Jim, Zach, and Wes are your typical teenagers. They stay up late watching movies. They roughplay every now and then, and they just enjoy hanging out with each other. They always did. However, a couple of years ago, something changed. Jim got diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. All of the sudden, all of those things they used to do became dangerous for one of them.
As a way of background, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. In a nutshell, the pancreas stops producing insulin (the hormone that controls blood-sugar levels) so the person affected needs to either inject themselves with insulin or wear an insulin pump. People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes have to constantly monitor their blood-sugar levels, watch what they eat, drink, and do in order to keep the condition at bay.
As Jim, Zach, and Wes would quickly learn, this diagnosis changed everything for them, but at the same time, nothing had really changed.
“Type one diabetes is an invisible illness. If you saw me on the street, you would have no idea that I lived with this disease. That I was battling a life-threatening illness every day when I wake up and even when I'm asleep,” explained Carlyn Sautter, Outreach Director at JDRF, a type 1 diabetes research and advocacy organization.
As Sautter explained, for kids like Jim, the challenge with type 1 diabetes is not really how to manage it. While there is no cure, science has made it fairly easy (if you can afford it) to manage type 1 diabetes. The challenge for most kids is finding the balance between doing all the things a kid would normally do, and still being careful and aware of everything that's happening in your body.
“One night actually when he was like newly diabetic, he had a bunch of soda with a bunch of other guys, and he was just not being very self-conscious about what he was doing and he got really high blood sugar,” recalls Wes, one of Jim's friends.
According to Radio 101 reporter, Zach Dunn, this is exactly what made him and others rethink their relationship.
“That's the thing that troubles me the most. That makes me angry. Being a normal, carefree kid, is the one thing that could kill him,” explained Dunn.
There is no denying that Zach, Wes and Jim's childhood is now different because of Jim's condition. For example, a night out camping, eating s'mores, and crashing a couple of hours later from the sugar overload is out of the question for this group of friends. But different is not always bad. Sometimes, different is just different.
“My friends are always there to kind of look over my shoulder, test my judgement and like make sure that everything is kinda going well. They are always there for like, to talk to if i ever get stressed out with it and stuff,” explained Jim.
While this new dynamic has put some pressure on the group of friends, it has also strengthened it.
“I think we helped him manage this disease, and I think that he helped us become better people.” said Dunn.
And that's what, in the end, friends are for.