“A really cute guy kept smiling at me,” I wrote in my diary when I was 18. “He looked like a football player.” I had just graduated from high school in Texas and was traveling in Israel with a group of Americans. We were sitting in a pub one evening and most of my peers were enjoying the fact that 18 was the legal drinking age. Empty beer glasses and olive pits were scattered on the table. I wasn’t drinking, and I kept looking down at the olive pits because every time I looked up, that cute guy was smiling at me. When I stood to leave, the cute guy followed me to the door and said, “I’m Mike.” I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just smiled, went back to my dorm room, and wrote about the meeting. Little did I know Mike went back to that pub weekend after weekend, hoping I’d return. Two months later, I did. We’ve been together ever since. The minute Mike and I began to talk, we realized how much we had in common. And as the years went on, we would learn we had something in common neither of us had ever imagined – not in our wildest dreams (or nightmares).
Diabetes entered our lives when I was pregnant with our first son. I was diagnosed with borderline gestational diabetes. Neither Mike nor I had any idea what that meant. The doctor told me not to eat cake or cookies. Those were easy to give up, and not knowing any better, I satisfied my craving for sweets with grapes and apple juice. Fortunately, our son, Tom, was born healthy. And my post-pregnancy blood tests were normal. So we forgot about diabetes. We never spoke about it. We had no idea it was still in our midst.
Thirteen months after Tom was born, Mike came down with a flu-like virus. The virus was gone after a few days, but Mike was different. He was losing weight. He was drinking water and juice by the gallon. Between Tom’s nighttime crying and Mike’s nighttime trips to the bathroom, I wasn’t sleeping at all. I was so exhausted, it took me a few weeks to begin to urge Mike to go to the doctor. He insisted he was fine, just thirsty. He attributed his weight loss to running. We both blamed Tom for our exhaustion. Almost six months went by before Mike got his type 1 diabetes diagnosis. By that time his vision was blurry, his feet were numb, he’d lost over 20 pounds, and his fasting blood glucose level was over 400. His A1c was 15.8%.
Mike took his diagnosis in stride, and just a few months after it I was pregnant with our second son. And with that pregnancy came yet another diabetes diagnosis. This time it was a real gestational diabetes diagnosis. And so suddenly we had his and hers insulin pens. And suddenly I was sitting in the bathroom and crying because I was afraid to inject insulin into my thigh. “It’s nothing,” my macho diabetic husband would say. “It’s not nothing,” I’d whine. Mike was right, the injections weren’t really such a big deal. But diabetes wasn’t nothing, especially since my baby’s health was at stake. And deep down inside I knew I wasn’t just married to someone with diabetes. I knew I was a diabetic, too.
After my second pregnancy my blood sugar levels returned to normal-ish. I said to Mike, “If I get pregnant again, two things are certain: it will be a boy, and I’ll have diabetes.” Five years later, both of my predictions came true. With our third son came our fourth diabetes diagnosis; this time it was LADA.
With his and hers glucometers on our counter, our refrigerator overflowing with insulin, our pockets stuffed with sugar packets, our cabinets filled with lancets and needles, and our hearts a little sick with fears about the genes we’d passed on to our sons, Mike and I sat down to have a serious discussion. We were constantly talking about diabetes, comparing fasting blood glucose levels, and counting carbs. We’d begun to feel like we were married to diabetes. Our marriage wasn’t in jeopardy, but we needed some other outlet. Our diabetes dialogue was like a ping-pong match, and we needed something bigger, an outlet outside of the home, a community. We found it online. The more time we spent reading and identifying with bloggers like Amy Tenderich, Kerri Sparling, and Scott Johnson, the more we realized we wanted to jump in to the Diabetes Online Community (DOC). So we created ASweetLife, a magazine devoted to living a healthy life with diabetes.
Now Mike and I each have our friends in the DOC and we’re sharing our diabetes ping pong match with thousands of diabetics every month. Despite all the amazing support we receive, though, and despite the drawbacks of having two diabetics in the house, nothing can compare to having a partner who knows you all the way down to your blood. With a fair amount of both cynicism and optimism, Mike and I do our best to deal with diabetes as a lifestyle rather than an illness. It’s not the lifestyle we would have chosen, but it has its benefits and has made us healthier in many ways than we would have been otherwise. And since a cure isn’t something we expect to see anytime soon, we push each other and encourage each other to eat healthily and exercise. In the meantime we’re counting on technology to improve our lives. Mike’s debating switching from injections to an insulin pump, and I’m waiting for someone to invent the Twitter of diabetes, something that doesn’t let me go over 140, no matter what.
Originally posted on DiabetesMine
Jessica Apple is editor-in-chief of ASweetLife and writes the blog The Natural Diabetic.