Diabetes evolutions: Life and times

I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was a child. Ronald Reagan was president, and most people watched three channels of TV. If you wanted to watch a movie of your choosing, you had to do so on videocassette.

It was also assumed when I was diagnosed that diabetes was an automatic death sentence. The best that someone could hope for was another 20 or 25 years. This wasn’t shared with me at the time — my mother heard or read it. Now that I’m a parent of a 7-year-old, I can only imagine the psychic toll that would take. I can only imagine the anxiety and fear.

But my mother and I persisted. Our doctors persisted. And as the treatment around Type 1 diabetes shifted, no one talked about certain death sentences anymore. Instead, they started to talk about people who managed the disease successfully for decades, living and thriving into their eighties and beyond.

What a stunning change.

For the last few weeks, I’ve gone digging through my memories of diabetic supplies and treatment, past and present. This week I’m talking about how all of it has affected my life, and how my life has affected all of it. Because ultimately when we talk about diabetes, we’re not dealing with treatments or plans or drugs. We’re talking about people.

I never revolted against my diabetes. It’s probably one of the reasons I’m relatively unscathed now. I never ate anything I wanted or skipped shots or ignored my condition for days at a time.

That being said, there were certainly times during college and immediately afterward that I didn’t think about it as much as I should have. Evenings when I didn’t check my blood sugar and instead just jabbed in some insulin.

Thankfully, those evenings went by with a maximum of fun and minimum of problems.

In other words, I’ve been lucky. I’ve written this before, but I have always been blessed with hypoglycemia awareness. I can still tell when I’m low, decades on. That’s probably the greatest natural gift a Type 1 diabetic can have.

I’ve also been blessed with friends, co-workers and family who have looked out for me consistently. From the time of my diagnosis, I’ve lived and worked with people who know about the disease and who haven’t judged me. They have believed in me, given me the space needed, and allowed this all to keep going.

This last year, I began using a closed-loop pump system. As I expected, it’s not an extraordinary breakthrough — just another step toward tighter control with less user error. I’m happy to have made the change, though, because it forced me once again to wrangle with my routine.

Who knows what the future holds. I never expected that my diabetes would take me on this journey — that it would permeate so much of my life, or that it would have the financial costs that it had. On the other had, it has also been a gift. It has pressed me to see others with compassion, to understand the stresses of chronic disease. It has, above all, led me to see my life as an incredible gift.

Every day I’m here is a marvel. And I hope that the rest of you, those who have followed along the last few weeks, feel the same way.

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