Being a big sister can be a huge responsibility. You must set an example of yourself, in order to help take part in raising the younger siblings. However, truthfully, my younger sister Somer has taught me more about strength than I could have ever offered her. When she was just nine years old, she fell very sick. We didn’t know why, but she started struggling to do simple tasks like wake up and get out of bed in the morning, which isn’t always a big surprise when it came to my sister Somer, but this was different. She was my best friend and she was no longer playing with me anymore, didn’t have the energy to explore outside in our tree house, and couldn’t even play dolls. After maybe a week of her struggling to stay awake in the middle of the day and begging mom to ride in the cart while we walked in the grocery store, we knew something wasn’t right. Then the day came where she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. On that day, I went on the school bus without her as I had been doing the past few days. It was no surprise to me that she was staying home sick from school. Despite this fairly new reality, every day I missed being with her and interacting with her bubbly, silly and sassy self. Now, she was more like a zombie. Throughout the days I would go to school on my own, I hoped that I would come home to her up and back to her old healthy self, but I would instead come home to her on the couch sleeping. This time, I came home off the bus to greet my grandma, who was sitting right where I would usually see Somer lying, and she was in tears. I got scared, but my grandma tried to act normal and said to me, “Hi honey, how was school?” in between sniffles. I replied quickly, “Good. Where’s Somer?” She told me she was in the hospital, and that my mom and dad were with her in Toledo. That is all she could tell me before she got a phone call, and I heard her say that Somer would have to live with a disease forever. I didn’t know what that meant so I got even more scared. I was worried that I was losing my very best friend, my very own sister.
Flash forward to now, and I am happy to say she is doing better than I ever imagined. Watching her get diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and watching her in the hospital confused and losing touch with her body while my mom and dad were fearful of the unknown, was hard. Nevertheless, we all got through it, and most importantly, Somer did. Somer is a miracle. She always spreads happiness with her sweet and sassy giggles. Her Diabetes didn’t change that. It made her even more herself and made her stronger. She has taught me to be stronger also. Watching her struggle with having to take shots anytime, she ate at only nine years old, and now seeing her endure the pain as if it’s nothing, is amazing. For many of us shots are a nightmare. That is her reality, and has been since she was young. It wasn’t a choice, but a challenge, and she overcame it like the warrior I know her to be. Although Somer has learned to overcome her struggles that come along with diabetes, doing normal activities like sports can still be hard to manage. We both twirl baton, and we often recall the time she and I performed at a competition while her sugar rose quickly to six hundred! That day was hard for us all because preparing to perform was difficult with her feeling very sick and frustrated with her numbers. Yet we still performed as a team, because despite her numbers indicating she should go to the hospital, she still wanted to perform with me. She was still functioning, and fought mom and our coach until they agreed to let her try, and we ended up scoring second place! Accomplishments like this was what inspired me to learn more about diabetes as I got older, because as her big sister I wanted to help.
Two years ago, I went to a winter retreat with her through DYS to accompany her and learn more about what her and others her age struggle with when it came to type 1 diabetes. I am so glad I went! I got to support my sister by learning more about her disease and met some of what she calls her dia-buddies. Everyone was so welcoming and inspired by my sister and I, and the interest I had in learning and supporting her. They all were very friendly, and all the kids at the retreat had diabetes except me. This interested us as a group, and it was so intriguing to get the experience of being the one singled out for not having the disease. I got the opportunity to get a feel of what it is like for them every day walking into a classroom or a team sport and being the only one with diabetes. It is an odd feeling, but made me feel happy, appreciative, and inspired by all those kind kids who go through all of those struggles every day, one of them being my sister.
Thank you to Morgan and the team at Somer’s doctor’s office! I got that awesome experience and the comfort my sister is cared for while still living her life. My sister and I bonded over that retreat, and because of that, we were able to become even closer and truly are best friends and sisters from the same mister. Somer and I now attend the same college in our hometown, Siena Heights in Adrian, Michigan. We just started the fall semester, her as a freshman and I as a junior. We love being able to see each other on campus and eat lunch together with our friends. She is twirling baton with me in our school’s marching band, while also dancing on the SHU dance team. I feel very lucky to have Somer in my life to remind me that strength is not hard to find and is a reality for her. She is a warrior everyday fighting the rise and fall of her sugar levels. She and others who fight the same battle will always inspire me. Somer will always and continue to be the one who teaches me strength, even as my younger sister and my best friend.