My name is Melissa Laninga. I am 21 years old and this is my story.
There was nothing out of the ordinary growing up. I had a mom and dad, and an older brother and sister. I grew up just like any other kid and teenager. When I was a child, I played outside with my friends, had sleepovers, went to church with my family, and went to school. When I was a teenager I went to school and football games, went to church, went to the mall with my friends, and everyday enjoyed life.
On July 7, 2008, my world was turned upside down. The weeks before that day, I had been having some health issues. I was constantly thirsty and no amount of liquid could quench that thirst and as a result of drinking so much water, I was constantly in the bathroom. I began losing a lot of weight (which to a teenage girl is always a positive thing, but the amount of weight that I lost was very dangerous), I began getting very weak (I couldn’t even walk up the stairs from my basement to the kitchen without stopping because I got so tired from walking), and my eye sight began to get blurry. I had just been on 2 back-to-back mission trips, so I thought that I was just tired and hadn’t adjusted back to a normal routine, but when the symptoms were still present, we decided to schedule a doctor’s appointment. I remember sitting in the room hoping that nothing was different, but the doctor came in and told me that I had Type 1 Diabetes. And right away we were told to go to the Children’s Hospital downtown.
I remember feeling numb, just wishing that this day had been just some odd dream and that any moment I would wake up and everything would be normal again. I was so in shock that I couldn’t speak, I didn’t want to believe what I had just heard. My completely normal and ordinary life had just taken an unexpected turn and now everything seemed different.
I acted as if my diagnosis didn’t bother me. I put on a strong face for my friends and family, but deep down inside I was completely broken. I did not understand why God would allow me to have Diabetes. I felt like an outcast now. My family would always stare at me as I checked my blood sugar or as I was eating, and they would just say, “I wish you didn’t have to go through this” and, “If I could take this from you I would”. They meant well and weren’t meaning to treat me differently, but I felt like I was only getting pity from them and that I wasn’t Melissa to them anymore – I was Melissa the diabetic now. My friends also tried treating me normally, but they just didn’t understand what I was going through and just looked at me like I was some different person. I didn’t want to be treated any differently; I just wanted my life to like it was – normal and ordinary.
Everyday I struggled with why God allowed me to have Diabetes. I was always being told that God has a plan for everything and that there was a reason I had Diabetes, but I just couldn’t seem to figure out what the purpose was. The verse that stuck out to me and that I had to cling to was Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways.” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts”. No one would ever choose to put a hardship in their life, but God is not limited by a human brain. He knows everything, and somehow Diabetes was a part of His eternal plan for me.
5 ½ years later I am still trying to figure out why I have to struggle with Diabetes. But through my diagnosis, I have been able to encourage others who are going through other sicknesses. Even though I don’t have the same sicknesses as they do, we go through the same ups and downs. Some days we are ok with our circumstances, but there are still those days where bitterness and anger come about and you just can’t understand why. I have been able to help people get through their bad days and encourage them. I would not have been able to help those people if I myself hadn’t known firsthand what it felt like to go through the ups and downs of dealing with a lifelong disease or illness.
For me, being diagnosed with Diabetes was almost a blessing in disguise. I had always loved playing piano, but after I was diagnosed, that was my stress reliever. I developed a passion for music, and I am now using my God-given talents to play piano in church and I am playing in friend’s wedding for the first time. If I had not been diagnosed, I would not have taken the time to develop my skills in playing piano. I also don’t struggle with feeling different anymore, Diabetes has become a part of who I am, but it doesn’t define who I am.
I have family, friends, and a boyfriend who see me as Melissa; not Melissa the Diabetic.
Everyday is still a struggle. I can choose to use what God gave me to bring glory to Him, or I can choose to complain about the circumstances that I am in. I can choose to praise God for the life He gave me, or I can choose to have a pity party wishing my life was different. Having your life turned upside down is not an easy thing to go through; it is the hardest thing to go through. But God can use our hardships for His glory and purpose.
I choose to be used by God. I choose to see the good that He can make from a bad situation. I choose to be a fighter. I am a fighter!