A Hopeful Type 1 Tale

My Beloved World by Sonia SotomayorI just finished reading Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World.

She starts her story  shortly after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child. Her parents are arguing over which one of them is going to give her the shots of insulin she needs to survive. As the argument goes on Sonia decides then and there that she is the one who has to give herself the shots.

It’s exactly this determination that gets this working class Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx to the Ivy League, followed by a distinguished legal career with the NY District Attorney, on the federal bench and finally on to the Supreme Court.

Justice Sotomayor easily acknowledges help she received along the way: a family doctor who referred her to a juvenile diabetes research program at the Albert Einstein School of medicine; a school chum who pointed her toward the Ivy League; and various professional mentors along the way.

But if others helped open the door, Sotomayor made sure she did the work and proved herself able after walking through it. She graduated Princeton summa cum laude. Made the Harvard Law Review. And was one of the youngest lawyers to be appointed to the federal bench.

Along the way Type 1 diabetes is her constant companion. She talks about how when she was diagnosed the assumption was that people with diabetes inevitably develop complications and die young. She mentions several hypoglycemic episodes and realizing that if she doesn’t let the people around her know she has diabetes she is risking her very life. She mentions having to count calories and grams of carbohydrates and protein, and then calculate her insulin dose. She mentions all this in passing.

While Type 1 diabetes is always there, it’s in the background. While it shapes her and her life, it does not define her. She experiences the love of family and friends. She pursues and achieves her dream to be a judge. She enjoys good meals and travels. On the balance I think Sonia Sotomayor would say that she is living well with diabetes.

Video Source: Knopf Publishers