Today marks the first day of Diabetes Week 2016, and so I thought rather I’d write a blog post – the blog has been quiet over the last few months as I’ve been busy trying to get through a tough year of medical school and Clare has been finishing her nursing studies.
I’d like to talk about something controversial: Diabetes is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
I was diagnosed on World Diabetes Day 2007. I’d just graduated from university and started working, and frankly was not a particularly functional human being (I’m not 100% I’m loads better now, to be honest).
It was a shock at the time. It was probably the closest I’d ever come to having to confront my own mortality and certainly the first time I’d ever really had to think about taking care of myself. I didn’t really process the shock at the time, and only really started to unpack it properly over the last couple of years.
And yes, Diabetes is annoying. It’s frustrating. It gets me down. But it was also the making of me.
In the eight and a half years since I was diagnosed, I’ve learned an awful lot about my body, how it works, what its tolerances are, and that actually many of the limits I place on it are psychological rather than physical. I have done a number of things that I simply don’t believe I would have done if it weren’t for wanting to prove that I could do it despite having diabetes.
Without it I would never have run a 10k. I would never have started exercising regularly. I would never have actively tried to diet and lose weight.
I’m not sure I would have ended up working 10 feet away from the Prime Minister’s desk. I’m not sure I would have been scrubbed in theatre last week, assisting on a Caesarean Section.
I have learned that while I often lack the willpower to do (or not do) things, I also have the capacity to achieve things from sheer force of will – like reducing my HbA1c just to see if I could.
Turning 18 may have made me an adult, but being diagnosed with diabetes aged 22 made me a grown up.
It’s helped me learn about risk, most importantly how and when to take them. Yes, this is knowledge gleaned from rage boluses, but it’s applicable across the entire span of life experience.
If I didn’t have diabetes, I’m not sure I would have taken the gamble of walking away from a stable career to study medicine. I wouldn’t have found passion, and an idea of where I want to go with the rest of my life, professionally.
For the first time in my life, I have met people where it feels like we relate to each other’s life experiences – at least in terms of the part of it made up by diabetes.
I know that many people resent their diabetes, and I’m not trying to make out that it’s not hard. I’m not trying to make out that I’m actually very good at my diabetes – the quality of my control goes up and down, I get on the wagon and fall off more frequently than most.
But by having a few cells in one organ that make one hormone taken away from me, I’ve gained a much richer understanding of life, and of who I am as a person. To me, that’s worth all the injections in the world.
Thank you, Diabetes.