The Blessing in Disguise

Kevin Fribley, George Mason University '19

Type 1 diabetes is a blessing in disguise. When I was diagnosed in the spring of 2011, everything was a blur. I had no idea what the next steps were, how my life was going to change, and if I could live with this chronic disease. College is not much different from being diagnosed with diabetes. You have to be overly prepared for every situation that comes at you and they both are life-changing events for the better or worse. Diabetes has been my life for five years now, so I understand how to live with the disease, but living with it in college is a whole new challenge.

I said type 1 diabetes is a blessing in disguise. This is unequivocally true; it could not have been truer during my freshman year at George Mason University. Stress and diabetes go hand in hand and the most stressful thing in college was obtaining and storing my supplies in my dorm room. I had to visit my doctor countless times. I had to take trips to the military base for my insulin and other supplies. I had to endure the slow bureaucratic system of America once again. But after the phone calls and hospital visits, the actually transportation of my supplies to the dorm was smooth and simple. My organized diabetic mind took over and my experience living overseas in Paris, Italy, China, Virginia, and London paid off. I decked my room with alcohol swabs. I had insulin readily packed in my mini fridge. Everything was in order. Then college began.

My next big challenge was the dining hall. Food can be a menacing foe for the college diabetic and the buffet style of the dining halls at campus did not help. I had to understand my limitations and take measures to eat healthy. While carb counting never was an issue at home or at restaurants, it was difficult to accurately carb count at the dining hall. I would not know what kind of sauces the dishes had or how much bread was in a particular dish. A lot of it was just a guess. I had some really low days and some high days, but overall I feel like in my particular situation, a college freshman whose family is across the Atlantic Ocean, I had control of my diabetes. I had no control on what other people reacted when I told them about my disease. They would ask me if "it was the fat one?" or "can you eat this?" I wanted to reply with the sarcastic answer, but instead I tried to educate them. My living learning community (LLC) class helped me communicate about my disease with more ease. College is a tough time of various social interactions, and to make it better you have a chronic disease to think about. Even if my friends do not understand certain aspects of my disease, they do look after me. When I am sick or aggravated with diabetes, they make my college experience more enjoyable and less stressful. Even though the CDN chapter is not solidified on campus yet, the people in the group have been open and helpful in my diabetic endeavor.

 

In my LLC class we had to take the Gallup Strengths Finder Test. My top five were, in order, "competition, command, strategic, achiever, and learner." The one strength I am drawn to is competition. I am an extremely competitive person. In sports, in the classroom, or in any activity against my two brothers, I always strive to win. My biggest competitor is myself. When I succeed, I strive to get better. I have competed for the past five years against this disease and I have succeeded many times. I have played soccer, basketball, volleyball, and handball in college. I volunteered at a JDRF Gala in D.C. I excelled in all my classes. I have put myself out there. But the competition is not over. I am not even close to the finish line. Diabetes will always be there and I look forward to waking up the next day to experience it for another 24 hours. Diabetes is a blessing in disguise because it has pushed me to believe that anything is possible. It has pushed me to my physical and emotional brink. It is a challenge, a challenge I am willing to take and win.

           

 

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The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to provide innovative peer based programs which connect and empower students and young professionals to thrive with diabetes.

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