My People

Normally, I try not to lie to myself. It’s fairly easy, when you have a chronic disease like Diabetes, to only see bad things. You hope there will be a cure (but you’re pretty skeptical). There’s new technology out that’s going to change your life (but it’s probably expensive and difficult to use and maybe even hurts). It’s just one bad day (or week or month or year or decade) and things will get better. It’s good to be optimistic, and hope is necessary, but I will not lie to myself.

Today, there is no cure for the disease I’ve had for almost two decades.

And that, is that.

There are, however, other things that add more value to my life than Diabetes will ever take from it. It may surprise some people to know that being Diabetic actually helps to highlight what I am most grateful for in my life. For most negatives, there are positives that juxtapose them.

I have a disease that is often incorrectly portrayed in public forums and not easily understood by many, including those that have been diagnosed. I also have family and friends that ask questions (and read articles and come to appointments) to make themselves more knowledgeable in order to be more helpful and supportive. They do not exclude me from their lives based on a disease that is unpredictable and difficult to manage.

There is never a time I am unaware of my condition, or that I can escape from the diligence it demands. My family and friends have made efforts, small and large, throughout my life to let me know that they are willing to help. My parents cared for every aspect of me before I was able to care for myself – continually teaching me how best to take care of my health by example. My friends stash emergency juice and supplies in their fridges and cars so that they can always be ready to help, and come out to walks to band together in support.

My people do not ever leave me alone. They’re constantly checking in and asking how I’m doing, how are my numbers, am I forgetting anything before we leave for a trip, do I have one extra vial of insulin or two? It could be annoying, and it is sometimes frustrating because I’m not always on top of everything, but it’s also comforting. I will never be carrying the burden of being chronically ill alone and that is bigger than the fact that I am chronically ill.

My people, as I call them with all of the love and respect and gratefulness a group of people willing to smother me in love deserve, are the best damn thing ever.

And that, is that.

Hannah & Ian's Heroes Family at the 2013 JDRF Walk - Team name changed after my brother was also diagnosed

Hannah & Ian’s Heroes family at the 2013 JDRF Walk – Team name changed after my brother was also diagnosed

The original Hannah's Heroes JDRF walk team (2001)

The original Hannah’s Heroes JDRF walk team (2001)

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#DiabeticProblems

As the first week of Diabetes Awareness month comes to a close, life in the Diabetic lane continues. When I was thinking about things from my “diabetic life” to write about this week, I kept coming up with questions. Literally, questions that I’ve gotten a lot over the years about diabetes, life with it, and the many strange quirks I’ve developed to make living with Type One easier.

So, I present to you:

Hannah’s Diabetes FAQ (and Answers)

  • Does that hurt? Mostly, no. And I don’t say that because I feel no pain or because my pain tolerance is so much higher than yours. The medical industry has gone through a lot of trouble to develop needles small enough that it doesn’t really hurt. Although every so often you hit a particularly sensitive spot of nerves and get quite upset with yourself.
  • Can you eat that? Yes, watch me do it. Just kidding. Diabetics can eat whatever they want, but just like you, they should adhere to a healthy diet to help control blood sugar. That being said, sometimes you can’t always eat right now because of a high blood sugar, and sometimes you have to eat right now because of a low blood sugar. When I was in elementary school I had three years of birthday parties in a row where my blood sugar went inexplicably high and I couldn’t eat cake at my own party. It happens. But I do love and eat cake.
  • You don’t look sick. Thanks? Chances are, unless something is going really wrong, or a person has developed serious complications, you won’t be able to tell someone is a Type One Diabetic. People who are really sick right before they get diagnosed will lose large amounts of weight, be constantly thirsty, go to the bathroom a lot, and will often be irritable. These are warning signs. Other than that, no, I don’t think I walk around looking sickly. The pictures below show me relatively soon before and after my diagnosis in 1996. Besides my lack of amusement in the first, not much had changed appearance-wise.
A couple weeks before my diagnosis. 11/1996

A couple weeks before my diagnosis. 11/1996

  • What is that? I have an insulin pump and have been lucky enough to have one since about half way through 1st grade. In 2nd grade my best friend got one too and life was even better. An insulin pump is kind of like a self-contained IV with insulin in it so you don’t have to give yourself a shot. It’s mad convenient for me because I’m only mediocre at being on a tight schedule and allows for more flexibility in my daily routine and quick corrections when something goes awry.

Excellent explanations I’ve given for what it is, other than a life saving medical device: Personal phone to the President (this worked really well in elementary school when phones still looked like pumps), a cell phone, most recently I’ve come full circle and started telling people it’s my beeper, which really shocks them.  

  • So…you have to wear that like all the time? Yes. Like I mentioned in my post last week, Diabetes is not a sometimes thing and therefore neither is your treatment. Take off the pump, go back to shots. Or, you know, die or something.
  • Is it hard being Diabetic? Yes. But it’s less hard when you approach life as a regular human that happens to have Diabetes rather than a just a Diabetic struggling through life.

    Hballerina12.1996

    A couple weeks after my diagnosis. 12/1996

  • Are there things you can’t do? Not really. My parents did a really excellent job instilling in my way of life that Diabetes should never be a reason to not do something (other than join the military which my mom was suspiciously stubborn about so I assume there may be a loophole she doesn’t want me looking for). There will be times when things may not be as easy for me as other people, but being Diabetic doesn’t exclude me from participating in life.

Things I have done that less open minded people may think Diabetics can’t do: travel abroad, play competitive sports, go on sleep overs, go to college without my parents, drive cross-country, participate in the college style night life, have a fulfilling romantic relationship. 

Less Legitimate Questions That Still Come Up

  • So…is it contagious? NO. Stop. Your stupid is showing. If it was contagious we Diabetic folk wouldn’t be allowed to mingle with the masses.
  • You’re Diabetic? But you’re not fat… * THANKS. YOU DIDN’T APPEAR IGNORANT UNTIL JUST NOW EITHER. There are two types of Diabetes (1&2) only Type Two can be caused by lifestyle choices. That being said, obesity is only one factor there as well, you can also be genetically prone, be old, or pregnant or a myriad of other things. Type One, while the origins are not completely known, is not in anyway caused by lifestyle choices, thus why it’s commonly diagnosed in small children (who aren’t fat, either). *This may seem like an outrageously insulting way to ask anyone anything, it is. I was only asked it once but I’m sure there are other, more mannered people, who have also wondered*

I’m always happy to answer questions from other Diabetics and/or their parents that have maybe not been doing this for almost 20 years. I’m also happy to answer questions from people that are not Diabetic at all, just leave them in the comments. If you have more in depth questions about resources, research or medical terms I encourage you to visit JDRF.org.