Type 1 Diabetes: Looking Backward and Looking Ahead

I have been diabetic for a very long time.

I don’t want to say how long exactly, lest I date myself. But let’s just say that I was younger than ten years old when I was diagnosed, and I am older than 30 years old now.

It’s been a long time, a majority of my life. I’ve spent that time checking my blood sugar, injecting myself with insulin, counting carbohydrates. I moved onto pumps and continuous glucose meters. I eagerly await even more new developments.

For me, there wasn’t really a life before diabetes. Oh, I know there was one. I know that my pancreas worked at one point. But I realized the other day that I don’t remember much about it.

I recall eating Jell-O Pudding Pops. I remember drinking chocolate milk. But beyond that, there’s not a lot that I specifically recall as being from the days before diabetes.

Part of this makes me sad. When I hear the stories of those who were diagnosed in their teens or even their 20s, I’m jealous of that extra time they had to live and eat without the constant presence of diabetes. How many carbs was that? Did you cover it with insulin? When will you exercise?

On the other hand, I might be lucky. The circumstances of my life changed so early on that I didn’t have the teenager’s desire to rebel. By the time my teen years came along, I was already acclimated to the rigorous schedule. I also always knew that a bit of extra food might be okay if you took a unit or two of extra insulin.

I also learned acceptance. I knew that this disease was something about me that was a fact. It was reality. And denial and rage and unhappiness did nothing to remove the necessity of doing the day-to-day work that it demanded.

My mother was fond of recounting my take on the disease. I apparently told her once that “diabetes is just a pimple on my life.”

I’ll admit that in the years since then, I’ve often thought of it as more than a pimple. And as the years and decades pass, diabetes becomes more a part of your life rather than less. But I have kept going, and I have tried to keep it in perspective.

No diabetic is perfect in every respect. No diabetic is awful in every respect, either. We all have our good and bad moments. To a certain extent, we must make the best of our genetics, socioeconomic status or the very time that we were diagnosed.

But we are part of a continuum. And I believe, given recent research that we are within a few years of another gigantic shift in the way the diabetes is treated. The artificial pancreas/ or the closed-loop system, combining an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor, has become the next big goal.

The research shows that it works. The research shows that it’s effective. And once such systems are in place, stories like mine will be even further in the distant past than they already are.

And I plan to be there, with all of you, making a new future.

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