“Diabetes makes you a hero! You’re pinch-hitting for a busted pancreas, and you’re kicking ass! Nothing can stop you! Climb mountains, run marathons, compete, destroy threats, take no prisoners! The world is your oyster, and even with a busted pancreas, you remain the pearl!”
We see that. Or we hear …
“Diabetes will eat you alive. Busted pancreas is only the beginning. Bring on the failing kidneys, the amputated limbs, the great-aunt Berthas who are the buried torsos you will become. Depression might join the party, too. And what about eating disorders? This shit will kill you and your efforts are a nice try, but get ready for the ground.”
Intense messages. Both sentiments have their truths. Diabetes can be a blip on your badass radar and it can also kill you. It’s both of those things. It’s all of these things. I don’t have my head in the sand about what’s possible, on either side of the spectrum.
I live entirely in the gray area, in the middle.
I am not recently diagnosed. (Some may even call me a legend, which is 30+ years in diabetes sticker terms – click the link to see what I mean.) Diagnosed as a kid, I have 31 years of lived experience with type 1 diabetes. My health is good but it remains a work in progress (still working on shedding some of this baby weight, also working on an A1C reboot, need to continue to work on managing anxiety, and am living with diabetes-related eye complications). I’m not climbing any mountains but I can do a few miles on the treadmill and I successfully created two human beings, so I’m feeling good about that. Aspirational? Not really. You won’t find carefully curated diabetes on my instagram feed because my diabetes is not always nice to look at. Defeated? Not even a little bit. I don’t want emails telling me that diabetes will be my cause of death because that is not a source of motivation for me. I’m in somewhat of a gray area, the middle ground, rejecting fear and embracing hope.
I still have a lot of hope. A lot. I think good things are coming for people with diabetes, delivered by diabetes devices and drug development and advocacy efforts and stories that are shared by our community. And what makes viewing my good health as a work in progress instead of an impossible dream is that hope. I am aware of the terrible things that diabetes can to do a person, and to a family, and my hope doesn’t minimize those things.
Instead, my hope serves as fuel in time when the news cycle is beyond bleak. Hope is what makes me check my blood sugar and change out my insulin pump infusion set. It’s what makes me cook up a healthy meal. It’s what prompts me to go to the gym. It’s what makes me want to share my diabetes story and hear stories from others. Hope is both a safety net and a shield against the fear.
Hope makes my efforts feel like they’re in pursuit of an outcome worth fighting for. With no cure currently on deck for diabetes, my daily determination to make my health a priority is rooted in that hope.
Because the world is your oyster, and even with a busted pancreas, you remain the pearl.