I’m Not Dead Yet: An Ode to Type 1 Diabetes

Tomorrow begins National Diabetes Awareness month. In an effort to be more engaged this November, I’ve challenged myself to share some of my life with diabetes in hopes that it’ll be helpful, or at least provide comic relief, to others living with the disease and just as importantly, to the people that support, care for, and live along side those of us with Type One.

For those of you that don’t know, or have felt too awkward to ask, I was diagnosed with Type One (Juvenile) Diabetes at the age of 3 (we’ll revisit the name change later). Type One Diabetes is not a sometimes thing. It does not come and go, you can’t just wander off and come back to it later. It is literally your body, trying to kill you, constantly.

If you think that’s dramatic, I’ll outline it for you. A normal body produces insulin in the pancreas. Insulin breaks down sugar in food and regulates blood sugar so that your body can function at a constant, level base of energy. Diabetes is when your autoimmune system attacks the beta cells in your pancreas, killing them, and therefore shutting down insulin production.

This results in transforming that automatic, internal process into a manual external process regulated by very expensive medication, technology and lots and lots of apple juice. You give yourself too much insulin? You can die. You forget to give yourself insulin and eat a piece of cake and then go about your life pretending like you don’t actually have diabetes? You’re gonna die. Your life saving technology, that you depend on to keep you alive via a constant drip of insulin, malfunctions and you can’t tell until your blood sugar is already dangerously high? That can kill you too.

In life with diabetes, there’s a never ending stream of possible medical calamities that can occur at any time. Every day, I fight with my body, simultaneously wanting to punch it in the throat and coax it, like a scared bunny, into cooperation. That’s freaking stressful. So I make jokes. My boyfriend, always at the ready to take immediate helpful action in a medical emergency, asks almost every time if I’m doing ok after things have settled down. And I always say, “Well, I’m not dead yet.”

He doesn’t think it’s funny.

But I do. Because COME ON. Until recently, Type One was called “Juvenile” Diabetes BECAUSE ALMOST EVERYBODY DIED BEFORE THEY BECAME ADULTS. Until about 2 years ago, it was considered common knowledge that individuals with Type One had an average life span 7 years shorter than a regular person. I made a joke to my mom once, when I was running cross country, that runners had an average lifespan of 7 years longer than a regular person – so I was well on my way to leveling out my odds to a regular ole 82 years.

She didn’t think it was funny.

But I did. Because the easiest way to convince yourself that your life isn’t a terrible black hole of medical doom, is to keep a positive attitude. Some people do that by trying every new piece of Diabetic technology on the market. Some cope by never, ever being out of control. I’m not very tech savvy, and I’m a little bit too much of a wild card to have the level of militant control I probably should have. That’s just honesty. But making slightly off color jokes about my possibly dire situations is what keeps the light switch flipped for me.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about coping, living, and succeeding in life with Type One Diabetes, I encourage you to look out for more posts from me in the coming month. If you’re interested in learning more about Type One Diabetes in general, research efforts towards a cure, or are looking for resources to help yourself or a loved one, please visit JDRF.org .

And, if you are someone like me, locked in a constant battle with your Diabetes – Hey, you’re not dead yet. Good job.

Best,

Hannah

PS – Shout out to my mom and Kyle for loving me enough to NOT laugh at my morbid jokes. But maybe just a chuckle?

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