Five years ago today I was told I had diabetes. I walked into an urgent care clinic thinking there might be something minor going on, and walked out with a life-changing diagnosis. I’ve struggled with how to feel about this anniversary, which has been looming in the back of my mind for months.
I talked to a fellow type 1 the other day, who was diagnosed a year and a half ago. He mentioned that he hardly remembers life without diabetes anymore and it struck me that I don’t either. During my first couple of years, I would think back on experiences and categorize them as pre- or post-diagnosis. A trip to Norway was pre-diagnosis. A trip to Thailand was post-diagnosis. A carefree barhopping birthday celebration was pre. An awkward business lunch with injections was post. I don’t think like that anymore.
It’s largely because I’ve gotten used to this new life. I instinctively count the carbs of the food in front me and think about how much insulin I need to cover them. I automatically check my blood sugar before and after meals, exercise, and sleep. I change my insulin pump site every three days like clockwork. The habits required by diabetes have become second nature.
But just because diabetes has become part of my routine, doesn’t mean it’s become painless. It hasn’t become more predictable. It hasn’t become less scary. I stumbled upon a post by Hallie at Princess and the Pump that beautifully addresses this very idea. In it she writes about how she and her daughter, who was diagnosed with type 1 almost six years ago, are doing:
“We are used to treating this disease largely on our own.
We are used to making life and death decisions every day.
We are used to the sleepless nights.
We are used to the fear.
It’s just what we do. It’s our life. It’s our normal.
But just because we may be more quiet than we used to be does not mean it’s become easy.”
So, five years of living with diabetes hasn’t made it easy, but it has made it routine. And time has taught me that I can continue to push boundaries, pursue my dreams, and live life to the fullest, even with a 24/7 disease. It may not be easy, but it will not stop me.
I talked to my mom yesterday and told her that today marked my five-year diabetes anniversary. She congratulated me and I asked why. Why would you congratulate someone for living with a disease for five years? “Because you’re doing so well,” she said. She’s right. And that’s worth celebrating.