“Oh, look at that. Looks like you’ve got diabetes. Have a pamphlet.”
That’s how this journey started for me. I was a regular 15-year-old kid at a routine checkup. My doctor, by all accounts a perfectly capable and skilled clinician, gave me the news with the tone of voice you might expect from someone finding a free toy at the bottom of a cereal box — “Oh look, a toy car!” I remember that moment like it was yesterday — I remember that feeling, a kind of dead-stop, time suspended, waiting for someone to come through the door, notice the mistake in the script, and replay the moment as it was supposed to be; without “diabetes” ruining everything.
I’m now 33. In the years since that day, I’ve lost a parent, married my wife, earned a few degrees, embarked on several careers, and seen my beloved Denver Broncos win two Super Bowls. I’ve had ups, I’ve had downs. And I’ve now lived with Type 1 diabetes for more years than I’ve lived without it. For 18 years I’ve lived with this disease — counting every carb, monitoring (almost) every morning, taking insulin before every meal. I calculated the number of injections I’ve given myself the other day: 20,000, conservatively speaking. I can’t look at a plate without running a calculation in the back of my mind. Diabetes has become a part of the fabric of my life. If you’re reading this, it’s probably become part of the fabric of your life, too.
In this blog, I hope to explore what it means to live a full human life with diabetes. There is a world of information out there. This site, in fact, has enough information on managing this disease to keep you reading for months. Science has given us tools to manage this disease in ways unimaginable 20 or 30 years ago. In other words, the “how-to” of managing diabetes is pretty well covered. What I hope to offer is a place to explore what it means on an emotional level, a philosophical level, and on a human level, to live with diabetes. This disease impacts how we think, who we become, the lessons we learn, and the values we embrace.
In my professional life, I am a child and adolescent therapist, music teacher, and performing musician (and now, apparently, a blogger). Diabetes has impacted how I approach all of these activities, setting some limitations but also building insights and skills I might never have acquired without diabetes. As a therapist, I strive to promote balance, patience, and resilience for my clients. Diabetes might have taught me a thing or two about these qualities. As a musician, I need to attune myself to my surroundings, listen deeply, care for my body, and think quickly and creatively. Diabetes has taught me a great deal about these qualities, as well.
Lest I become too serious, I also hope to share some of the humor of living day-to-day with diabetes. And there is plenty of humor in it. I’ve been on a number of tours as a musician; not the kind of tours you’re picturing, though. Most touring musicians sleep on floors or couches each night after shows, and drive from town to town in old secondhand church vans. It’s only a rarified few that get to lounge on tour buses and sleep in nice hotels.
So what does that mean as someone with diabetes? It means introducing myself to my fellow musicians, asking if they’re squeamish about needles, and taking insulin on a crowded bench seat in the drive-thru lane at Wendy’s (where I of course always order the salad with fat-free dressing on the side…). On one occasion, it meant politely informing the backstage crew that the punch laced with the hallucinogenic “special ingredient” should really not be given to the keyboard player with diabetes as it might, through a series of unfortunate events and incoherent decisions, lead to a diabetic coma and probable lawsuit down the line.
Lastly, I hope to fully utilize the interactive nature of this forum. Please comment, post questions, share experiences. This is a place to proudly, loudly, humorously proclaim yourself to your fellow Diabetians! So share with us what diabetes means for you. Share what you have learned from it; share your struggles with it; share your stories. And enjoy the ride.