Since today is World Diabetes Day and I’m diabetic, I thought I would share some of my story. We’ll return to the regular schedule tomorrow.
I don’t talk about diabetes very often, even though I am diabetic. Before I’m asked what type, I’ll say it: I have type one diabetes, which used to be known as juvenile diabetes until adults started to be diagnosed with it (hence “juvenile-onset” and other terms). I like to be clear about which type I have. Mine can’t be controlled through a strict diet and exercise. Those things help me to manage it and to be a healthy person, but they don’t have any bearing on my ability to break down glucose and to transmit that glucose throughout my body. I have to rely on an external source for that. It used to be insulin injections, then insulin pens. These days, I use an insulin pump, and it looks like a pager.
My insulin pump makes for some interesting conversations and scenarios. For instance, I’ve signed up for a Tough Mudder in April. I’m not sure what I’ll do with my insulin pump. It’s water resistant, but it isn’t waterproof. I also don’t know what to expect if I get hit with one of the electric volts. I don’t think electricity will hurt the pump, but I don’t know that for certain. These are questions I will have to ask my insulin pump trainer. I hope she will have some answers for me.
I also said interesting conversations, and I meant it. An acquaintance, who knows I’m diabetic, heard me talking about the Tough Mudder. She asked, “Can you do that when you’re diabetic?” I’ve been on the receiving end of similar questions, usually when I’m eating a cupcake or something similar. I can eat sugar, and I can run a Tough Mudder. I just have to remember I’m diabetic. I can’t eat three cupcakes in one sitting – no one should – but I can have a cupcake. I also can run a Tough Mudder, but I’m going to have to prepare for low blood sugars. I’ll probably have to carry some glucagon with me. I have no intention of passing out on the course, and I will do my best to prevent that from occurring.
I suppose people are surprised when I choose to do something that is seemingly atypical of diabetics. They really shouldn’t be. My mom raised me to think I could do and be anything, diabetes or no diabetes. Thus, I sometimes take on projects or activities just to prove that I can do them, even if it’s only to prove it to myself. My mom taught me about moderation because, as a parent with three kids under the age of five, she didn’t have time to prepare fancy meals or to worry about meal exchanges (A relic from the ‘eighties. The new treatment plan is counting carbs.). She used the exchange system when I was first diagnosed, but she deviated once she understood what did and didn’t work. She also taught me to recover quickly, although I probably had to learn much of that on my own. We dealt with a number of low blood sugars when I was a kid, the kind that sometimes left migraines and weariness in their wake. Despite feeling awful, I still had to go to school. I had to write book reports. I had to finish a science board. Did I produce my best work when I was feeling out of sorts? Probably not, but I learned to keep pushing forward even when all I wanted to do was sleep or cry. I learned to be resilient. I learned to adapt. I learned to fall and get back up again.
Feel free to share your stories or to ask questions in the comments. Today’s a day to increase awareness about and understanding of diabetes.
Image: Glenn Harper (CC BY SA 2.0)