Who Would You Be Without Diabetes?

Chronic illness is part of me, and I wish it wasn’t so much. I wonder if the same is true for you. When you think about who you are, is “person with diabetes” near the top of the list? How has diabetes changed you? Who would you be without it?


Some people don’t like to think about such questions. Our condition might improve, but it is probably not going away, so why waste time imagining the impossible? But I think considering who we would like to be can help us deal with the lives we have now.

You were someone before you had diabetes. Now that you have diabetes, is that person gone? Who was he or she, and how has he or she changed?

For people diagnosed as children, diabetes can become a core part of their identity. In her poem, “Partial Definition,” about a four-year-old’s diabetes, J. Davis Harte wrote,

It became her before
She became herself.

I think some of that identity takeover happens to adults, too. I was diagnosed with MS as an adult, and I wonder how much of my identity my illness takes up. How much of the original me is left, and do I miss him? I wonder who I would be and what life would be like without illness and disability.

Illness changes people in good ways and hard ways. I asked here in 2011 “What have you learned from diabetes?” Beth said, “I learned that I need to focus my energy, my time, and my life wisely.” Mark noted, “I have learned that I am unique. What works for someone else may not work for me. I have to be in charge of my own health.”

And Natalie wrote, “I learned I’m not immortal and that I do have to pay attention.” The learnings Beth, Mark, and Natalie reported are helping them in life.

Other people with chronic illness report learning things like accepting help and not trying to go it alone. They might learn to accept the world more and resist it less. They learn how to take responsibility for themselves.

I’ve had those changes, and they feel good to me. I don’t want to lose them. I don’t want to go back to thinking I’m immortal. I don’t miss my former driven, career-focused, change-the-world self. I like the more relaxed self I’ve become.

But it still feels like I’ve lost something important. I’m so wrapped up in the world of illness and disability that it’s hard to remember the freedom I had before. I look at people who are disabled, sick, or dying as “my people.” It’s hard to remember what it’s like to be well.

I wonder who I would be without that identity of “person with illness.” Who would you be without diabetes? How would you be different, and how would your life be different?

Think about it. Besides being able to eat what you want, whenever you want, what else would change? Would some attitudes, or the way you see the future, or your sense of what’s important in life be different? Use your imagination. More might change than you realize. But how would you feel about that?

Editor and spiritual advisor Eileen Lighthawk says we have a core self, a true self, who is beyond health and illness. (I think she stole that from Buddha or Jesus or someone.) Your true self may not have diabetes. But who is he or she? I guess that’s for you to find out and share with the world.

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  • Bonnie Lu Brehm

    Who am I with illness, I’m myself, who I was before the illness she’s still there, maybe just a little more banged up then a normal life. Not only do I have diabetes, I’m allergic to just about everything on this planet but it doesn’t slow me down and never will.

    I still eat what I want when I want it, whether its good for me or not. I’m not immortal, whether I have never had a disease or have plenty, I’m going to die eventually so why worry there. Some days I get such a fear of dying that I make myself sick, but as I get older and see what is happening all around me I then think is life really worth living.

    Life without diabetes, eh, I still live that life, I just have a full size picture window with what could happen if I screw up and don’t watch what I’m doing to my body as a whole. Its the only life I know and as I take one day, hour or minute at a time, sometimes I have a wake up call and sometimes I don’t, but at least I’m always learning how to take care of both my inner and outer child, who has no clue when they grow up what they want to be, I’m 61, seen a lot, wish to see more, might or might not, life goes on……

  • Joe

    I know people with relatively minor ailments who insist on defining themselves by whatever limitations their illness presents. Often they use it as an excuse for avoiding things they might actually prefer to do. I also know people who do the same thing with their age. Illogical things like “Once a person turns __, they have to stop ______.” (Or cut their hair, or not wear makeup, or go to the fair, or whatever.)

    I am not one of those people.

    I treat my disease. I don’t let it tell me who I am.

  • Terri

    I find sometimes that I am ashamed to be affected with a chronic illness, like I’m a failure or something. =( It really feels that bad sometimes…unfortunately, illness and death is a part of THIS life but as with anything, it is manageable. I also have clinical depression and I manage that because I HAVE to also. I am no good without my antidepressant medication and have only just begun to accept and realize that it is something that I will probably have to take for the rest of my life. Unless there is something natural I can take… Both these disorders have to be carefully managed in order for me to live the most fulfilling life possible. Either way, I shan’t let it define who I am.

  • Kevin

    I am a 43-year-old man with type II Diabetes, diagnosed 13 years ago. My blood sugar is no longer well-controlled (usually running in the mid- to high-200’s). My A1C is over 10 now, my feet are getting numb, I’m depressed, I’m 50 lbs. overweight, I have random nerve pain in my feet and legs, ED, I have no patience anymore, I’m quick to snap at my wife or kids (not physically), and my wife tells me she doesn’t even know me anymore. Diabetes has changed me from a sensitive, caring man who loves his family into something that, when I take a step back and give myself a really good look, I can’t believe I have become. I’m a monster now. I don’t feel at this point that I will live to see my three boys grow up. That’s how Diabetes has changed me. And no matter how much you let people help you, ultimately, you still face this alone. Sorry for that big dump, but you wanted to know how it has changed me, so there you go. And I know people will say, hey, get over it, it’s not that bad. Well for me, it is. I will trudge on the best that I can, but without much hope.

  • Tim

    You can define yourself, or have your life define you. I have been to 5 of the 7 continents, jumped out of perfectly good airplanes, rode in helicopters, been loved, and have had the pleasure of loving.

    My life has never been easy, but it has been an outstanding one, accentuated by the tragedies that have been overcome. Good steel comes from a hot fire, and I can attest that I have lived through the blast furnace.

    It took diabetes to slow me down. You can control it, but even so, you will never make it out alive. As my neurologist put it, you can maintain the discipline and routine, and expect a gradually diminishing life. The alternative is to ignore everything you know, and take a nose dive. The expectation is somewhere in between.

    Life will define you regardless. Why let a disease or illness limit you instead of building your character? Toughness is not taught, but developed through being hammered, just like steel. My mantra is to push it to the max, what is truly yours? That is how your life will be defined.

  • Beverly

    I am 56 year old female. I was dignosed with diabetes on Dec 24 2012. It has been a blessing for me. Sure I have all the things everyone else has like blood testing more dr visits and watching what I eat. But I am healtheier than ever before, happier because I feel good, most all of my depression is much less because my body is working like it should. All of what I can’t eat is all the stuff we all shouldn’t eat anyway. In Feb I quit smoking, drinking coffee and all sugar. I am a very determind person, I haven’t lost that if anything it has gotten stronger. We are all responsible for our own well being and health. You just have to want to make the changes for the good.

  • Mary Morris

    I was thinking about it and i’m still some of the things I did before i found out I was a Diabetic. I still do a lot of walking and still drink a lot of water which I’ve been doing most of my life. But I probably wouldn’t have some of the other problems i have that do with Diabetes. Like High Blood Pressure and High Cholestrol ,but I probably got those from my Mom and Grandmother due do the fact they both had Diabetes and high blood pressure so it probably runs in the family. But like I told many people I won’t lte Diabetes control my like or any other problem. I won’t even let pain stop me from doing any thing. I won’t give up or quit. Never will.

  • Patricia Thomas

    I have been living and coping with Type 1 diabetes for 50 years. I was diagnosed when I was in high school. Back in those days, there was no diet soda, no disposal needles and syringes and no self testing of my blood sugars. My visit to the doctor was “you’re still alive so you must be doing something right”! I try to imagine who I would be had I not had this disease. I know I would have gone to college and would have fulfilled my dream of becoming a marine biologist or a forest ranger. It saddens me at times thinking about what I might have been but again realize I am the same person inside and do my best to take charge of my diabetes and live one day at a time.

  • Carolyn

    I was diagnosed 1 1/2 years ago. I feel totally fine. I take 2 pills a day and have lost 64lbs. I don’t intend to let this disease get the best of me. God will help us all to survive.
    I have known people with this for 17 years and they’re doing fine. Just watch those carbs and lose weight.
    Blessings to you all.

  • Don M

    I’ve been T1 for 41 years. I’ve gone through most of the “stages of grief” with the disease (including most notably denial, and eventually acceptance). What I’m thankful for is that it’s forced me to focus on diet and exercise like I never would have done without diabetes. That focus has led me to do some things I’ve never dreamed of, such as running ultramarathons, completing century (100-mile) bike rides, and doing triathlons. I figure as long as I’m not dead, I might as well see what I am capable of.

  • Gary C

    The diagnosis of diabetes for me was a call to action. My A1C was between 8 and 9. I was beginning to get some pains in feet and some numbness. I knew about diabetes, but thought, unlike the rest of my family, I would be able to “avoid it”.

    What has diabetes done to me? Made me aware! Made me aware that the American high carb diet is killing us. It made me aware of the sugar in all forms that is pushed on us in stores and advertising every day. The idea that “FROSTED FLAKES – is GREAT” now makes me angry when I see those ads. Obese children all over the country, gym no longer in the agenda, we are killing America with diabetes.

    I went on a rampage for my own health. And tossed the breads and pastas, many of the “prepared foods”, Almost eliminated milk products from my diet, removed corn or any GMOs, and now eat a vegetarian (almost vegan) diet. I love the OMNI diet book and lifestyle by Tana Amen. I also like the raw in 30 (diabetes cure) site for guidance.

    Being disciplined about diet means resisting the temptations that are around us all the time. It means monitoring glucose every day, it means exercise (the last part of my program that still needs work). So far I am down 25 lbs, and A1C is 6.4 slightly above the “non-diabetic” max. Still working on that.

    I really appreciate this site and it’s focus on health, we all need to get to a point where “I used to have diabetes” is something we can honestly say.

    Best wishes for your lifetime health.

  • Joy

    I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 26. That was 38 years ago and all in all, I’ve been pretty lucky in terms of complications. But yes, even tho’ I did mostly what I wanted to do with my life, it changed me. I still think of my life as before and after. And what I see now is an anxious person, always worried about whether I need to eat or what my sugar is doing when I go to the gym (yes, even with a CGM). A person angry at hypochondriacs who make themselves sick. Angry at the “I must eat gluten-free” idiots who follow every food fad without researching it. Angry at the “I can’t lose weight” people who really aren’t working at it. I would give anything if I could cure myself by changing my behavior. And mostly, just plain tired of living with an unpredictable disease that never goes away. And of “Pollyanna” platforms that tell me how great it is that I can manage my disease. Not true. The disease manages my life. And anyone who thinks that isn’t so needs to live it for a few years.

  • meredith


    wow, what a difference just 15 years can make. since it has now been 35 years since i was wiped out by type-1, i know some of what you’re talking about. while i did have disposable syringes, i also had Tab & Fresca for soda choices as well as urine testing.

    but i’m still alive, existing but not really living. i’m okay with that and uninspired to do anything to change it.

    i have collegiate education coming out of my ears, but it didn’t do me much good for working or health insurance or personal relationships. i have the first, barely, but neither of the others. it happens.

  • Marie Lund

    For almost 40 years I have been living with diabetes treating it as no more than a minor nuisance, doing whatever I wanted, pretty much eating whatever I wanted wanted – ow whatever I have been offered to eat during my many around the world mostly business trips. My blood sugar was controlled so so until I retired a few years ago – since then it is very well controlled, cholesterol is low, almost all the indicators (save for potassium levels, which are borderline) are positive. But diabetes is – unfortunately – finally catching up with me. I, who was an avid hiker, now, have problem walking a single mile… and I am barely 70. I need to rethink my lifestyle, resign from most adventures, be old, be decrepit. Horrible.

  • Vickie Moore

    My mother was a type 1 diabetic. She decided a few years before she passed that she was too tired to continue with insulin. She worked three jobs and raised my brother and myself. She died at the age of 53 with her first and only heart attack. No one would have ever known that she was a diabetic. Growing up we had to get tested often. I had high sugar during both preganancies that never became a problem. Then one day at the nice age of 50 (now 60) I was diagnosed a type 1 diabetic. I have had many ups and downs with this disease but I’m determined not to let it take the best of me. I accomplished one major goal that I would live past the age of 53. My husband is the only concern I have, he really does not understand that I’m not the energized bunny anymore and I have to keep pushing. Well, it’s time now for me to run my body for me so I can be around for my family. I’m having issues now of nerve pain and energy loss and high sugars. This is the first time I have not been able to keep my A1C at 6.5 it’s a steady 9-10 for the past year. I will get this back on track it just may take me a while longer. I’m about to make an appt. with an endocrinologist. Do you think it will help. My memory is affected also. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I will not give up, this will not control me.

  • Bea Quirk

    This is an article I wrote on this topic for the Boston Globe in May 2011.
    Bea Quirk was recently awarded a medal of honor by the Joslin Diabetes Center for having lived with the disease for more than 50 years. A Massachusetts native, she was treated at Joslin from 1957 to 1981. That year, she moved to Charlotte, N.C., where she is a freelance writer. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University.

    For me, living with diabetes is like being a swan. Although swans appear to glide gracefully and effortlessly upon the water, underneath they are paddling like hell.

    At least it has felt that way in the 53 1/2 years I have lived with the disease. I was almost 3 when I was diagnosed, and my earliest memories are of being in the hospital after my parents rushed me there in a coma. I beat the odds coming out of it – and living as long as I have.

    No matter how long someone lives with diabetes, it is about managing a delicate balance: acknowledging that diabetes is an integral part of who you are, but not the defining essence. Another is taking whatever comes with humor and grace.

    I try to live by the commandment “Thou shalt not whine!’’

    Over the years, I have shared with only a few how tiresome it can be to always be thinking about blood sugar levels and how what I eat will affect them. It can be aggravating to always make sure I have easy access to food and insulin. I frequently have self-doubts about how well I am managing.

    Losing the sight in one of my eyes over a 35-year period has not been easy. I have grieved in private over the loss and the resulting limitations. But I have found ways to get around that limitation – and others. My parents always told me there was nothing I could not do because of my diabetes, and with some resourcefulness that has remained more or less true.

    Living with diabetes is not always onerous. Most days consist of graceful gliding, as the paddling underneath is second nature, something done automatically. Although I do not hide my diabetes, I am proud that many people are unaware I have it.

    There have been unexpected gifts as well. I am good at planning ahead and preparing for contingencies, yet flexible when dealing with the unexpected. (Still, I tend to fret and wish I were more spontaneous.)

    Diabetes has also enabled me to drink deeply from what I call the well of infinite kindness. I hope it has made me a more compassionate person. I have been the recipient of innumerable acts of kindness and generosity, large and small, that have touched both me and the giver with grace.

    It is said that an African chief, in preparing his warriors for battle, told them, “I do not ask that you be unafraid. I ask that you act unafraid.’’ I have found that in living with diabetes, it is how you act in the outside world that defines you far more than the disease inside.

  • Mary

    When I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes it really didn’t come as a surprise. Everyone on my father’s side from my grandmother, my uncles, and aunt were diabetics. Between the diabetes, the alcoholism, and hypertension, none of them (except my grandmother who lived to age 78) lived past age 63. So much more is known about diabetes now then 40 years ago. I am now 64 and I plan to live as long as possible. Diabetes has made me much more health conscious. There are times when I do miss my favorite food such as my favorite Pay Day, Cheetos, and real French fries. One thing that diabetes has taught me is—how so much of our food is loaded with sugar and salt! But because I do cook I have found ways to enjoy at least some of my favorite foods cooked a little different. Diabetes is a part of me. I accept the life changes but I don’t let it get me down or totally take over my life. I’m always aware of the complications and so I work very hard to do what is necessary to stay as healthy and as physically fit as possible. Unless I tell someone I am a diabetic no one knows except my family members.

  • Margie

    Having diabetes, I’ve learned how to be adaptable. When first diagnosed 18 yrs ago and my B/S was 500, it was devastating to think I couldn’t eat all the foods everyone else enjoyed. After I got over feeling sorry for myself (it took a few yrs),I chose to manage diabetes by diet because eating all the wrong foods and taking insulin to cover it doesn’t stop the progression of the disease symptoms. I decided I was the only one holding me back, so had to learn how to eat differently if I wanted to prevent all the other things that go along with diabetes. I would have to learn how to cook the foods I love, but with a low carb healthy twist to them. I have managed to find a way to eat anything I want without raising my blood sugar. I make it an adventure not a problem. I also take certain supplements as a preventative to circumvent issues that can go wrong with diabetics, just to cover all my bases. I have no symptoms whatsoever. My life is 100% better, I feel great and I don’t worry about anything because I’m already doing everything I possibly can and it seems to be working. I’m 65 yrs young!

  • Sharon

    What a couple of questions. I’ve been a type 1 diabetic for 45 years. I was 26 years old with three babies and a husband to care for. I knew I had to take care of myself in order to be healthy for my family and all my responsibilities. Those years were like a whirlwind with active kids, working a job, being a homemaker, chief cook and bottle washer and a diabetic! I think my success was due to living in a small town where I had no problem being a diabetic and getting employment. My work associates and employers were like friends who looked at the whole picture and not look at me as a “sick” person who would be out of work or “different” than those who did not have diabetes. I became a source for others to had diabetes to talk to and get some help and suggestions
    In retrospect I think I’ve become a better person thanks to my diabetes but the possibilities of complications always lurkes in the background. Would I have followed a career in the business field? No I think I would have enjoyed a career in nutrition. Interesting how your health influences life’s changes. I feel I’ve been a diabetic for so many years that I hardly remember a time when I didn’t have to aware of meals, medications, my pump, etc.
    So, my thoughts are with you and I want to thank you for jogging my mind and making me look inside myself.

  • Mike

    Well since diagnosis in 1998 when I was 48 my life has gone downhill. Was on meds but I seem to be like a type 1.5 in which I need insulin injections regularly. When I was working I got some exercise but now not much. I have a “poor me” attitude and can’t shake it. I have had lows that almost knock me out. It happened once and I feel lucky to be still kicking. Not enough is said about stress relating to Diabetes. I know that has a lot to do with my for no reason lows.

  • Bob

    My onset of diabeties came more than 10 years ago, shortly after I was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis. I am sure they are somehow connected, and I am sure I will deal with both of them the rest of my life (I am a 75 year old male). Balance in life is the key to success. No, I cannot do some of the very physical things I used to do. Live with it, and find something I can do as a substitute! I spend more time with my yard now, I can take it up and put it down as I want. I go fishing more, and I read a lot. Sure, I pine for the old days, but they are not coming back. Make the best of what you are given, try and take better care of yourself, and don’t eat too much processed and preserved foods. Enjoy what you have, don’t dwell on what you lost.

  • Karen O kamoto

    My daughter got diabetes at 10, her little boy got it at 4 months old and almost died the day he was diagnosed. I became a Type 2 at 58. I went on insulin within two years.
    I felt I could deal with it, and was determined to show my daughter in an indirect way how to take care of one’s self. I tried a vegan diet for 4 months and reduced my a1c to from 7 to 6. I then turned to richard Berstein and have it at 5.4 and working to get it lower.
    For me, strangely, the disease is a challenge. I am lucky, really, that I was not a child when I got the disease, ….Nonetheless, for those with it all your lives,….it is something that is controllable ….especially if you go low carb, and it teaches us good habits….eating well, small meals, vegetables, no processed foods, getting a good rest,….. I also try not to make others have to take care of me,…..I. Have glucose in my purse and every room. I have a meter in 4 rooms of the house, with insulin in each room,….and a meter in my purse.
    I stopped talking about it, ….depending on others when not necessary,….and I am more self reliant. But I do not hide it either. I am 68 but play golf, tennis pickleball etc. ………
    My 4 month appointment is my measuring stick as to how I am doing. Good luck and God bless. Karen

  • Susann Irwin

    I’ve had diabetes for 20 years and as it’s progressed I find it’s made my weight increase. I was never over weight until I became diabetic. In the early stages of the disease I could keep control of my weight, but now it’s nearly impossible despite doing all the right things. Unfortunately diabetes has been so tied to being overweight that unless I break out photos of myself in earlier years of my diabetes I’m not believed. I think that’s the hardest thing for me. I keep working at the weight and try to be the most terrific, fun and interesting person I can be to overcome my diabetes effects.

  • Ferne

    I am an 80 year old handicapped woman and I don’t remember how many years I’ve been diabetic. When they changed the guidelines to 126 I instantly became a diabetic. I have other serious blood diseases, one terminal, plus coronary artery disease with some blockage. Right now the diabetes is the one thing I don’t think a lot about except to do the blood testing and watch my diet. My kidneys are good and also haven’t lost a lot of feeling in my feet. I’m on oral meds and until I suddenly was diagnosed with all the other problems and then has not been as controlled. Losing weight is very difficult and I seem to stay at this point. Diabetes has been with me so long I don’t think back to life before. I think back to when I could walk. That is what I miss.

  • Warren

    I alo am diabeti( 15 yrs.) but I also have COPD, Congestive heart failure, cronic kidney problems, high blood pressure and others. I am 73 (almost) 74 and I am not stopping. Until I can no longer “go” oh by the way I am also a cancer survivor( 7 years).

  • Joe Teixeira

    I’ve been a type 1 diabetic for over 20 years since the age of 54. Before diagnosis I lost 25 pounds in about three months. Thinking this was good being a runner, I thought I would run faster. Until one morning, I couldn’t run more than a half mile. At my first visit with my endocrinologist, he said he wanted me to gain weight. Unlike his usual patients who had to lose wt. I did continue to run until about age 70. Now, I walk 3 times a week and also bike. Otherwise, my health is pretty good not having retinopathy or neuropathy. Still able to work in my garden and also do some house painting with my old running buddy. No complaints.


  • Patty

    It has been almost 11 years since I was diagnosed with Type 2. The same year I met my husband who has always stood by me and supported my low carb lifestyle.
    I cried and denighed and got just plain mad. a lot in the beginning. Scared of testing and needles. And I had always been so healthy and active. Mine was heritary from my mom and grandma.
    But then I became pregant. At 42 I had my age and this disease against me. I took it very seriously and kept my A1C around 4.6. And had a very healthy 9 lbs baby.
    The last 4 years now have been bad with an A1C between 8-10. Raising a young child and dealing with menopause has been challenging to say the least.
    Now my son is 8 and I am looking at starting over with my own healthcare. If not just for me but my family.
    I think we have ups and downs with this. Its not all smooth sailing. But when you fall even for a long time. At some point you need to get your act back together and do what it takes to stay healthy. I am hoping to stay on track this time. I want to be here for as long as possible to watch my son grow.
    It is a constant battle, but, like any disease it is best handled “One day at a time”

  • Luella

    I am 87 years old and have become an insulin depent in the past three years. It has made things more difficult but I continue to be a volunteer at a local hospital 10 or more hours per week. I have less energy and there are physical problems that have developed due to the diabetes such as loss of cushioning in my feet and sometimes pain in various parts of the body and loss of feeling at times. Sleep for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time does not make for more energy when I am awake. There are other complications that seem to accompany me and falling is always a potential danger. Diet can becomr frustrating and of course, I do miss chocolate and know there are many other women in the same boat. Thank you for all the information you provide.

  • Pam

    At first, I let diabetes rule my life. Not so anymore, 5 years after diagnosis!!! I am now a person who happens to have diabetes, not a DIABETIC! I am now a much more fit and healthier person having dropped 25 lbs. and eating an almost-vegetarian diet. I do high intensitey interval exercise 4 days a week and weight training on the days inbetween. Life is so much better and happier these days. I still check my blood sugar once a day, but don’t obcess about the numbers anymore. Rarely are my numbers out of range, but occassionally I go nuts and eat something I know will raise my BS, but now I just get right back on track and don’t worry. Life is good!!!

  • joan

    I do not believe that diabetes has changed me from what I was suppose to be. I have been a Type 1 since 1957; 56 years this November. In all of this time I have never had a problem with diabetes that could not be fixed, I had diabetes so I will find ways to live a happy life.

    I have some mild complications develop after 35 years: a mild sight issue, mild gastroparesis, and food allergies. I am indeed most fortunate.

    In 2001 a car knocked me down while walking across a street that caused me more concern and misery than with diabetes.

    I am happily married for 57 year to a wonderful helpful husband, and we have a healthy adult son and daughter. We have lived in foreign countries, traveled, active in our community. We retired at an early age of 53 and 55. A small reliable income and savings and a really happy life regardless of diabetes.

    Diabetes did not change me from what I have been since early childhood; Determined! Some might refer to me a stubborn?! :0)) Whatever – it has worked well for me and My T1D condition.

  • Kathleen

    I love reading all of your post’s. So many different stories, but with similar experiences. I got mad as well when I was diagnosed. Although it explained some of the health issues I had. I was angry and did not want to have diabetes. Then came all the media that it has become an epidemic and if I just lost weight I would not have diabetes. I found that this was not true. Your numbers go down, but they do go back up.
    Now When you asked how it is to live with an illness, I thought I don’t have an illness I have diabetes. That sounds kind of crazy. I think it is the way I separate myself from what is going on inside my body.
    Through out the years I have learned to “check” in with myself, to see how I am feeling and doing. That sounds crazy as well but it helps me remember to take good care of myself (which was hard to learn to do). Learning to take good care of me which includes being compassionate to myself and loving myself no matter what has been a really good thing. It also models positive behavior for my family. Who do not really know my ups and downs.
    I am thinking about eating some fall treats. I don’t eat many carbs and no sugar. And not a lot of other stuff, but I am deciding if I will give myself a day of pumpkin flavored food.
    David thank you for all of your sharing, it has helped me and I can tell by all of the other posts that it has help others as well.

  • abalboni

    I may not have had two heart attacks and heart failing. The cascade of health problems and the subsequent disability status. I would still be operating my business and providing for my family in a lucrative manor.
    I had poor ,poor medical advice and not many medications to choose from.
    We have so much more to help us today . we have the web to help us help our self and many more sources of information. Diabetes is mostly controlled by our knowledge and how we use it.
    Thank you To the editor and the magazine.
    Posted by AL Balboni 10/23/2013

  • JohnC

    To Kevin.. It doesn’t have to be this way!

    Go read “Dr. Bernstein Diabetes Solution” (tough read) and visit bloodsugar101.com and you will see there is a way back. Yeah it is a lot of work but a good start.

    Twenty years ago you might have been screwed, but not today.

    You can be that nice man you once were.. just have to live differently. I’m 35 years older than you and I did it. My wife and family are actually happy about that — me too.

  • Connie

    I was diagnosed 57 yrs. ago just weeks after I started first grade. I made it to become an honor high school graduate and have 2 college degrees. As a 1st grader, I found myself always wanting to see what the lab techs were doing when I would go in to have a blood sugar drawn. I started college wanting to go to dental school, but at the time, it was very difficult for females to get into dental school. I got my BS degree in zoology and then decided that I really wanted to get a BS in medical technology. I worked as a medical technologist for 29 years before having to take disability after a second heart attack. After 20 years I was married and had my son 2 years later before the invention of home glucose testing and insulin pumps. My parents, brother & family, & my son have always been my biggest supporters and I don’t know what I would have done without them. My son is to be married this August and I’m hoping grandchildren will also be in my future and that I can stay as healthy as I can to be able to enjoy them. The trick is to live with diabetes taking the best care of myself that I can each and every day.

  • Betty

    I have never let diabetes define me – yes, I am always aware of my condition, but have never felt that I “suffer” from it. I was diagnosed almost 40 years ago with Type 1 (I am 57). I am a distance runner and biker. I travel extensively. I hiked the Himalayas 2 years ago ( for the second time). I have hiked Kilimanjaro and the Andes. I have a wonderful husband who has been part of my life since I was diagnosed and we have 2 adult sons. I worked, volunteered, – no I don’t think my life would have been different except for such things as the need to have food and insulin with me at all times and be conscious of my bold glucose levels. I guess that I am probably healthier than I might have been otherwise!

  • David Spero RN

    Thank you all for telling your stories. We have an inspiring group of readers, for sure. Maybe we can all get some ideas from each other that will work for us. Please send your story if you haven’t.


  • Lynnard Denton

    I was diagnosed with Type 1 in high school 52 years ago. My dad wanted me to be a farmer with him but I knew that if I did he might find me dead in the field some day. So I worked my way through a bachelors and masters degree and completed coursework for a doctorate. I taught at universities for 15 years then worked for IBM for 27 years.

    My dear wife has kept me alive through some dangerous lows over the years, and after having emergency heart surgery 22 years ago I have been in great health ever since. Doctors told my wife that I had a 10 percent chance of surviving the surgery and so I attribute my doing so to God. I watch what I eat and exercise, and my quarterly lab tests are perfect. I weigh the same as I did my senior year in high school. I enjoy life and helping my wife who now has an illness. I have been able to encourage a number of new diabetics, and and we enjoy visiting our children and grandchildren and friends.

    Focusing on God, my wife and family and on a good life help me see that my diabetes has been a blessing. I think a good attitude helps me and so many diabetics learn to roll with the punches.

  • Laverne

    Kevin you need a attitude ajustment. Its not a death sentance unless you let it be. Maybe you need to go to your dr. and get some antidepressant meds to get you out of your slump. You have alot tolive for so don’t give up so easily. Things could be alot worse.

  • Erik

    I’m a 37 year old Type 1 Diabetic for 22 years. This is what i ended up writing in my journal after reading the thought-provoking article.

    Today an article from Diabetes Self-Management has me thinking. The article is about “Who would you be without diabetes?” and asks me to contemplate how Diabetes has changed me and shaped me. The really interesting reading was all the comments from other readers. They ranged from super-depressed and angry and defeated to positive, thankful, victorious, attacking, learning, etc. It made me realize that like anything there is a wide range of options for my personal story-line to follow in regard to Diabetes or other areas of my life. Obviously many of those options will be dependent on how I deal with my Diabetes. I can’t be a successful runner at age 60 if I don’t get out and continue to run now (and probably lose some weight). I won’t be as able to be a life-long learner if I let the disease get out of control so I’m lethargic and perhaps have eye problems limiting my reading. I won’t be able to travel the world and handle dosing my insulin for unique foods from around the world if I can’t figure out how to dose for my average days in America.
    So, how has it shaped me? Early on I think I tried to be a good diabetic and then in college and after I kind of had more a defeatist attitude. So, I chose to do what I wanted and figured the disease would have it’s way with me no matter what I did. Of course that’s a foolish, immature attitude that isn’t true, but I was foolish, immature, and ignorant. When I was in my mid-twenties and had a seizure due to a low blood sugar, while sleeping, my wife called the ambulance and got me to the hospital. That event served as a wake-up call and I began to educate myself a lot more on how I could control the disease and determine what I would do to manage the disease instead of having a mindset of how and when would the disease eventually control me. I know now over the last decade things have been much better and I’ve had good control. I would say that I still live with quite a bit of fear that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have diabetes. I had an eye appointment the other day and I had fear that the Dr. would find I’m going blind although I haven’t noticed any vision loss. I have fears of low-blood sugars. I’ve had a couple instances of heart palpitations that have led me to panic and think I’m having a heart attack, but Doctors have assured me I’m fine and tests have supported the fact that I’ve got a strong heart. I do fear not knowing what/when a complication will arise. But ultimately, that fear can help me to live in a way to keep those complications away/minimized. At times I do feel angry about the disease, but at other times I feel so grateful for medical care, insurance, enough money to cover co-pays and an insulin pump. Overall, I’d say I’ve got a positive attitude pertaining to the disease and a continuing desire to make sure that the choices I make on a daily basis are consistent with the story-line I want to live. Sometimes the choices I make are positive and sometimes they’re not, but one major way that Diabetes has impact me I believe is that I’m more conscious of the importance of these daily choices than I would be if I was non-Diabetic.

  • Terri

    Kevin-I will never tell anyone to “get over it!” And yes, antidepressant medications may help-think Wellbutrin. Yours is not a hopeless situation. You can do this! Find yourself a good, supportive open minded doctor who believes in holistic care as well as standard medical care. Start by walking-the best and easiest excercise. You will increase a little day by day until you realize the changes. Endeavor to eat better and fresher foods and become committed to seeing the changes you need to see. You kids and your wife need you. You can do it! 😀

  • Terri

    And thank you for sharing your story Kevin…you said exactly what was asked of you. I see success in your future even if you don’t. DONT GIVE UP!

  • Liliana

    Well, my doctor and I were surprised when he saw the sugar levels on my blood test.. but since I had high blood sugar during my pregnancies, I guess I wasn’t totally as surprised.
    Anyway, I am the same person, but I must say it totally changed my perspective on exercise. It is no longer a luxury to make time for yoga, walking, hiking or zumba. It is a necessity vs something I schedule for last. I see friends for a walk vs a cup of coffee or lunch. I enjoy being outside more knowing it’s for my own future.. so I don’t end up with no feet or blind or something equally horrible… and up to recently, was able to control my A1C with food and exercise for 13 years. It was starting to get too close to 7 for my doctor’s comfort, so now taking medicine.
    I am of the lucky ones who have been able to adjust and whose body cooperates… and I do count myself lucky in that regard! so maybe I am a different person in being more appreciative of my health and of the value of paying attention to my body, how much I move and how I eat… 🙂

  • Joan G

    I would be retired from the Air Force! What would I have done in the Air Force? I have absolutely no idea, but that’s what I wanted to do. But, being a T1 is automatic decline/refusal whatever word you use for rejection. : D I say it with jest now because I am exactly where I want to be.

    For years I did not treat my diabetes very well, and it did the same to me. We each did our own thing. Mine was tequila and dancing on the bar (diet and exercise). DM’s was wreaking havoc with my kidneys, vision, feet (I still have ’em, so I’m blessed after what I did for so many years).

    Then someone told me at the local university at which I was attending nursing classes that I would have to QUIT if I did not get the cast off my foot that was affected by Charcot foot (look that one up. EVERY PWD needs to know what to watch for).

    Always looking for a good fight, I got that cast off one WEEK before clinicals and finished near the top of my nursing school class.

    Then I was courted by a local hospital that wanted me in the cardiovascular intensive care unit internship. I excelled at the internship, but sucked on the floor. It was NOT a good match.

    Next up was going for an interview to be a diabetes educator. I thought I knew all there was to know about diabetes, so how hard could it be? I didn’t really care about getting the job, just wanted practice in the interview for another position somewhere else.

    I was offered and accepted the job the next day. fate.

    I have been here over 6 years and love it. I learned about diabetes. Applied what I learned and now do not even NEED glasses to have 20/25 vision bilaterally. That part is really fun. Kidney function is still iffy. Charcot doesn’t slow me down. Won’t let it. I reFUSE to use a scooter!!!!! Get outta my way!

    Helping people to understand the things I never did has allowed me to educate and watch others get better control of their disease, help them to ask more insightful questions of their provider and to reduce their risks of getting the complications I show them in class. There are so many people that would maybe not have had someone passionate about educating them that they didn’t tune in. I dunno, but I am sure grateful the Air Force didn’t want me! : D

  • Carol

    I had Breast Cancer 13 yrs ago and right after that was diagnosed T2. Since D ran in my family I had always(I thought) followed a fairly good , mostly natural,diet.
    My Dr. told me that I would be fine as long as I avoided the “white foods. I followed her advice. I learned that I really am in control and that a little excercise goes a long way to helping me hold a1c at about 6-6.5. Actually I no longer have to wonder if I’m going to get D because of my family history. I have it and I can control it and I am grateful everyday that I have this easy way to monitor the state of my health.
    I am very healthy, happy, and grateful.
    I don’t know who I would have been without D but I do know that I dont have the burdon of wondering and aimlessly trying to do the right thing just in case. I know what to do and it works. About eating. I have found that I can eat anything that I want as long as it is just a small amount…and/or maybe I just don’t want the bad stuff anymore PS: The Dr. atkins diet , for the most part, is perfect to use as a guideline.
    Thanks for this website, I have picked up tips here and there that help. Like “taking the metmorphin with the first bite of food,guess I like to challenge myself as well.

  • Krishna Kumar

    I am 61 years old, and have been living with Diabetes for 16 years now, Type 2. I have been a vegetarian since birth. I also had multiple bypass surgery after a heart attack, have a herniated disc in my lower back and other minor ailments. But I have not allowed any of this to get to me. I run my own small business in California, and actively walk 5 miles a day. I never gained more than 4 lbs. than my weight during my college days, and promptly lose it when I discover I am gaining weight. Diabetes is something I live with, but I don’t want to allow it to define me. I do feel frustrated I cannot eat sweets sometimes, but have learnt the art of accommodating a few sweets every week in lieu of other things I might eat. I would highly recommend maintaining a constant goal for oneself so that we don’t become distracted by our illnesses. Life style changes are good. Besides, think of the advantage of diabetes: you can safely reject a dish you don’t like which is offered by the host of a party you attend, claiming you are ‘diabetic’, without upsetting the host!

  • theresa

    Who would I be without diabetes. Good question. I don’t think I would be much different than I am now. The problem started years before Diabetes showed it’s face. I grew up loving junk food, as a 5 year old I found a stash of chocolates bars and ate them. But as a good lil girl I put the garbage in the bin. I’ve always eaten in hiding. TV and popcorn were my soothers during school grades 4 to 12. Later on my own my stress busters were junk food and TV or Movies. Later I also found out that I had PCOS. I was told I should try to loose weight and keep an eye on my sugars. I was never truely informed on how important my choices and behavior were slowing breaking me down. The life long habits I’ve developed for stress, boredom and loneliness has not helped. I have been told I have disorderly eating. Thank you but what do I do with that? I have tried many times and I really don’t know what to do other than keep trying and feeling like a total failure. I’ve had my Diabetes for over 12 years, my A1c rides between 9.5 to 11.0 for the 3 month blood works. I’m on my medications and I can eat right for my bodies needs , but then my mind goes crazy and that’s when everything falls apart. I think after all these years it is finally coming to a head. Either I buckle down and get my act together or fall to the illness and see everything show up at once. I’ve already noticed that my eyes ares not adjusting like they used to, tho the DR. says my exams are so far so good.
    I know diabetes has limited me in some ways but, I need to talk to a therapist to help sort me out, because I can’t go one eating the junk I do and live a long life free from most of the illnesses that come with age and diabetes. I miss the freedom of being able to eat without fear. My Family fears for me more than I fear for myself.

  • David Spero RN


    Please get some help with your stressful eating. Look for a therapist who knows eating disorders or who practices a Health at Every Size approach. A Web search should find some near you.

    Good luck with this,

  • Connie

    I’m not sure that I would be who I am without having had type 1 diabetes for 57 years. It made me learn to care for my health at an early age because I wanted to live. Having to learn to eat a 1950’s diabetic diet probably kept me from being overweight most of my life. By being so disciplined, I was fortunate to have had a son 35 years ago who was in good health despite being a preemie. My son will be getting married next August and I’m looking forward to the possibility of being a grandmother. I now have coronary artery disease, but exercise daily with either a treadmill and/or a stationary exercise bicycle for 30-60 minutes and love my cardiac rehab exercise maintenance program. I feel so blessed to still be alive and have so much to still be able to look forward to in the future.

  • marie wentland

    I would like to be a person that didn’t have to take meds and be free from a schedule. I must face my condition and deal with it. Friends and family are a tough crowd, but I know that it is because of love and concern for me. I try to be mindful of what I need to do(diabetic 2). I have the Hope that a cure will be in the future for all of us. My cells are resistant to the regular process of carrying sugar for energy. I know this sounds strange but I rescued a dog, that rescued me, I must walk often because of him. Thank God for the happenings in my life. God has my plans already laid out no matter what I do.

  • Ann

    I don’t think I have ever accepted the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. At times I have been able to control it with diet and exercise, but that is not the norm. I early retired this year and had to find my own health insurance..knew if I tried to get 2013 coverage I’d be declined as pre-existing. So my new coverage starts 1/2014 when insurance carriers cant discriminate due to prior medical conditions. I’m hoping for the resolve to manage my diabetes better in the New Year. I could have worse diagnoses..but this one is enough.