So, I normally try to approach things in life with a good bit of humor. I especially enjoy making fun of myself. One of the things I make fun of about myself most often is the fact that I have Type 1 Diabetes. One of my favorite lines is, “Of all the diseases, diabetes is by far my favorite, so it’s a good thing it’s the one I have.” Maybe diabetes isn’t a good thing to joke about, but I suppose humor’s a good coping mechanism.
Although I spend a good bit of time joking about my diabetes, if I’m honest, I would tell you that I don’t always find it funny. In fact, dealing with diabetes is often incredibly annoying, frustrating, and difficult. Keeping up with the medical supplies (and paying the bills), changing out my insulin pump site (which involves needles and tubes and stuff), pricking my finger to check my blood sugar multiple times a day, dealing with the inconvenience of having semi-dangeous low blood sugar episodes at the most inopportune times…I wouldn’t wish any of these things on anybody. If I could somehow wave a magic want and get rid of it for myself and others, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
This Saturday, I’m trying to do what I can to wave that magic wand. I’m cycling in an event called the “Tour de Cure,” a nationwide cycling event designed to raise money for diabetes research. (Click here to read more about it.) I will hopefully ride 62 miles with some friends who’ve been kind enough to join me in this endeavor. (Our team name is “The Lancet Armstrongs,” which is some really funny diabetic humor in case you don’t think it’s funny!) One of the suggestions on the Tour de Cure website is for people to share their own stories with diabetes. So, I thought I’d share some of mine. Here goes…
When I was 15, I went to the doctor for a routine sports physical that changed my life forever. I had been feeling no symptoms of diabetes and simply wanted to be cleared to try out for sports at my school. For me, the physical was nothing more than having a doctor sign off on me because as far as I knew, I was a healthy 15-year old. Imagine my surprise when the doctor came into the room and said, “Based on your urine test, I think we need to check you for diabetes.”
The next few days were a whirlwind as I had many more tests and doctor’s appointments all to find out that I did, in fact, have Type 1 Diabetes, and the world as I knew it would never be the same. I went from being a completely normal kid without any medical issues to someone who had to constantly think about checking my blood sugar, carrying around my insulin and syringes, and dealing with the embarrassment of being different.
It was embarrassing for me to have to get up and leave class early every day before lunch so that I could check my sugar and take a shot before I ate. It was embarrassing to have to check my blood sugar before, during, and after soccer practices and games. It was embarrassing to have to carry around my supplies at restaurants and get up and leave the table to take a shot of insulin in the bathroom before I ate.
I’ll never forget the time I was in an amusement park bathroom taking an insulin shot before eating a meal and I dropped my supplies, spilling syringes out onto the floor underneath the stall door. I remember thinking that everyone in the bathroom must have been looking at me thinking I was a drug addict.
I’ll never forget my very first day of college when I had to stand up and walk out of the middle of a lecture from one of the most intimidating professors at my college because I had given myself too much insulin for lunch and my blood sugar was dangerously low. I was horrified knowing that everyone had watched me awkwardly stand up from the middle of the room and walk out of class, and it was incredibly difficult for me to walk back in to class because I was convinced everyone thought I was a freak.
I’ll never forget my first date with my wife when I looked forward to the nice picnic I’d planned at a nearby park, but dreaded when I would have to explain to her that I had to go take a shot in the car before I could eat. I worried that she wouldn’t want to date somebody who had a chronic disease like diabetes.
Fortunately for me, I have come to grips with my diabetes. I now have an insulin pump, and the finger pricking and all the complexities that come with living life with Type 1 Diabetes have become part of my “normal.” Although it’s often inconvenient, I’ve learned to accept it and do my best to live with it.
I’m riding in the Tour de Cure for the millions of people for whom diabetes does not have to become a reality. Together, we can find a cure, and your donation will help fund needed diabetes research. Please consider going to my personal web page for the Tour de Cure to make a donation. (Click here to go to my page.) Anything, large or small (you know, but preferably large!) will help. Thanks for reading my story and for considering joining the fight against diabetes.