This Christmas Eve will be my nineteenth since I was diagnosed with type one diabetes. I was only four at the time, so my memories from that hospital stay are vague. However, I do remember getting lots of visitors and gifts—perhaps these pleasant memories block out the grimmer ones of getting poked and prodded by countless needles.
Anyway, I like to take some time around my diagnosis date to reflect on my diabetes. In the last couple weeks, the following thoughts and realizations struck me:
- I don’t remember life without diabetes. I think I’m okay with that. When people hear that I was so young when I was diagnosed, they lament my loss of childhood and missed experiences. But I never viewed it that way. Rather, I’m grateful that I was diagnosed early. This means that I’m not haunted by memories of a working pancreas because I never had that knowledge of what it’s like to have a meal without worrying about how many carbs I’m about to consume or how much insulin I should take. Since I grew up with my diabetes, I didn’t have much of an issue with accepting it as a “normal” part of my life. And I’m okay with that. This doesn’t mean my desire for a cure isn’t there—it’s stronger than ever—but it does mean that I’ve taught myself to accept things in life that I can’t change.
- Technology has come a long way since 1997. Diabetes technology has improved exponentially in the last 19 years. Most obviously, insulin delivery has completely revolutionized. When I was little, my parents would administer my insulin shots multiple times a day using a combination of Humalog (clear) and NPH (cloudy). I remember how focused they would be on the task, especially when it came to mixing clear and cloudy in a single syringe. Things became easier when I switched to Lantus for my long-acting insulin and gained access to insulin pens, but I didn’t know how drastically insulin pumps changed the game until I went on my first one two years ago. Even testing is less of a headache now: It used to take 60 seconds for my meter to test my blood. After squeezing out a large drop of blood and wiping it onto a wide test strip, I would impatiently wait for my meter to count down. Now, it only takes 5 seconds and just a bit of blood to test, making the most mundane aspect of daily life with diabetes that much easier. Diabetes technology is faster, sleeker, and more sophisticated than ever, which makes me optimistic about what will become available in the future.
- My diabetes often behaves like a rebellious 19 year old. I have a better relationship now with my diabetes than I did when I was 19 years old myself, but lately, it’s acting like an unruly teenager. Primarily, I’ve struggled with balancing my diabetes and exercise—either I go low 15 minutes into my workout, or I over-compensate on carbs before I begin working out and stay high long after I’m done. And since it’s the holiday season, I’ve had additional trouble maintaining tight blood sugars due to the countless parties and festivities I’ve enjoyed. But I know that, much like the teenage years, it’s just a stage and I’ll get through it. In any case, I’m ready to have a fresh start as 2017 comes around and make my 19th year with T1D an excellent one.