-major diabetes related issue, thanks to my trusty pump. I had one night seizure while asleep in my 3rd floor room of my sorority house. I’m glad I don’t remember anything about the emergency workers having to carry me down three flights of stairs!

With all the independence I’ve gained for myself, I can’t help but issue a big thank you to my mom for all her help. Similarly, kudos to all the moms and dads with children with diabetes. I’m not a mom myself, but I can’t imagine the stress my dear mom goes through even today as I live my life as a 33 year old person with diabetes.

If my mom could, I know she would take my place, or at the very least she would still have the baby monitor in my bedroom every night just for peace of mind. So here I am, a professional young adult with a great career as a painter, two awesome dogs, and a great support system.

Oh and I almost forgot, I happen to have diabetes.