The Second Eighteen Years

Support is important.

This past Saturday, I celebrated an anniversary.  It wasn’t the wedding variety, a breakup, or the time I taught myself how to catch a baseball with my right hand, so that I wouldn’t have to use my left hand to catch the ball, slip my left hand out of the glove, and throw it.

Saturday marked the 18th anniversary that I was diagnosed with diabetes.  August 18, 1994 was the day I learned that I was going to live with a chronic illness for the rest of my life.

The first 18 years of my life was being a kid.  The second 18 years has been much different.  I don’t consider myself a perfect diabetic by any means.  I’ve had my good and bad days, and days that made me say “how in the hell did this happen?”  Case in point:  In 2005, I thought my blood glucose was doing well one night after a pasta dinner.  Around 10:30 that evening, I headed off to bed.  The next thing I know, I’m on the floor, in front of my bedroom closet, with one of the sliding doors on top of me. 

Hypoglycemia is unkind to us PWDs (people with diabetes). 

In assessing the second 18 years of my life, I’m fortunate.  I still have my eyesight, though glasses do help see things that some umpires miss.  Limbs still intact, though I’ve had some issues with my legs.  It’s no fun when your legs and feet swell up and feel like the Goodyear blimp.  That’s what ottomans are for.  Your feet needs to relax too.

People ask me if I wished I didn’t have diabetes.  For a while, I didn’t have a good answer to offer.  On one hand, fate assigns you something that you didn’t ask for, and on the flip side, there is a reason and a purpose for you to be dealing with it.  I’m in a position today in which I can say that I would rather live with diabetes.  Why?  Because I have a story to tell and people who need to hear it, if they’re willing to hear it.

Which is why despite telling friends and acquaintances about living with diabetes, there seems to be a level of apprehension or indifference towards talking about it.  We are comfortable talking about cancer, simply because we know more people who were diagnosed and have survived cancer.  Cancer is more commonplace, given it’s profile by individuals like Lance Armstrong and groups like the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

When it comes to children, we’ll bend over backwards, go to the moon and back to ensure children get the best care, love, and tools they need to be successful.  That’s a natural response by adults to that.

However, when it comes to our health, as adults, we turn skittish, for fear that what we reveal may bring unwarranted scorn or shame.  Mental health, multiple scerlosis, and other chronic illnesses and diseases are still considered as taboo in public to talk about, especially among those in my age group (young professionals). 

For me, it is not worth keeping silent about diabetes.  If I have a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episode, I want my friends to know what to do to if I start to feel dizzy and slurring my words.  If I need support, I want my friends to show support, whether advocating, financial, or in spirit, to educate others what diabetes is.

I don’t ask a lot out of my family and friends, because it’s not my nature to do so.  I would rather give than receive.  But I know that eventually I have to ask for support and help.  My health isn’t going to remain the same in the next 18 years, as it was in the first 18 years and the second 18 years. 

The Central Iowa Step Out to Fight Diabetes Walk will be held on October 6th, starting from Nollen Plaza, thru East Village, to the Capitol and back to Nollen.  To learn more about participating in this year’s walk, contact the American Diabetes Association of Iowa at 515.276.2237 ext. 6865, or jmatalone@diabetes.org

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