Celebrating My Ten Year Anniversary of Life with Type 1 Diabetes

Celebrating Life with Type 1 Diabetes

Have you ever wondered why people with type 1 diabetes talk about the anniversary of their diabetes diagnosis as if it’s a birthday or a wedding anniversary?  A type 1 diabetes diagnosis is so life-altering, almost no one can forget the day of diagnosis  There’s even a slang word for it: diaversary.   

 

I bring this up now because I’m about to celebrate my ten-year diabetes diagnosis anniversary. It’s a little hard for me to believe I’ve been living with diabetes for an entire decade. But instead of being sad or upset like I’d expect, I feel strangely happy about it. I feel good and I feel like celebrating. 

 

Since I was diagnosed as an adult, my perspective is different than it would be if I had been diagnosed as a child, or if I were the parent of a child with diabetes.  According to Barbara Anderson clinical psychologist and professor of pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine, “Many parents remember the day their child was diagnosed with great feeling, certainly not happy, but not depressed either.  I hear parents say “how far we have come” and “if only I’d known then what I know now”. I hear parents reflecting on their growth and development as a family living with diabetes.” 

 

Grow and develop.  This is true for me, too. I hardly recognize the person I was ten years ago, refusing to go to the doctor, unable to face my failing body.  I knew something was wrong, but I ignored it.  Now I’m in touch with my body by the minute, correcting even the slightest high blood sugar, getting blood tests four times a year, making tri-annual trips to the diabetes clinic. 

 

When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on April 28th 2002, I had had symptoms for months but didn’t go to a doctor until I’d lost 25 pounds, lost feeling in some toes, had blurry vision and couldn’t get out of bed except to go pee every few minutes.  At diagnosis my fasting blood sugar was 420 and my A1c was 15.7.  Once I learned what those numbers meant, I knew I couldn’t ignore my body any longer.

 

The news that I had type 1 diabetes was a relief in one sense, knowing I wasn’t really on the brink of death.  But at the same time it was a huge devastating blow. My terrible physical condition became real to me.  It had a name.  I wasn’t just tired from lack of sleep or too much exercise. I was sick, and I wasn’t going to be cured.  All I could do was manage the condition.  It would always be there.  Life was now life with type 1 diabetes.

 

My self-esteem was shattered. I’d been a strong 32-year-old guy. I believed my body could take any kind of beating and always come out on top.  That was something I’d put to the test many times. And now I was the sick person, the one that needed to stop and check his blood sugar, take insulin and consider every piece of food he put into his mouth.  I was the one who got sweaty and confused several times a week. 

 

I can’t say exactly when things changed, when I stopped feeling like the sick person.  Somehow diabetes went from something I had to something I am.  When that happened, I was different.  I hadn’t been cured, but I was better.  I had promised myself when I was diagnosed that diabetes wouldn’t change me, but it did, and despite the hardship, I’m happy it did.

 

Having diabetes has changed the way I eat and exercise.  It has motivated me to do things I never thought I could do (and continues to do so).  I’ve run six marathaons, and I’ve signed up for my seventh.  Diabetes has also made me reevaluate my life.  I look at things in a different way. I don’t measure success by a job position or a salary.  I have an entirely new sense of what’s important. Diabetes helped me put family first and made me appreciate life, not just as a whole, but in the minute by minute.  It’s a kind of appreciation that may only come when you know the chance of death is, if I may quote the Rolling Stones, “just a shot away.”

 

I also discovered a parallel world of diabetes that I didn’t know existed ten years ago.  Then, I felt totally alone.  Now I know there is a world full of inspiring people with diabetes, people I am lucky to work with, people I haven’t met, but who inspire me to do better and to be stronger.  I am part of a community based around a disease which somehow seems to be a healthier community than most.  Our community transcends borders, age, race and gender (maybe John Lennon was writing about this world). 

 

After ten years of life with type 1 diabetes I no longer remember what life was like without diabetes. After a decade of insulin, glucose meters, highs and lows, constantly thinking about diabetes in some way or another, I don’t feel like I know otherwise .

 

I still can’t say that I’m happy to have type 1 diabetes but I can see the good in it.  I can see the good in me.  Maybe, what I really meant when I said that I would not let diabetes change me was that I wouldn’t use it as an excuse not to do things, or hold me back from being the best person possible.  If anything, I do so much more because I have diabetes.  I give more, too.

 

So this year on April 28th I’ll be celebrating a decade of life with type 1 diabetes.  It’s not going to be a day of sadness or regrets or wondering how I would have been without the disease.  This is an occasion celebrating  me and my life with diabetes.  The numbers I’ll be thinking about are not only the ones on the glucometer, but the ones on the clock when I finish a marathon, and the 3,650 days I’ve already gained thanks to insulin.  And I’ll be feeling grateful, and looking forward to the next decade of life with type 1 diabetes, unless of course there’s a cure.

Michael Aviad is the co-founder is of ASweetLife.  He writes the blog Diabetes – It’s an Endurance Sport.

Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelaviad

Comments (12)

  1. Very inspirational. Keep on keepin’ on!

  2. The thing about diagnosis is there is a distinctive “before” and an “after.”  This essay is a great reminder on the importance of living in the present.  While it’s almost impossible for me to remember what is was like without diabetes – for others it’s a memory steeped in “if only.”  Salute!

  3. Celeste at

    My daughter was diagnosed 7 years ago and we have celebrated every year on her dxd day.  We celebrate good health, life, my husband and I reflect and my daugher – now 15 – eats a ton of sushi!

  4. Michelle s at

    Love this Michael. You are such an inspiration!

  5. metoo at

    Rock on man, I’m also celebrating my 10th year of being diabetic this year

  6. Anne at

    Thanks, Michael, for posting this! I am approaching my 1 year “diaversary”. I was 33 at diagnosis, after being sick for a long time with a TON of symptoms.  Did the feeling in your toes return when you got your blood sugars under control? I am happy that the way you viewed yourself has changed for the better. It was also shattering for my self esteem, as I saw my body and mind failing me. But as I have been getting my blood sugars down and learning about how I work, it is getting much better :-) . Many blessings for another decade of life with T1 for you!

  7. Mark at

    Cliche I know, but so true: “What does not kill us, makes us strogner”.

  8. Chris Cooper at

    Congratulations on reaching a major milestone with such passion and determination. Of course, to survive with T1, that is exactly how every day (and every meal) must be tackled. I too, am celebrating an anniversary. As someone that lived and battled daily with T1 for 26 years (Dx’d Feb 5, 1986 @ 14 yrs old), I am thrilled to say I am celebrating my one month anniversary of a successful pancreas transplant..This “new” life is something to adjust to, but I am very happy to be going down this road after so many years of fighting daily highs, lows, carb counting, shots, BG checks, hypo unawareness, and the constant worry of long term complications. Best of luck to you on your continued journey and fight! You definitely have the right mentality for it!

  9. Joe at

    Michael, I’m sure you get this a lot but- you are an inspiration. I am hoping to get some advice from any one willing to give it. I have a friend that recently told me that her 2 year anniversary is coming up in the next few days. Is this an occasion for flowers or congratulatory gifts? Also what type of things do your friends say on your anniversar.  I want to be supportive but don’t know how. Any thoughts? 

  10. Michael Aviad at

    Hey Joe you are a good friend. most of mine would not have remembered had I not posted it here and on FC. I never got anything but a bottle of wine for me would be great and I imagine you can’t go wrong with flowers (when it comes to women).

  11. Joe at

    Hi Michael, thank you for the advice and inspiration. 

  12. Kevin at

    Michael Congratulations on 10 good years.  This is an excellent inspirational summary of so many of the emotions and experiences we type 1′s have.  Your life change has effected us all in a very positive way. Thank you for documenting your journey for us.

  13. Hayley at

    A link to your post just came up on Diabetes Innovations and I stopped to read it. I’m coming up on my 4th year of having type 1. The anniversary of my diagnosis falls a couple days before my birthday. I was diagnosed at 19, a couple days before my 20th birthday and my doctor said, “Well, happy birthday, you have diabetes…” I’ve come a long way since then and I hope to be doing as well as you in 10 years. Thank you for reminding me to take time and celebrate how my life has changed.

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