My name is Tiffany Cooper, and I am 17 years old. In September of 2006, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Since then, life has been pretty sweet, if ya know what I mean.
As a six-year-old, finding out I had a disease was pretty weird for me. I mean c’mon… it is called DIE-abetes, isn’t it? Terrifying!
Looking back now, a little over 11 years later, I wish I could warn myself that I wasn’t dying, just going through some changes. Back then I had no idea I would eventually meet some of my best friends EVER through this disease.
Today, I can say I am thankful for being a person with diabetes and that frankly, it makes me pretty darn cool. I started going to diabetes camp at Camp Endres in 2010, I think. My mom was scared of letting me go. I was almost 10 years old and had no spent a night away from my mom since I got diagnosed.
A whole week without mom was a scary thought, but I packed my bags, and she dropped me off in Davis, Oklahoma, for a week. From there on out, my life was changed forever. At camp, I made lifelong friendships with people just like me. I had never met another person with diabetes before, so this was just beyond cool for me.
Sometimes I wake up and wonder, “Why me? What did I do to deserve diabetes?” Then I remember that I CAN do this and that I really don’t have another choice besides to be tough and keep fighting. My friends with diabetes have these same feelings so when I have a hard day, I know I can call them up, and they’ll be there to tell me that we are in this together.
For me, the biggest struggle is dealing with people who confuse type 2 diabetes for type 1. To someone without diabetes, this probably sounds silly. But to me, and others with my disease, it can be so infuriating.
For the past 11 years, I have heard a lot of:
“Can you eat that?”
“But you could just try diet and exercise!”
“You don’t look like you have diabetes.”
“Oh yeah, I know all about that. My grandma’s cousin’s aunt’s uncle’s cat had diabetes!!”
Today, I am involved in all kinds of things that I never thought I could do when I found out I have diabetes. I am the current president of the Youth Activation Committee for Special Olympics Oklahoma. I compete in Special Olympics events with my friends with intellectual disabilities. I am involved in student council and leadership activities at my high school. I work part time at a local restaurant. I played softball and soccer for years. All of this while managing my diabetes.
I am much more than diabetes. I am a student, waitress, athlete, volunteer, leader, friend, and I am a person with diabetes (PWD).
So, here’s to proving the stigma surrounding diabetes wrong. Diabetes may make me need to take a juice break on occasion, but it will never hold me back from being awesome!