For the past 3 years, I’ve experienced diabetes from the perspective of someone living with it.
I’ve experienced diabetes from the perspective of a concerned friend who knows that YDMV and who’s trying to be supportive and understanding of all of the wonderful PWDs in the D-OC.
More recently I’ve experienced diabetes from the perspective of a concerned girlfriend - trying to maintain the balance between concerned/supportive and hovering/suffocating/annoying. When my love has a low at night I can’t keep the thought from crossing my mind - what if he doesn’t wake up?
This year I’ve begun to experience diabetes from the perspective of a student nurse. From this side of things, all I feel is frustration. How can we hope that other people will understand diabetes when even health care professionals are so grossly misinformed and undereducated? When they think diabetes is “no big deal?” When they think that all we need to do is take a few shots or hit the gym or swallow a few pills.
Maybe it’s a shock to some people. And maybe not everyone agrees. But in my opinion, any disease that can kill you any time it feels like it - even if you do everything “right” - is a very big deal.
Below is a re-post of what I wrote for Word Diabetes Day last year. It’s just as true now as it was a year ago and it will continue to be true until we finally get the biological cure that we're all hoping for.
November 14, 2010
I’m on life support.
If you’re a fellow PWD, then you are too.
In medicine, life support broadly refers to any therapy that’s used to sustain a patient’s life while they are critically ill or injured. I’d say that a purely decorative pancreas constitutes a critical injury.
Every time a PWD takes insulin, medication, follows a healthy eating/exercise plan, or any of the host of other things we do daily, we’re choosing to live. We don’t talk about it much but we all know that if we suddenly stopped everything we do each day, we’d die. There’s no question about it. We also know that we can make our best efforts to take the best care of ourselves possible and diabetes may choose to take us unfairly at any time.
I said it last year on WDD and I’ll say it again – insulin isn’t a cure, it’s life support.
I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with people who believe that all we need to do is test our blood sugar and not eat any sweets and we’ll be ok. Not so. It’s a delicate balance of insulin and/or medications and dietary planning in relation to exercise. It’s a balancing act. Every day we either end up on the glucoaster or we manage to dodge it but the possibility is always there. Nothing that we do makes our diabetes go away, it just makes our bodies function the way they’re intended to.
To the general public, if a PWD “doesn’t look sick” then diabetes isn’t that big of a deal and if a PWD does “look sick,” then he or she did it to him/herself. Not many chronic diseases work that way. Not many diagnoses come with people judging you at every turn despite the wealth of information available proving that their judgments are founded only in ignorance. Why does everyone insist on assuming that we’re diabetics because we’re sugar addicts? That we brought this disease upon ourselves because we have no self-control?
Yes, today is World Diabetes Day and I’m celebrating the fact that I’m not only living, but thriving with diabetes. My Endo never gave me the “we’re 10 years away from a cure” speech. I think she knew that I knew better and I’ve honestly never really thought about a cure for myself. I already have diabetes and in 2 1/2 short years, I’ve gotten as used to living with it as I possibly can. But I still fight and advocate and speak out for a cure. Why? So that no one else will receive the diagnosis. I speak for those who can’t and for those who, like I was, are completely clueless that they could even be a target for diabetes. So that no one else will ever have to experience the loss of a loved one to diabetes. So that no more parents will lie awake at night worried about their children in the next room. So that no one else will have to feel helpless at the sight of a loved one bravely battling their diabetes.
Today I celebrate living. I celebrate not letting diabetes get in my way even though it follows me everywhere. I celebrate the technological and medicinal advances that are allowing me to thrive. But I do so with the knowledge that today – World Diabetes Day - OUR Day, over 40 children and 4500 adults over the age of 20 will be diagnosed with diabetes. We’ve got a long way to go.