I am often asked about diabetes. Every day people spot my insulin pump or the cord hanging out from underneath my top, they see my medical id hanging around my neck or they see me pricking my finger to test my sugars – either way, they see me doing something that is out of the ordinary and unsurprisingly, they have questions – which I am happy to answer.
I answer in facts; I test my sugars between 8 and 12 times a day, I have an insulin pump which replaces 5 injections a day so now I just change my infusion set every 3 days, I only got diabetes when I was 13, I carb count and calculate my insulin dosage for every single thing that goes into my mouth, I need sugar if I’m too low and insulin if I’m too high.
They look at me; some puzzled, some concerned, but most just thanking God in their head that they are not me.
I smile, reassure them I am okay and then the topic changes and my illness turns invisible once again.
Before you ignorantly hashtag your insanely unhealthy food with #diabetes or decide to use diabetes as the punchline of your obesity joke, please understand that this is not what diabetes is. Type One Diabetes is stopping in the middle of a conversation because your speech begins to slur and you begin to feel weak at the knees. Suddenly the whole room is spinning around you and you can’t even find the energy to string together a simple sentence.
It is being in the middle of an exam and finishing the last drop of your water bottle only to be told you’re not allowed to leave the examination room to refill it, despite the fact that your blood sugar levels are through the roof and all you simply want and need is water. It is the first time you’re told ‘at least it isn’t cancer’ and your heart shatters because your disease is dismissed and simply is perceived as something you could have avoided. It is the thousandth time you’re told ‘at least it isn’t cancer’ and you bite down on your tongue so hard, resisting the urge to release a multitude of facts onto the arrogant individual standing before you.
Diabetes is when a mother has to rush her two year old child into an emergency room because he or she has passed out and it is the first time their parents are told what disease their child has, and how, no, it cannot be ‘fixed’ or ‘cured’ but that it is ‘controlled’ and ‘manageable.’ It is the breakdown you have in the corner of your room because despite giving your best efforts all day, your sugars are still high and all you want to do is go to sleep. It is the disgusted look you get from the person sitting next to you on the train when you squeeze a small droplet of blood out of the tip of your finger. It is the screams from the other children in your class when they see you pull a needle out of your bag before lunchtime. It is being told you look ‘too healthy’, ‘too skinny’ or ‘too young’ to have such a condition.
Diabetes is not what the media portrays it as – a fat person’s disease. Diabetes is thousands of people fighting against their own bodies everyday to stay alive.
It is a complex balancing act that diabetics juggle between life and death every single day. People often comment on my maturity however, my growing up required a special kind of maturity – one where if I hadn’t been focused every second of every minute of every hour of every day, that my life could potentially be in serious danger. Diabetes pushes you to your limits, it tests how much you can handle on a daily basis. It makes you second guess yourself. It makes you ask, why? Why did I get this? What did I do wrong? Why me? Yet there are no answers, and sometimes that is what hurts me the most.
The fact that I don’t know why my pancreas stopped working, all I know is that it just stopped and I had to be there and step in to take its place; and let me tell you, it is one hard job to take on. Each day I replace the function of a vital organ inside my body. Diabetics get no breaks from not only the physical side of the disease, but the mental side of things also. It makes you frustrated, distressed, agitated, and generally sad. Diabetes has torn me down time and time again and I like to think that I have grown back a better and stronger person each time because of it, but after so many hits and punches – a person can only take so much.
So please, ask as many questions as you like because we are often more than happy to clear up any queries or misconceptions you may have, but once we correct you or inform you, please believe us, because it is a chronic illness that we live with every day, so chances are we probably know more about it than the health magazine article you just read.