I haven’t always been forthright and expressive about diabetes. There were a solid 10 years of my disease which I kept under wraps, hidden from everyone I knew. I was afraid of everything-to push myself harder than I had ever before, to allow people into my dark corner of the world, to allow myself to believe I could become anything that I wanted to be. I let my fears hinder my development and stayed sedentary during major points in my life.
At 24, I grew tired of hiding these large pieces of myself. I hated sitting still, waiting for something bad to happen: another insulin shock, another ketoacidosis, another mistake to try to claim me. I had many experiences built up inside that I wanted to share and learn from. This led me to join diabetes online communities and start sharing my voice.
That is how I met a wonderful friend, Angela, with whom I enjoyed exchanging messages and exploring our diabetic worlds together. She was artistic, intelligent, beautiful, kind, and was trying to stop being afraid, like me.
After a year of messages through the online site, we agreed to meet in person. I had never really connected with a diabetic in real life before. The one or two others I had met were at very different places in their care than I was. But this girl was at the same point as me in her life. She was married and wanting to start a family, but was too afraid to try. She had an assortment of health issues for which several doctors couldn’t find appropriate treatments, leaving her feeling lost and somewhat defeated.
In the year I spent within the diabetic online community, I really learned to speak for myself and research everything I needed, wanted, or even deigned to entertain the possibility of regarding diabetes management. So, when Angela and I met in person, I had been a sort of mentor on the site for several months, urging people to step out of their shells and to embrace their lives.
We became fast friends. We both listened to the same style of music, and our husbands both played guitar and sang in bands. Our husbands got along fantastically and we learned we shared even more in common than we originally believed.
We still had a lot of sharing to do though, concerning diabetes care.
Angela was terrified of going into insulin shock and would have a rush of adrenaline when she had a glucose reading below 70. I remember checking my sugar in front of her, getting a reading of 46 because we had done a lot of walking that day, and it didn’t bother me at all. She was dumbfounded that I could be so relaxed with a reading so below her norm.
At that point, I had already lived through several insulin shocks, including ones that nearly claimed my life with a coma. We were also sitting down for a meal at the time, and I knew all I had to do was ask for a regular soda, a juice, anything at all, and my sugar would respond very quickly due to my carbohydrate sensitivities. Having a reading of 46 wasn’t something that happened often, but I had experienced it enough times to know that I was going to be okay and there was no reason to panic.
At the time I met Angela, my husband and I were already trying to conceive our first child. We knew pregnancies would be difficult, but we had done enough research and talked to enough doctors to believe we would pull through just fine. After a nerve-wracking pregnancy, my first child was born right on Angela’s birthday; maybe that was her sign. It took her seeing my daughter and holding her at just two weeks old, for her to believe that she may just be able to do it as well. I had complete faith in her abilities from the start, and knew she would be okay.
Exactly one year after my first child was born, Angela went into labor with her own baby girl. Three beautiful, strong, empowered women (my daughter, her daughter, and herself) born on nearly the same day!
Our daughters are one year apart, and I’m sure they will be great friends as the years go on. I am so proud of Angela. She accomplished something she never truly believed she could. She seems stronger, freer, and much more confident today than when we first met. We shared our worlds, invited each other in to see even the ugliest, most terrifying moments, and we are both better for having done this.
Katherine Marple was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 14 in 1998. She is the mother of two small children, has battled insulin resistance, pre-eclampsia, CGM and pump failures, leading to insulin therapy via MDI using Levemir and Apidra, and sometimes metformin. She is the author of two diabetes related novels: “Wretched (this is my sorry)” and “Deathly Sweet.”