Little girls often tend to be somewhat naïve and oblivious to their surroundings. Have you ever seen children, perhaps at a preschool, pay no attention to their environment and seem to have not a care in the world? My sister was not one of those children and neither was I. I didn’t know why she was always exhausted, why she looked like a refugee even though she ate like a truck driver, or how she could drink countless bottles of water in such a short period of time. Mollie frequently could be seen pulling at my mother’s pant leg, asking to be taken to the restroom. It was this unusual behavior that caused me to believe my four-year old twin sister was not alright and wouldn’t be for a long time.
My mom was also deeply concerned about Mollie, and her strange symptoms were soon identified as Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes. We found out at the tender age of four that Mollie had an incurable disease, one that I could hardly pronounce, let alone understand. I’ll never forget seeing my mom cry for hours wondering why it couldn’t have been her who was struck with this devastating disease, why Mollie? I also remember those visits I made with my mom to the hospital that seemed so strange.
I saw my big sister change from an outgoing little girl with smiles and giggles, into a frightened, critically sick child lying helplessly in a hospital bed as big as the countless machines that filled her daunting room. My sister spent ten days in the hospital. Never again did we see that little girl with not a care in the world pick daisies and make mud pies or try hours on end to catch a sweet little butterfly—never. As the months passed, slowly Mollie began to recuperate. She kept her positive outlook as she came to the devastating realization that she would have to live with this terror for the rest of her life and would never be the same little four year old again. That was when we all saw sweet little Mollie grow from an innocent four year old into a mature adult almost overnight; her life depended on it.
Our whole family was in this fight for Mollie’s life; we were determined to beat this together and not let it beat us. Our mom told us that God is always with us and would take care of us forever. So every night, I would wait until I was sure Mollie was safely asleep and I would pray. I would ask God to please take care of Mollie as she sleeps, to please send down our Guardian Angels to take away her pain and watch over her always and forever. When I finished saying my prayers, which seemed to be endless to a tired little five year old, I fell asleep thinking about the pain Mollie had to endure and dreaming of the day she would be cured of this devastating and frightening disease, of how she could be a regular kid and not have to worry about the possibility of diabetic complications shortening her life.
As I began to grow up and was able to fully understand the nature of Mollie’s diabetes, I thought the only way I could help make our dreams come true was to start helping Mollie as much as I could. We asked our mom what we could do to help cure diabetes and she told us that we could start getting involved with The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
As little six year olds, we didn’t quite understand what all of these big words meant, so she explained to us that we could begin helping by telling our story, telling adults what it was like to live with diabetes, which we did with our mom and our aunt at weekly CEO Breakfast Meetings.
Then, when Mollie and I were in the second grade, we asked everyone in our school to write letters to President Clinton asking him to please listen to the innocent voices of diabetic children suffering from this devastating disease and increase funds for medical research. Soon thereafter, we began traveling to Washington D.C. and New York City to meet with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s staff to further our involvement with JDRF and continue advocating for this disease. Later, when we were ten years old, we created a club called Mollie’s Diabetic Angels, to help our friends and teachers understand the nature of her disease and what she had to deal with every hour of every day, and how to advocate on behalf of medical research.
That same year, my sister and I were chosen as delegates to the first ever JDRF Children’s Congress. This biennial event was a way to gather 100 outstanding diabetic children and give them the opportunity to explain to their representatives why there was such an urgent need to cure diabetes. During this four-day event, Mollie was one of five children who testified at a Senate Hearing asking the senators to fund research in order to help the doctors find the cure for Juvenile Diabetes. They then asked their senators to “Promise to Remember Me” when it was time to approve increased funding for diabetes research.
Through all of Mollie’s challenges, she has kept a positive attitude and can always be seen smiling. Mollie acknowledges the difficulties she has to face, and although she doesn’t like being a diabetic, she doesn’t complain or dwell on the trials in her life either. I truly look up to my sister and admire her for being one of the most courageous and positive people I know, one who selflessly puts the needs and problems of others before her own. Both of us continue to this day to advocate on behalf of those who cannot help themselves.
A few additional achievements include meeting with President Bush on two occasions, and discussing the importance of funding diabetes research. Furthermore, we have made numerous television and newspaper interviews, were involved in a two-year video diary for Good Morning America, and co-authored a booklet entitled “The Road To The Cure,” to help bring about more awareness. Additionally, we were selected as two of Lego Land and Twentieth Century Fox’s “Young Heroes of the Years” for our tireless effort in helping young diabetics. More recently, we both participate in an online mentoring group through JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), ODST (Online Diabetes Support Team) that helps newly diagnosed families deal with the struggles of diabetes, as well as, returning to Washington D.C. to testify before Congress lobbying methods that could potentially cure diabetes.
I love my sister very much, and would sacrifice anything and everything to help improve the quality of her life and ultimately find the cure for this devastating disease that has ruthlessly robbed her of her precious childhood. The one truism always associated with diabetes, is that diabetics can never take a vacation from their disease, they have to deal with it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When I look back on our childhood, I can’t help but wish that Mollie could have had an ordinary childhood as most of the other kids. One that didn’t revolve around her diabetes and persistent reminders such as, “Mollie, you need to test your blood sugar…Mollie, are you feeling okay…Mollie did you forget to take your insulin…Mollie do you need an apple juice…Mollie come sit down, you shouldn’t be running when your blood sugar is low…”
It must be so difficult for Mollie to be treated differently, even if she knows it is for her own good. Sometimes I feel so helpless, because I know that she feels like no one really understands what its like when her blood sugar unexpectedly drops and she can’t see straight, or hold a pencil, or when it climbs sky high and her vision is blurred and every ounce of her aches with pain. No matter how hard I try to relate to her pain, and comfort her, I know she is right, no one could truly understand what it feels like to have to suffer like that unless they’ve experienced it first hand. But I’m blessed, because Mollie doesn’t resent me or anyone else; she simply endures. For all of these reasons and thousands I haven’t mentioned, Mollie is my hero and my dream in life centers around her and her health. The fact that this dream has not come to fruition is immaterial, for together we are a force that will not be stopped until there is a cure.
My sister and I are going to be turning 20 this coming year and even though I know Mollie has had a tough childhood, I know she knows she is not alone; I will always be at her side to take care of her and watch over her. In a sense, our efforts to make our common dream come true hasn’t been futile, as part of this dream has already come true; Mollie has made it through her childhood alive, well, and without any known diabetic complications, and for this we are truly thankful. Helping my sister find a cure is my most important dream, and we will fight as long and as hard as we have to, in order to make sure the cure is found within our lifetime. Finally, with the Grace of God and the tireless efforts of dedicated researchers, along with help from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and their thousands of volunteers and millions of prayers, I am positive that my dream of a cure will become a reality in the very near future, and then my old story will end and a new chapter will begin.
Posted on January 12, 2009.