When You're Diagnosed As A Young Adult: Strength in Relationships

Lissie Poyner, Penn State '17

Diabetes was never something I even thought about. There was no history of it in my immediate family and from what I knew, it was only something you got if you ate too much sugar. I was nineteen... so I was in the clear, right?

It was my freshman year at Penn State University and just started my spring semester. I had gotten through the transition in the fall and was ready for my new classes. Unfortunately, that’s exactly when I came down with strep throat, which led to the flu. After a week and a half of fevers and long days in bed, I thought it could only go up hill from there. And that’s when I started to feel changes in my body. I brushed off the constant thirst and frequent trips to the restroom as my body just recovering from flu dehydration. But it was during a physics exam that I was overwhelmed with nausea and fatigue that I knew something was very wrong. I went home that night, called the over night nurse, and they told me to get to the university health services immediately the next morning.

When I walked into the appointment, I knew what they were going to say. I had spent the night researching my symptoms and at that point, it seemed obvious. I gave them the answers they needed, allowed my blood to be drawn, and waited patiently for the life-altering news. “I think it’s safe to say that you have type 1 diabetes”. Although part of me knew this, I was terrified. I had spent the past 19 years living as a healthy girl… What would happen now?

When I called my mom, she told me it wasn’t possible. “It doesn’t run in our family. Tell them to check again.” My older brother thought my body could heal itself without insulin. My dad just didn’t know what to say. My diagnoses affected not only me, but my whole family. As I adjusted, so did they. My dad took a pledge off of soda and sweets for lent (Update: This was supposed to last only 40 days. It has now lasted over two years!) My brothers got themselves tested, just in case. My mom called me everyday just to see how I was.

My diagnosis changed my life forever and at 19, I thought that it would mark the worst years of my life. Almost three years later, it has been quite the opposite. These past three years have been filled with love from everyone around me, JDRF walks and being a spokesperson against everyday stigmas of diabetes. It’s been filled with laughs at diabetes camp, strength as I discover other T1D's on campus, and support when I’m able to “e-connect” with others through the College Diabetes Network (CDN). Life in college is difficult and it doesn’t get any easier with diabetes, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way.


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", and the accompanying video series.