Tuesday, November 8, 2011

22 years of diabetes....and counting

I was diagnosed with diabetes on Halloween, a fairly comical holiday to be diagnosed on.  This year, my diabetes turned 22.  In some ways it is hard to imagine that I have had it so many years.  Other days I wish it would disappear, if only for a run, or a full day, or weekend to see how my life would be different.  Unfortunately, that is not happening in the near future.  Over the past 22 years, diabetes has taught me some great life lessons.

1.  Nothing is impossible.
My parents told me that when I was diagnosed with diabetes the doctors were skeptical of participating in organized sports.  So, what did they do?  Let their daughter, who loved sports, play every single one.  Over the course of my lifetime, I've played soccer (7 years), softball (5 years), volleyball (2 years), basketball (10 years total; 4 years AAU), track (4 years), and cross-country (3 years).  I've been "competitively" running for the past 4 years, including my most recent accomplishment of conquering the marathon.  I am excited to find out what lays ahead for me next year, and those to come.  If I want to achieve it, I'll make it happen one way or another.

2.  Life is hard and not always fair.
Growing up, I always asked why I had diabetes and not my parents or my brother or sister.  I hated the fact that I had to have it and deal with it every day.  It took me a long time to accept the fact that it is not going away anytime soon, even thought I was diagnosed with it at such a young age.  Is it fair that I have this disease?  No.  But, fair is just a 4-letter word. 

3.  Life is also entertaining and fun.
I've had my fair share of low blood sugars.  Growing up, I was low much more often than high.  Although I've had some scary lows, some lows are just ridiculous.  It is in these times where I look back and just laugh about them.  For example, I was trying very hard (while low) to explain where a store was located.  It was near a restaurant called "Cheeseburger in Paradise."  Instead of saying the actual name of the restaurant, I kept referring to it as "Cheesecake in Paradise."  At least I was close, right?!?  Just as sometimes I can laugh at my lows, it is important to have fun in life.  I know when I am stressed out it does bad things to my blood sugars.  A balanced life is important.

4.  Attitude is my choice.
I could be pessimistic that I have a disease that there is no cure for.  I could be upset that the general public thinks of diabetics as overweight people (type 2).  I could be frustrated that diabetes often flies under the public radar and doesn't get enough funding.  However, I choose not to harbor those feelings and have that attitude.  I've accepted that diabetes is a part of me.  It does not define me.  I can live my life the way I want, or I can let the disease control me.  I choose the former.

5.  Habits are important for success.
Every Monday through Friday, I wake up at the same time.  I eat more or less the same breakfast and lunch.  I work out at the same time everyday.  I consider my body a fine-tuned machine.  Daylight savings time causes me to go crazy, and my body is still adjusting to setting back the clocks last week, but it knows what to expect.  The more you do something, the easier it becomes.  While training for the marathon, I ate the same thing before every long run and my intake during long runs was pretty much the same.  Every Sunday for over 4 months, my body got used to the same routine and habit.  And guess what?  On marathon day, my blood sugar couldn't have been even better.  It was quite a success.

6.  Motivation comes from within.
The past year I've been working hard to make my A1C (average blood sugar over 4 months) higher.  In the spring, I decided I wanted to make this a reality for myself.  I knew that if I had higher blood sugars than my training would be better.  My goal was to raise it from the low 5's (5.3) to the high 5's.  I knew that I could run better, which was my main motivation for wanting it higher.  In October, my A1C had climbed to 5.8.  I couldn't have been happier.  Now, I am motivated for it to stay there. 

7.  It is OK to fail.
Diabetes can take its toll on you if you let it.  Some days are easy to manage, where blood sugar numbers will be in the 100s with very little effort.  Some days, it takes all of my might to raise my blood sugar, and then lower it from the excessive carbs to raise it.  To the uneducated person, it would appear that I fail at diabetes those days.  They are not pleasant, but they are days that I learn more about my body and my attitude.  The good thing is that the sun always rises and I get to start tomorrow over.

8.  Diabetes and people are unique.
My diabetes is far different from a lot of other people's diabetes.  If you are an athlete, the condition is far different from the non-athletes.  Even within the athletic diabetes community our conditions and treatments vary.  This summer I went to Washington and ran in a relay with 11 other diabetics.  One thing that shocked me was the food they consumed (quantity and quality).  Their food choices do not work with my diabetes management or my diabetes, in general.  After that trip this summer, I realized just how differently people treat their diabetes.

9.  Do what you want.  Make the most of life.
I cannot tell you how many times I've gone to eat a cookie and someone has said, "oh, she can't have it because she is diabetic."  My typical response is, "actually, I can."  I like to eat cookies.  It is the junk food item that I love (I don't like a lot of other desserts).  If cookies are available to eat, and I want one, then I am going to do what I want and eat one.  I do what I want, not what others tell me.

They've come such a long way with diabetes technology in 22 years.  I can remember when I was first diagnosed my meter was huge - a small book - and I had to take the strip out halfway though, wipe it, and then re-insert it back in the machine for the final reading 2 minutes later (I think).  Diabetes is easier to manage now, but I'm still waiting on that cure.

I was searching for some picture to put on this post and came across this.  I thought it was pretty funny.  Maybe I'll wear it on November 14, for World Diabetes Day.

What has diabetes taught you?  Or, if you are not diabetic, how do you think you would overcome diabetes?


  1. Thanks for posting this, quite informational

  2. This is a very powerful post and words cannot describe how much I enjoyed reading it.
    Thanks for the inspiration and helping to fill my glass.