First is Good, but Second is the Best

Meagan - Havertown, Pennsylvania
Entered on March 3, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that life is not about getting your first choice; it’s about what you do with your second choice. This has always been my mother’s favorite saying and when I was younger I would roll my eyes at her and wonder when she was going to get a grip. But as I’ve gotten older and as more difficult situations have been thrown my way I have come to realize that my mom may be right.

When I was thirteen years old I was diagnosed with diabetes. The thirty-minute car ride down to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I had only heard about diabetes in the same context as fat, old people and miserable dieting. I was way too skinny weighing in at 90 pounds and I was not ready to give up junk food splurges or birthday cake for celery sticks and water. My first night in Children’s Hospital I had McDonald’s for dinner and the doctor told me that diabetes would conform to my life and not the other way around. I haven’t looked back since.

My first choice, obviously, was to live diabetes-free my entire life. My second choice was to lead a normal life in spite of having diabetes. I surprise people when I tell them I am a diabetic because I don’t let it define who I am. I have to check my blood sugar four times a day and I have to make sure my levels don’t go too low while I am exercising but I am fully capable of doing anything a diabetes-free person can do.

On top of having diabetes I also have Charcot-Marie Tooth (CMT). It is a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that will lead to nerve loss in my arms and legs. My doctors realized I had this disease in the second grade after my chronic sprained ankles and my inability to walk far distances or run well. They warned me that sports would be difficult and that I wouldn’t be able to participate in physical activities as well as other kids my age. When I was diagnosed with diabetes my doctors threw another curve ball my way. The combination of diabetes and CMT would probably put me in a wheelchair by the time I turned thirty. This shocked me. What thirteen-year-old athlete wants to hear that in less than twenty years they could be confined to a chair? This, again, was not my first choice. But, I wasn’t in a wheelchair yet and there wasn’t any harm in proving people wrong. I hate when people tell me I am not able to do something. It makes me work ten times harder. I am now a tri-varsity athlete in water polo, swimming, and rowing.

I didn’t get my first choice in a lot of situations in my life but my second choices haven’t turned out to be earth shattering just yet. I am still alive, I am still competing in sports, and I am still happy. What more could I want? Having these two life-altering things happen to me has taught me two things. One, to trust my mother’s sayings and, two, that I can handle anything that is thrown my way. And this I truly believe.