4AM. quiet, calm.
meanwhile, my phone is blowing up, my Dexcom CGM (continuous glucose monitor) alert is screaming…
and yet, i can’t hear a thing.
4:10AM. *Hamilton (my dog) howling, snarling, barking.*
*knock knock knock* “Tuscaloosa EMS!”
i hazily begin to get myself out of bed.
whoa. standing is not a good idea.
i almost pass out.
i finally gain enough strength to see who is at my door and why.
“ma’am, we received a call from our dispatch who communicated with your mother. she said your blood glucose level has been under 35 mg/dL for nearly two hours. you are at high risk of seizing, and becoming comatose.”
they test my vitals and help me correct. as i wait to stabilize, i tell them, “i’m good; i’ve got it from here. just gotta wait until my blood sugar comes back up.”
they won’t leave until i am stable.
“honestly, we’re surprised that you’re coherent right now,” they say.
“this ain’t my first rodeo,” i reply, with a half-hearted chuckle. “it’s been a rough year or so.”
they make sure i’m stable and they wish me well.
(i am so grateful for our emergency personnel in tuscaloosa.)
if you’ve known me for a while, or if you’ve been following my journey for the past year or longer, you’ll know that, much to my chagrin, this body of mine is not necessarily the most reliable machine.
this time last year, i was in and out of the hospital, fighting DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis.) this time last year, i wondered if i would even get to see 2017.
because of this disease, i have spent my past two birthdays in the hospital (hoping to break that curse this year.) because of this disease, i can’t function at the level of “normal” that i so long for. because of this disease, i have to sometimes be a hermit, because if i don’t listen to my body and put its demands first, it can be fatal.
that’s very heavy, and hard for people to understand (even family and friends in my closest circle.)
being a type 1 diabetic, i am more susceptible to:
- getting sick easier/for longer/worse than someone with a “normal” immune system
- to developing more conditions (no matter how healthily i live)
- and to landing in the hospital (for the smallest things.)
i developed this disease due to no fault of my own; it simply runs in my family. my body was attacked by a virus in 2011 that awakened this genetic predisposition for T1, shutting down my pancreas.
my pancreas fully lost the ability to create insulin on its own. nothing i do will reignite the ability for my body to produce its own insulin. meaning, my insulin must be injected manually.
without insulin, i will die.
i did not develop T1 from “eating big macs” (honestly, never had a big mac in my life,) and i certainly did not develop it from lack of exercise. in fact, at the time i was diagnosed, i worked out twice a day every day, ate nothing but lean meat and veggies, and hydrated constantly.
this happened to me; i did not cause this to happen from my own choices/actions.
quite frankly, i am tired of being the butt of your jokes.
i am usually pretty patient, and find most things funny. laughter is my favorite medicine.
however, jokes about diabetes (and any illness, for that matter) just cut me to my core. i cannot laugh at them.
despite the fact that i’m well-controlled + work hard at my efforts to do so, i’m still considered “brittle.” in short, this means that i can do everything perfectly right, and still encounter catastrophe regardless. even diabetics who are not brittle deal with this just the same.
my sweet husband has had a doctor look him in the face four times over the past eleven months telling him, “i’m sorry but your wife may not make it through the night” because of this disease.
i did nothing to contract this disease. this same disease that has tried and continues to try and kill me, also makes me the butt of society’s (cruel, ignorant) jokes.
the pain + anxiety this disease causes me and my family makes none of these kinds of jokes funny to me.
you see, it’s not just about me.
i don’t get to talk to my husband often in this current season of life, as he is in the military. but when i do, the first thing he asks is, “how are you feeling? how are your levels? have you been hospitalized in my absence?”
i see his eyes glisten with tears as i try to give the (watered-down) report of what life is like in this body lately.
i hear the panic in my mother’s voice as she frantically tries to reach me as my levels drop, and drop, and drop (or rise, and rise, and rise.)
i see the concern on my brother and sister’s faces as they internally wonder, “will this happen to me, too?”
i feel the pity and misunderstanding received from those who want to get it, but can’t.
this disease has tried to kill me, and it continues to.
but, make no mistake: i will. not. let. it.
mark my words.
each day is a fight.
each day when you ask me how i’m doing, i struggle with how to answer.
each day is a chance for me to prove to this nasty affliction that God has written my story; He is in control. and i know to my core that i will never stop doing my part; i will never stop fighting, as long as i live.
each day is “dire straits” for me.
and so, SNL, that is why i’m not laughing at your distasteful diabetes joke.
because, not only is it entirely fabricated and horrifically false, but it stings. it stings on behalf of myself: someone who literally fought tooth-and-nail from slipping into a coma multiple times over the past year. and it stings on behalf of my tribe; those who may not fully understand what this feels like, but who commiserate with me and support me just the same.
so i ask you: is it worth it? is laughing at my pain worth it to you?
i would hope the answer is no, but in this day and age, who can be sure.
i encourage you to really think about the implications your “jokes” have.
picture the faces of those who are impacted and hurt by your “joking” words.
because they’re more than just words.
they perpetuate a myth; a myth that causes me to live in shame.
at the end of the day, this disease does not define me.
i simply won’t let it. because i am more than this. i spend my time and whatever energy i do have shattering expectations. “oh you’re diabetic, you must be fat and lazy.” nope, sorry. i’m a multi-half marathoner who enjoys physical fitness. “oh you’re diabetic, you must only eat crappy foods.” actually, i don’t eat much, and when i do, i much prefer food that serves as fuel over junk.
i could eat exclusively kale and run 6 hours a day every day for the rest of my life, and i will still have type 1 diabetes. because this disease is not at all impacted by what i eat or how much i work out.
i only feel like i have to justify myself to you, because you put me in that position when you make my disease a joke.
because it matters.