My Life as a Diabetic
Don’t ask me how I feel, I’m not going to tell you. Talking about it makes it worse. When I explain my pain, I have to think about it. Ignore it; maybe it will go away. I dwell on my fears of what may happen. I don’t want to pass that fear on to you. You don’t see it as I do. It’s not your body; it’s not your life. I don’t tell you because I don’t want you to be afraid for me. I can deal with it. I’ll be OK. I don’t tell you because I know that my words are inadequate. I can’t express what it is, yet I do want you to know (even if you can’t exactly feel it). I want to let you in to my world. I want you to know how different my life is from yours, even though it looks much the same. I’m not scarred or crippled. You can’t pick me out in a crowd. To you, I’m just another classmate, another student, another stranger on the street.
There is one physical sign of my problem; some of you have noticed the ugly silver dog-tag that I wear around my neck. Sometimes it falls out of my shirt, into the open, and you notice the Medic Alert sign: my life in three lines.
I wonder what images are going through your mind right now. Most of you are probably thinking “no sugar, injections, diets, doctors.” You’re right, mostly. Pre-med students have it down to a science; some of them even have the nerve to try explaining it to me. I may not know all the details, but I know what they feel like. I have heard just enough horror stories to scare me away from reading up on my own illness. Yes, I realize the stupidity of this rationalization, yet almost every person I talk to about my fears seems to have the same story to tell me: “I had an aunt who had diabetes, but she didn’t take care of herself. She went blind and her kidneys went out. She died when she was fifty-three.” Gee, thanks. You don’t know how uplifting that story is.
Have you ever wondered what your aunt went through, what her life was like? Do you think that she wanted to die a horrible, rotting death? Like me, she probably had plenty of people saying to her, “Just take your medicine and watch what you eat. You’ll be OK. Those terrible things only happen to diabetics who don't take care of themselves.”
I know that you are trying to help, but I need you to know that my life is much more complicated than the aspects that I let you see. Diabetes can be a very degenerative disease. Insulin helps us survive, but it doesn’t cure us. If we don’t live the textbook (nearly impossible, saintly) life of a diabetic, the consequences can be devastating. One-third of our lives could be cut-off. We can lose circulation in our feet and hands. Our organs can slowly corrode, and blindness is an imminent dread for 1 in 10 diabetics who don’t keep their blood-sugar under constant control.
Diabetes affects our immune system. When you’re a diabetic, you’re never just sick. If your blood-sugar is not in good control, cuts and colds can actually lead to...