I never used to mark this milestone. I barely remembered the date, except that it was in July and a bit before one of my nephew’s birthdays. I remember that part because I asked the doctor to let me out of the hospital for the evening, so I could celebrate with the rest of the family.
Then I started seeing various bloggers talking about their diaversary, and I thought, Why not? I opened my iCal on my computer and started clicking the arrow back, back and back a bit more to 1993, and yep, there it was: July 19, the day my life changed.
There were definitely some high points. I met my husband two months before my diagnosis. We were a great match! On our first date, I marveled that he carried a water bottle with him all the time, just like me. As an undiagnosed diabetic, I was constantly thirsty, and would down bottle after bottle. I didn’t know my husband-to-be carried his bottle with him because he was a healthy 30 something year old man, who liked to drink water.
I was also finally skinny. I’d just returned from a film shoot in Poland, and had lost a lot of weight. The first time I met my step-mother-in-law, she exclaimed, in her thick New York accent, “Will you look at the figure on that girl!” I still remember what I was wearing – a tight fitted denim dress with snaps from the scoop neck to the hem; it would never do up today.
That year had been the best – and the worst. Yes, I met my husband. I traveled to Europe to make a film, and spent a week alone wandering around Paris. I lost a ton of weight and felt confident, finally. (I’ve written before about my struggles with my weight and will no doubt write about this again.)
But, in the months that would follow my initiation into the world of diabetes, my dad would have the first of two heart attacks, another event that would be life changing.
I remember that September, a couple of months into my life with diabetes. It was the Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur. It’s a major fast day but considering my new “condition” and that my dad was recovering from a heart attack a few weeks earlier, neither of us was spending the day not eating.
We had a great tradition prior to this: Every year, after a morning spent in synagogue, my father and I would go for a walk together, sometimes for hours at a time, to ward off the boredom of a day spent without tv or eating (our family’s way of observing the holiday). That year, neither of us were allowed to fast, so we sat drinking coffee and sharing a muffin at a downtown coffee shop, located on the ground floor of my parents’ apartment building.
You’d think we’d be excited about getting a free pass for food on this holiest of days, but both of us felt awful; being able to eat when the rest of the family was fasting wasn’t nearly the thrill we’d expected. We talked about life, diagnoses, changes, his hopes for me, and the future. As the sun set, we headed to my cousin’s for another annual event – the breaking of the fast with a meal of bagels, cream cheese, cakes, and more. The guilt was ours alone; medical conditions take precedence over ritual in Judaism.
Seven months later, my dad would pass away due to a massive heart attack that April. I was grateful to have my soon-to-be husband with me for support; we moved in together the week after my dad passed away.
I hoped that I could put my diabetes on hold through that period and focus instead on grief and supporting my mother. But diabetes doesn’t work that way. I remember having to balance deep sadness with the regimen of testing and taking my insulin.
Twenty-nine years have given me a lot of time to reflect on how this “condition” has had an impact on my life. I’ve dealt with glucometers, needles, pens, pumps with cables (Animas) and without (still on my Omnipods), and of course, the freedom of a constant glucose monitor (Dexcom). I have a drawer in the kitchen that’s filled with old metres, lancets, penlet needles, urine dipsticks, patterned tapes, syringes, alcohol swabs, and test strips (both used and unused).
Lately, I’ve been more aware of my diabetes than usual or at least my frustration with it. The days of “look at the figure on that girl” have been replaced with “have you gained a bit of weight?”
The combination of menopause and covid (in March), have sent my sugars out of whack. I knew what I was experiencing was more than a cold or allergies when my blood sugar started climbing. Weeks later, I’m finally back to a sort of normal, in terms of my BG, but I’m taking more insulin than I did before covid. I’m also learning to not freak out when I see a high BS although I do still lose it when I see a low… which is a good thing. I need to eat.
I still fantasize about a diabetes holiday, knowing that isn’t a realistic option. I’m in awe that after all these years, I don’t always “get it right”, be it carb counting or adjusting my basal levels.
I’m used to the marks on my skin after so many years. I don’t bother to scrub off the adhesive left behind when I take off my pod or my Dexcom. I feel like those marks are all part of my story.
I’m here. And the technology is evolving. And my husband still wakes up and brings me juice when my Dexcom screams at me in the middle of the night with a low blood sugar notification.
Who knows what the next 29 years will bring.