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Choosing Joy in the Face of A Life-Changing Diagnosis

Photo: Courtesy of Samerica Studios

Four years ago, I learned I had type 1 diabetes (T1D) after I fell into a coma caused by diabetic ketoacidosis. My daughter, Zola, and I both live with the disease. We were diagnosed two months and 9000 miles apart, and diabetes and adoption are what brought us together and wove us into family.

It’s been four years of testing blood sugar, counting carbs, calculating, injecting insulin, waking up in the middle of the night to test, correcting highs, and treating lows. Four years of doing the full-time job of a pancreas just to live another day.

It’s also been four years of of waking up each morning and choosing joy, some days much easier than others. Four years of being brave because it’s our only choice, and fueled to inspire and spread hope, because a disease should never determine the depths of your joy.

I’ve learned that posturing our heart determines our perspective and our hope is not dependent on our body’s ability to make insulin.

Zola (left) and Keary (right) Cheney.

T1D has given me far more than it can ever take away. It gave me some of my most cherished friendships. It taught me how to be a better friend to others walking through hard seasons. It gave me a new perspective. It taught me about hope and finding joy in the small things I once took for granted. It taught me about gratitude. It gave me a passion to empower others walking this same road, the same way people did for us when we were first diagnosed. It gave me a voice and it gave me confidence despite being a misunderstood disease.

Above all, diabetes gave me a daughter.

We long for others to know joy beyond a diagnosis, because a diagnosis is not the end, but the beginning of something new. The day I faced death is the day I really started living.

If I’ve learned anything about hope and joy, it’s that they’re contagious. And sometimes spreading hope is as simple as letting someone know they are not alone in this.

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