When You're Diagnosed as A Young Adult: In The Military

Anthony Sanchez



My name is Anthony Sanchez; I am a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, born and raised in California March 14, 1994. Every year 40,000 people are diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. It can happen at any time, at any age, to anyone. I happen to be one of those people.

I was diagnosed October 6, 2015 at 21 years old while deployed overseas in Romania. The week prior to my diagnoses I thought I had a severe cold, however, this was not the case. It started with an extreme need for water, an intense craving for sugar, and little to no energy for even the smallest of activities. I looked like death, and eventually my command instructed me to go to my room and rest. Slowly but surely I stopped eating and began to do nothing but sleep, drink, urinate, vomit, and have what felt like a knife repeatedly stabbed into my side.  I held out as long as I could before I decided the pain was no longer bearable. Because I could not walk on my own, much less stand, my roommates ran to get a van to take me to our medical facility on base. Once we arrived, the medical personnel knew they could not properly take care of me, partially because they themselves were unaware of the signs and symptoms and could not help. They came to realize they needed to get me to a Romanian emergency room.

I was in DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), and I can’t recall any details of my arrival to the hospital or the procedures that took place. I woke up in a small room connected to an EKG machine along with multiple IVs placed into both my arms, and an A1C of 13.1%. The nurses and staff taking care of me spoke little to no English and were only able to stabilize me and determine my condition. My arms were covered with bruises and needle marks. Within 24 hours I was medically evacuated to Landstuhl, Germany with my own medical team. The jet we flew on barely had enough space to fit the 5 man team, an EKG machine, a few bags, and myself. I could never express how grateful I am to those men and women on the team who helped me.  I may not remember their names, but the faces are forever engraved into my memory.

Arriving to the Army base stationed in Germany I was once again placed into the ER. However, this time the medical personnel were able to help me and addressed everything very quickly. Within those first 48 hours I was told of my permanent disease, taught to give myself shots, and given a crash course on managing diabetes. I stayed in the ER for two days and spent another five in the medical ward.  Aside from the shots I can say I honestly didn’t learn much from them. I was more concerned for my family. My mother had received a call from the Red Cross without being told what had happened, and I didn’t know if my sisters would have the antibodies to also be diagnosed with type one.

After my week stay in Germany, I returned state side to North Carolina were I received further treatment and attended countless appointments to continue the forever learning process of managing type one diabetes. It changed my life.  Being diabetic didn’t honestly hit me until my half year mark. I didn’t get any sleep, had no desire to participate in my normal activities, and for a brief moment hated myself and everything about the body I was given. The whole “why me” scenario played in my head. Things slowly became worse as my girlfriend of six years and I had a falling out period. I like to think she let her school work push her too hard and that my diagnoses had nothing to do with it. Things got very dark very fast. I felt lost and alone even with so many people around me. It seemed that time had stopped. But diabetes doesn’t. I still had to care for myself and fight everything in me that wanted to give up. I found myself lying in bed one afternoon and instead of thinking “why me” I thought “why not”. Why not become a better version of myself, and why not show the world how amazing a type one diabetic could be. So amidst the pain and suffering, I found myself.  I found out who I can be and what I can do to make our lives better as type one diabetics.

I am being forced out of the Marine Corps because of type one diabetes. It is not what I had wanted or planned. However, I have over four years of service under my belt. I’ve met amazing people and gone to beautiful places. I’m ready to continue my life and do something new. I now want to go to school to become a registered nurse, and once I meet requirements, become a certified diabetes educator (CDE). Within eight months of being diagnosed I brought my A1C to 7.1%, I now expect nothing less of myself then to give my all to help other diabetics and teach anyone I can about how truly amazing every one of us are. I am no longer afraid of type one diabetes; I’m charging head on and doing all I can to make the best of this. 

Editor's note: for more information about being diagnosed as a young adult, check out our new guide: "You've Got This: A Guide for Young Adults Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes".