It was some time Wednesday night when I realized:
This weekend, I will pass the 25 year mark of living with Type 1 Diabetes.
Like many other diaversaries, this one has snuck up on me. I mean, I knew it was coming, and then I got busy with other things and forgot about it. Now I’m sitting here on Friday wondering what it all means.
I admit that though I was 28 years old at the time, I still don’t remember much about the day or days surrounding my diagnosis. Wait… that’s not true. I remember a lot.
At my first appointment with a new doctor, I went in for a complete physical, told him what I had been dealing with for several weeks (all the typical onset-of-diabetes symptoms), and he got a blood and urine sample. About two hours after I saw him, I received a call from the office asking me to come back first thing the next day. I did, and that was when I received the news that I would be living with Type 1 the rest of my life, and oh, by the way, I had a high level of ketones in my system, though I didn’t understand how serious that was at the time. I still expected to go to work later that day. One thing I’ll never forget is the look from my doctor after I asked him when he wanted me to go to the hospital. I thought he would say, “Let’s get you in next week, maybe Tuesday”. Instead, his eyes got big and he practically shouted “Now!”. The thought of it still makes me laugh.
After three days in the hospital I was sent on my merry way, and I started this long 25 year trek that puts me in the spot where I am now.
I was so different then. Different city, different job, different look, I still had some hair left on top, and a lot more energy. I knew practically no one else living with diabetes and never (I thought) came into contact with anyone else living with diabetes. What this does is skew your perspective. Having no other influences, I tended to trust everything I heard about diabetes, from family members, employers, and doctors too. By and large, they were way off the mark.
They were off the mark partly due to either incorrect or outdated information with regard to diabetes. But they were also off the mark because they didn’t know my diabetes. For my part, I didn’t know that my diabetes and how I managed it might differ from how someone else lived with this disease. I largely ignored my diabetes because everyone else did. I wasn’t in the emergency room or in danger of organ failure. And most of all, I wanted so desperately to live my life without it being pointed out that I also lived with diabetes.
As I grew older, I realized that regardless of what I wanted when I was 28, there was indeed no separating me from my diabetes. One of the critical things I discovered was that that’s okay. Diabetes sucks, but it’s a part of my life, and I won’t, I can’t, be ashamed of that. If I buy into that, it will kill me inside.
You may be wondering whether I’ll be filing paperwork to ask for a 25 year medal from Joslin or Eli Lilly. I’ve thought about it, but to be honest, it’s not a huge priority for me right now. If I get part of a day free where I can compile everything and send it in, okay. If not, meh.
It’s not like I feel I don’t deserve a medal. I do. I even think it would be kind of cool. But I’m also reminded of the people out there who were diagnosed a year ago, or five years ago, or forty years ago who have been living their own version of diabetes hell, all by themselves, ever since diagnosis. Those people deserve a medal too. What makes me more worthy?
What about the people who lived with diabetes for some time, whose lives were tragically cut short due to hypoglycemia or ketoacidosis or some other horrible, unjust happening? I cannot accept something as trivial as a medal without remembering those who were never rewarded, and yet paid the ultimate price.
Okay… positive spin… This weekend marks a milestone, but I want and expect to celebrate many more milestones in the future.
Shortly after diagnosis, I read that a man in the United States living with Type 1 had an average life expectancy of 59 1/2. I know that number should probably have skewed upward since then. But for me, 59 1/2 plus many more years has been a goal since diagnosis. At 28, that threshold seemed very far away. Today, it’s less than six years.
More goals, more milestones, and more celebrating them. Why the hell not? Enjoy your weekend. I’ll be looking back on the great and not-so-great things about my diabetes at 25. Feel free to list yours below.