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Happy Diaversary to Me

February 24, 2019

On this day, 36 years ago, my life changed forever. I was in seventh grade and was coming off a week of being sick with a virus.

I went to school that Thursday, but was called out of class in the early afternoon. My mom was at the principal’s office and met me with a somber look. I had to go to the hospital, she said.

It was diabetes.

My family had experience with diabetes before. My older brother, Jim, had been diagnosed about five years before me. As the years have gone on, I’ve forgotten more details about that day and week than I remember, but some things are still as clear as if they’d happened yesterday.

During dinner the night before, I wasn’t hungry at all, but couldn’t get enough milk. (Little did I know that it was boosting my blood sugar.) Also, I had to excuse myself a bunch of times to go to the bathroom. I had to pee A LOT.

When I went to school, though, I felt pretty good. I remember being in music class, which, for a Catholic school in the early ’80s in suburban Philadelphia, was a rarity. (Why waste time in music class when we could be learning some more about how unworthy we were? Thanks again, Sister Dolores Marie!)

Anyway, from the time I was picked up through admission at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) was a blur.

Over the next week, I learned how to test my blood sugar (using a “Glucometer,” which was about the size of a small end table. It was big and finicky and had to be calibrated with every use). I remember the first time I gave myself insulin, and how it took me close to a half hour before I was able to do the trick and insert the syringe, then push the plunger and inject the life-saving insulin under my skin.

The clearest memory I have of my week and a half in the hospital was watching the series finale of the TV show M*A*S*H, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” which was a real cultural event at the time.

I also remember seeing many JDRF-sponsored materials featuring the poster people of diabetes: Mary Tyler Moore and Bobby Clarke. The central theme of their message was that the cure is just around the corner. (It’s been a large corner, but especially big since pharmaceutical and insurance companies realized that I and others like me are a commodity. I’m worth millions to them as long as I have to continue using insulin and test strips and other magnificent technologies that have been developed that aren’t a cure.)

I left the hospital and resumed my life. I’ve dealt with a lot of negative things associated with my condition, which include but aren’t limited to the following: hypoglycemia, discrimination (I was fired from a job for having had a hypoglycemic shock at work, but more on that another time), stress (which impacts blood sugars), shame (which impacts blood sugars), and all sorts of other negativities.

You can see some of the numbers associated with my diabetes in the image at the top of this entry, which only provide the smallest of snapshots of the impact it’s had.

But I’m 36 years in and have no long-term effects from my condition. And I’m not planning on going anywhere, anytime soon. So happy 36th diaversary to me, and f*§k you, diabetes.

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