This post is part of D-Blog day 2012 .
Every November, for four years now, I have participated in Diabetes Awareness Month. Similar to the ever-popular Breast Cancer Awareness that October celebrates (about which I continue to have mixed feelings), it is a month dedicated to raising awareness and support for people living with diabetes and organizations searching to find better treatments or a cure.
This year I’ve been reflecting on how those around me view my diabetes. I talk about it a lot, probably more than a majority of people living with “the D” do. Most people around me are aware that I live with Type 1 diabetes. My coworkers, members of my Weight Watchers meetings, those who I attend church with, and even sometimes people in my classes are all aware that I have diabetes. I make a point to inform my supervisors and teachers that I do, in fact, live with diabetes, use an insulin pump (and a CGMS when I have it). The reasoning behind this is simple: in any medical emergency when it may be pertinent that the medical staff knows I have diabetes, these people would be able to inform them of this. It also, more times than not, comes out on a first date. Whether discussing “baggage” we would bring to the potential relationship, or discussing what I want to be when I “grow up” (a diabetes educator), it slips out somehow.
During each of these times, I take a few seconds to explain that I have type 1, use insulin, and have had it for years. After that, I usually blow it off. “It’s no big deal; I’ve got it under control.” “I’ve been doing it for fourteen years; I have a handle on it by now.” I have used both of these sentences a lot when it comes to telling supervisors, teachers, and even dates about diabetes.
“It’s no big deal.”
I say it so often I’ve convinced myself. It’s really no big deal. You don’t need to pay attention to it, because it’s no big deal.
It’s a big fat freaking lie.
It’s a huge deal. It affects every aspect of my life. It affects my day to day activities, my mood, my attitude, and my body. Losing weight is hard anyway, but it’s harder with diabetes. Blood sugar too low? Can’t work out. Blood sugar really low? Consume more calories. Blood sugar too high? Can’t work out! It’s a vicious cycle, and it makes life incredibly difficult. You have to get into a distinct pattern to trick your body into knowing that you will work out at that time each day, and adjust your insulin just so.
It’s a lot of work.
Not to mention every bit of food affects your numbers differently. Oatmeal and cold cereal. Similar enough to a person without diabetes. It’s cereal. (Super Cereal). But to me, it’s a different effect on my blood sugar. To me, I see numbers, not food. I see a syringe or a dial on a pump. I see a meter reading. I don’t see food.
And then there’s the hormone factor. Women, we get the worst of it. And while I may be well past puberty, a monthly cycle is nothing to shrug off when it comes to blood sugars. Crazy stuff happens, no matter what time of the month it is (sorry boys, facts are hard but true).
Then there are the consequences of the high blood sugar readings. I don’t even want to get into the potential complications. Kidney damage. Eye damage. Heart attacks. Loss of feeling in extremities. Luckily I’ve dealt with a very small amount of this after 14 years, but it seems, no matter how hard I work at taking care of myself, there they are, looming.
It’s enough to make you want to quit trying.
But we tell people what we want to believe. We want them to know we’ve got this, that we can do this. But usually, it takes constant self reminders, and often times, reminders outside myself, from my family, my friends, and my online support system, that I can do this. That we can do this, together. Life with diabetes doesn’t have to be a life filled with hardship. Yes, we are forced to learn dedication and hard work and constant defeat, but we can still live long, healthy lives.
Isn’t that the ultimate goal? Even if your life doesn’t end up at the average age of a person without diabetes, to live it full, to have everything everyone else can have? To eat our cake on our birthdays and diagnosis anniversaries, to find love, get married, and have children if we so choose, or to do none of these things if we choose not to!
Diabetes isn’t a death sentence. It is a life sentence, but it can be good. People with diabetes can live extremely healthy, active lives. And while the work it requires can become overwhelming, it also can be rewarding. Friendships and opportunities that I’ve made and had because I have diabetes and because I blog about it are things that I will cherish forever.
Worth it? Maybe not. If we had a choice, none of us would choose this life.
But those things make it infinitely better.