The Graceless world is full of people making their marks in their own unique way and on their own terms. We call them Graceless Makers, and we’ll be profiling them and their fabulous work on a regular basis. We couldn’t be more pleased to kick things off with a Graceless Woman-in-the-making, Arden Egerton.
Arden is a twelve-year old Austinite who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes earlier this year, an event that turned her whole world upside down. The months since have been frustrating to say the least, as she learns to navigate a new life filled with insulin calculations, carb counts, and constant monitoring of the food on her plate. What also fills this new life is trash—a hell of a lot of trash. The amount of equipment that accompanies the diabetic life is pretty astounding and pretty much all of it gets thrown away. Not, however, by Arden. She makes art with it. You can see her debut piece in the cover art for this article.
Arden’s raising money for diabetes research by leading a team (the Diabadasses!) in the JDRF One Walk in Austin this weekend. If you’re inclined to click on that link and support her, that’d be mighty awesome. Now without further ado, here are some highlights from our conversation with Arden.
Graceless: Let’s start with the art piece itself. What prompted you to start saving all the trash? Did you know what you were going to do with it in the beginning?
Arden: Pretty much since I got diagnosed, I wanted to make some piece of art with all my trash. I was using so much stuff that turned into trash, and I wanted to show people all the stuff I had to do every day. So I collected all my trash and made it into a piece of art and revealed it on the six-month anniversary of getting diagnosed.
G: Were you thinking or feeling anything specific as you created it?
A: I really like hot glue, so it was fun to use hot glue again. I was worried that some of the pieces might fall off. But it was very fun, and I liked seeing how everything fit together. The art is probably very unsanitary, because it has blood and needles that have been used on it.
G: Tell us a little bit about your diagnosis, if you don’t mind. When did it happen?
A: I was diagnosed on February 19th, 2017, around 7pm at night. I’d been feeling pretty crappy for the last few months, and my mom, Jodi Egerton, decided it would be a good idea to test my blood sugar on my dad’s meter (my dad, Owen Egerton, has been a Type 1 diabetic for fourteen years). And it ended up being really high. We went to Dell Children’s Medical Center, and all the nurses and doctors were super nice and really sweet to me.
Coincidentally, the Tuesday before I was diagnosed, I presented a project on Type 1 diabetes to my science class, not knowing that I would, in the next, week, get diagnosed with that same disease.
G: What were the first weeks like as you adjusted to your new reality?
A: For the first week and a half or so, my parents would give me the shots. They’d come to lunch at school, and we’d go into a different room – and I’d have counted the carbs in my food by then – and they’d give me the shot. I wouldn’t let my friends have any of my food, even though we usually share. I didn’t understand then that it’s more of an art than a science. After about a month I realized I can share food with friends, I don’t have to finish everything, I can guess a bit, and I don’t have to record everything I do. It became more of an art to me after the first few weeks. And also, after about a week and a half, I started taking over the shots for myself, which helped me become more independent–with my diabetes but also just with myself.
G: How did other people in your life, besides your family, react to your new reality? Has anyone been weird about it?
A: Well, I can never tell my story of diagnosis without mentioning my friends. My friends were totally awesome about it. They asked me questions instead of just assuming what diabetes was. They came and visited me in the hospital. They sent me sweet emails and texts. They were all super sweet. My friend Wesley came and visited me in the hospital, and he brought a big bunch of balloons that said “Happy Diabetes! (Non Offensive)” and it just proved to me how much my friends knew me, and how much they were going to help me through and protect me and stand up for me and stand with me.
G: What’s the best thing I can say or do for someone with Type 1? What’s the worst?
A: Let’s start with the worst. The worst thing you can say to a diabetic is, “I wish I had diabetes! You guys eat candy all the time!” And I’ve had multiple friends say that to me, and it sucks, because they don’t understand that it changes your lifestyle. You have to give yourself shots, make yourself bleed. And you only really get to eat candy when you have low blood sugar–and you feel crappy, so you start to associate candy with feeling low.
The best thing you can say to a diabetic is not that they’re being very brave about it – because you’re forced to do this – but to admit that it’s bad, and say “Wow. That sucks. I’m sorry.”
G: Do you have any advice for other Diabadasses, based on your experience over the past year?
A: For newly diagnosed kids—it gets easier. It starts to become part of your lifestyle and it starts to not seem as bad. In your lifetime, there will be a cure. And hopefully in the next ten years, we will have a cure for diabetes, or something very close to it. And you’ll be fine and you won’t have to think about it.
G: Art-wise, what are you thinking of making over the next few months?
A: I recently drew a picture of Rosie the Riveter with a CGM (continuous glucose monitor). I’m hoping to make some shirts with that image on it for our JDRF One Walk. And I want to make more art with all the trash I still have—because the trash doesn’t stop. I recently started on my insulin pump, so I’ve got some different trash; instead of needles I’ve got some weird tubes. I want to see if I can put some food dye in them and see if I can make a rainbow of tubes. I think that would be fun.