Looking Back

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Sunday(ish) marks the unofficial one-year anniversary of my diabetes diagnosis. “(Ish)" because I haven’t done any detailed review of my journal to find the precise date when the doctor told me that diabetes was what it was. "Unofficial" because a few weeks prior to—let’s just say March 23, 2007—the doctor’s visits and blood tests had commenced but I hadn’t yet heard anything conclusive about why I felt the way I’d been feeling.

Therefore, as I write this, I’ve had diabetes for just about a year. Oh sure, some of you are saying, “Wait a second, Eric. You had diabetes before March 23; you just hadn’t been diagnosed yet.” And, true, you’re correct. There’s no pinpointing when, exactly, my body began attacking the beta cells in my pancreas and at what point someone might have legitimately called me “a person with diabetes.” So I’m going to go with 3/23/07.

First, yeah, go ahead, congratulate me. I’ve made it through my freshman year. Last year at this time, I had no idea how I’d get through the first few months after diagnosis, and I didn’t really look ahead to this point here, right now. But here I am, and all of those initial worries, fears, and confusions about how diabetes would affect my life have simply disappeared. Why? Because I didn’t have to go through this alone.

I was fortunate enough to get a wonderful endocrinologist from the get-go. Dr. Kumagai. I told him the other day that if he could look at a graph of my anxiety levels and fears of the unknown prior to our first meeting, and then compare that with a chart of the days and weeks following, he’d see it drop precipitously into the realm of calm and acceptance, such was his bedside manner and ability to listen.

I have been amazed by the help provided by Linda, my certified diabetes educator, not only in the instruction she provided in the diabetes education classes I took through the University of Michigan Medical Center, but also in her advocacy in helping me acquire an insulin pump, as well as the time she spent helping me transition from injections to the pump.

There are the dietitians, Glee and Sascha, who eased countless worries about regulating blood glucose by listening and by going over trends and diet and exercise schedules with me.

Lisa, my therapist, whose insight into my personality and whose experience in dealing with people as they transition into living with a chronic illness has helped immensely.

The people in University of Michigan Medical School’s Family Centered Experience program have been great and helped me see that I can do positive things with diabetes, such as helping young doctors-to-be learn what living with a chronic medical condition is like. Participating in this program and interacting with the two first-year medical students my wife and I have spent several pleasant evenings with, Andrew and Megan, has been an excellent way to further understand my relationship to diabetes.

Also, within the medical community are understanding nurses, helpful pharmacists, and, yes (despite several experiences to the contrary), several customer-centered medical equipment representatives who’ve made receiving diabetes supplies much simpler than it could be. I’ll even nod to several people on the other end of the insurance company phone lines who’ve acted ideally in their interactions with me as they provide comprehensive answers to my questions.

And of course I have to mention Tara, editor of DiabetesSelfManagement.com and of this blog. I’m so glad she listened to me last June when I proposed writing a weekly article from my newly-diagnosed, Type 1 perspective. It’s been great, and the blog shall continue.

Friends, family, colleagues—they’ve all been supportive and eager to learn more about what it is like for me to live with diabetes. Two of my best friends, as soon as they heard, spent time online researching diabetes, and the next time I saw them they knew the origins of the word “diabetes” as well as much of the history of the condition.

There’s even been the occasional stranger on a plane or at a conference or presentation who will find out I have Type 1. I don’t wear a sign around my neck (OK, I do have a medical alert necklace), but through the course of conversation these strangers often learn that I have diabetes. I’m not ashamed, and it is part of who I am. And, well, it’s really interesting—and not just to me. It’s often great to find that people who don’t know much about diabetes really are curious about what it is and what it does to the body—not to mention how often I find people don’t know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2.

So, here I am, at the end of year one. I’ve endured the initial hardships of assimilating into diabetes culture and done so quite well. But, as you can see, I haven’t done it alone.

Wait. You think that’s it for this week’s blog entry? Give me one more paragraph:

There’s no way I’d be where I am in dealing with diabetes if it wasn’t for the amazing support and understanding of Kathryn, who above everything and everyone else has been the reason I want to maintain phenomenal self-management and live a long, complication-free life.

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