Sonia Sotomayor with members of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Children’s Congress on Tuesday. (Courtesy of JDRF)

She’s known as the first Latina Supreme Court justice, a rabid Yankees fan and salsa dancer. But Sonia Sotomayor shared a lesser-known side Tuesday: her life as a diabetic.

“It wasn’t so bad, but it was still bad,” she told 150 diabetic children and teens from across the country. “It was still something that I had to deal with, grow up with and figure out how to live with.”

The justice, who turns 57 on Saturday, was diagnosed when she was just 8. In D.C. with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the kids sat on the floor of the J.W. Marriott ballroom in front of Sotomayor as she told them about her first symptoms: She was thirsty all the time and started, much to her shame, wetting the bed. But it wasn’t until she fainted in church that her parents took her to the doctor, who confirmed she had Type 1 diabetes.

(Courtesy of JDRF)

At first, she told the children, the disease scared her to death: The tests, the needles and seeing her mother in tears when she got the news. “If it wasn’t so bad, then why was my mommy crying?” Back then, there were no simple blood sugar tests or disposable needles; every day she had to sterilize her needles and carefully watch what she ate and drank.

One girl asked if there were any positives. “Diabetes taught me discipline,” answered Sotomayor, and that gave her greater focus in the other areas of her life.

“Is it any easier when you’re an adult?” asked a very young girl. “Absolutely!” said the justice. “It will get a lot easier, I promise you.”

The moral of her story: “You get to do anything you want in life, because I have. I now have the job of my dreams: I’m a Supreme Court justice, and it’s a really cool job.”

Sotomayor said still takes 4-6 shots a day, sometimes right before taking the bench to stay harp for lengthy oral arguments. Diabetes, she concluded, is “a great way to learn how to multi-task.”