Being diagnosed with any kind of serious illness can be a life-changing event. Suddenly you’re asked to change how you live, how you eat and take care of yourself, and in many cases, how you’re perceived by others. But for Este Haim, bassist in the band HAIM, her doctor told her that she should “rethink” her dream of being a musician after she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Haim recounts her diagnosis journey on the latest episode of the Made Visible podcast, which aims to share the stories of people with invisible illnesses, and boy is it a doozy.
Type 1 diabetes is when your pancreas makes very little or no insulin, aka the hormone that helps regulate your blood sugar levels. Many people with the condition, including Haim herself, are diagnosed during childhood or adolescence. In Haim’s case, she was 14 years old when she started experiencing strange symptoms, including extreme thirst. “Literally, I say that I was like a funnel. I was drinking water while sitting on the toilet and peeing. It was just a constant flow of fluid coming and in and out of me,” she tells podcast host Harper Spero. She also had blurred vision and had lost a lot of weight. Then, she fainted at a mall during while on a summer family vacation, prompting her parents to take her to the doctor as soon as they got home.
Haim says she was still waiting for the results of her lab work on the first day of school. Coincidentally, her biology teacher spent the first class talking about autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes. Haim realized that a lot of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes that her teacher rattled off—constant thirst, blurred vision, and sudden weight loss—sounded quite a bit like what she was going through.
“Thank God I have two really supportive parents who, when we left the office, were like, ‘Listen, you listen to your doctor when it comes to medical advice, but when it comes to life advice, you listen to yourself and you do everything you can to make your dreams come true.'” —Este Haim
So, Haim says she did what any 14-year-old theater major at an arts high school would do: “I stand up in the middle of class and I run out of the classroom and I run to the nurse’s office, and I scream at the nurse, ‘I’m diabetic! I know I’m diabetic!'” she recalls. Later that day, her test results came back. She had type 1 diabetes.
When Haim went back to the doctor, she told him,”I want to be a touring musician when I grow up. I want to see the world and I want to travel. I want to be a rock star. That’s my dream.” He told her that she might want to rethink that because medically it would be very difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle, keep up with the medications she needed to live, and be a touring musician.
She recalls being devastated. “I started crying, because I’ve been writing in my diary about seeing the world and wanting to be in a band with my family… And to hear that it might not be something that I would be able to do was really hard,” she tells Spero. “Thank God I have two really supportive parents who, when we left the office, were like, ‘Listen, you listen to your doctor when it comes to medical advice, but when it comes to life advice, you listen to yourself and you do everything you can to make your dreams come true.'”
Thankfully, she took her parents’ words to heart. HAIM has now released three studio albums, been nominated for a Grammy (and won other music industry awards) and has toured the world. It certainly hasn’t been easy with her health condition—as she discusses in the podcast—but she has zero regrets. “I would never want to do anything else,” she says.
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