Today my diabetes is 18 years old.
I choose to celebrate my “diaversary”, not so much to celebrate the diabetes itself but to recognise the effort I have made over the last 18 years to keep myself healthy and complication free.
I also choose to celebrate the things I have acheived in the last 18 years despite the challenges diabetes can add along the way.
Here are a few of the most significant to me:
Just a few months after diagnosis I moved to Northern Ireland (from Canada) on a university exchange program. I met my (French) husband while I was there. I cannot imagine how different my life would be now if had let a new diabetes diagnosis stop me from travelling, living abroad and negotiating a new health care system. (Turns out there was hardly any negotiating to do. The NHS is an amazing thing!)
Only a week after getting back home to Canada, I was officially diagnosed with Celiac Disease. So began a new chapter of learning to live with a(nother) chronic condition. I put diabetes aside and let the steep gluten-free learning curve sweep me away for a while. But I managed to come back from that and figured out how to manage both.
A few years later, after finishing school, a certain frenchman was feeling very far away and I took the plunge again to move across the ocean. I learned that the french health care system is very comprehensive but much more of an administrative headache to get into! Let’s just say that I was happy to have brought 6 months of diabetes supplies with me and have the support of a native.
During those few years between Ireland and moving to France, I had taken up running again and got myself an insulin pump to help deal with changing insulin needs during and after exercise. When I ran my first 5 k race after getting my pump, I never dreamed that I would be training for a marathon a few years later. But train I did (both for the distance and managing the blood glucose levels) and not only did I run the Paris marathon but both started and finished the race with in-range blood sugars.
Over the following few years, my sights were set on a different type of marathon. I had known from the beginning that pregnancy would pose certain challenges, but I thank my endocrinologist at diagnosis for not making it into something insurmountable or dangerous. I lurked for years on a diabetes and pregnancy forum online before even deciding with my husband that we’d like to start a family. But with the support of my husband, my medical team and this amazing group of women I had only every met virtually, I had two very healthy pregnancies and today I have two daughters who make every diabetes effort during pregnancy worth it a thousand times over.
But after those years with BGLs in very tight range, I suddenly had very different priorities. Diabetes wasn’t the only one needing attention and it got very easily pushed aside for more important things like changing diapers, kissing skinned knees, reading the hungry little caterpillar, and playing in the sandbox. Oh, sure, I put healthy meals on the table 3 times a day for my family, but take the time to test my blood sugar or take a bolus? I found myself in some pretty serious diabetes burnout. But again, I turned to the support of the DOC where people actually “get it”. Where others are working on balancing diabetes and motherhood and full time employment and travel and the rest of what life has to offer.
I knew quite quickly after diagnosis that I did not want do this on my own and that I needed to surround myself with others who really understood. I credit the diabetes online community as well as my network of local D-peeps for helping me through many of the tough times so that I can actually “celebrate” this diaversary.
So here is to 18 years of living (mostly) well with type 1 diabetes…
Diabetes, you are officially an adult now. Do you think you could start acting like one? (What? A girl can dream, can’t she??)