With Thanksgiving just past and Christmas and New Year’s around the corner, this is a time of year for reflection. I’ve been thinking lately not only about what I am thankful for, but also what I wish for, and how that has changed over time. Recently I was discussing diabetes and other health related challenges with someone, and I found myself saying that I would trade my left arm to be rid of diabetes. Never mind that I am right handed, this still seemed like a huge sacrifice. Of course, this is not possible, but still, I kind of surprised myself when I said it out loud. And while I don’t remember the rest of that conversation, that one comment has stuck with me. I can’t quite forget that I said it, and that I really meant it.
I am coming up on my five year dia-versary, and that, too, has gotten me thinking about my life with diabetes, and the life I had before, without diabetes. I remember in the beginning– while I was misdiagnosed and getting sicker and sicker without the right treatment – there were times when I thought maybe it was just a mistake. Maybe I was sick with a cold when I had that first blood test, so my glucose was temporarily high. Maybe I really didn’t have diabetes. And then I would remember my feet tingling at night, and running to the bathroom every 30 minutes after chugging gallons of water, and still being thirsty. I remember feeling like I wouldn’t have the energy to drive home by about 2:00pm in the afternoon, because I was so exhausted, even after a full night’s sleep. Despite all those symptoms and all the blood tests, I wished with all my heart that it was just a dream and I would wake up without diabetes the next day.
At some point, those dreams stopped. I don’t remember when, but somehow gradually the truth took hold. After almost five years, I can’t say that I fully accept that I have diabetes, but at least I am no longer tempted to deny it. I would still like to wish it away, but my rational self has prevailed and I have stopped day dreaming that this might be possible. But I still play games in my mind. If I could trade anything or do anything to be free of diabetes, would I? How much would I do? What would I give up? My rational self does not like playing this game, but maybe it’s a part of the acceptance process. Maybe I need to put a value on diabetes, to try to quantify exactly how much it’s worth to me before I can fully accept it into my life.
As I look back on the progress I’ve made in the past five years, I have reason to be positive about the future. I caught myself thinking recently that when I get a bionic pancreas (in 2018, please!), maybe I will no longer have the cocktail party angst which I have and hate so profoundly now, especially this time of year when cocktail parties abound. Maybe I’ll be able to stand around casually drinking wine and nibbling on carb rich snacks like everyone else, as if I haven’t a care in the world! Maybe, free of some of the stuff I hate (like the constant reminders of how I am different from the people around me), I’ll finally be able to fully accept having diabetes. So as I put together my wish list for 2017, I will strike out “I wish I didn’t have diabetes” and replace it with “I hope that I will accept having diabetes”. And of course, I will also wish for speedy FDA approvals of all things that will enable my acceptance and ease my life with diabetes. And I am thankful today for the progress I have made, the incredible medical team I have formed, the amazing diabetes sisters I have in my life now, and the tribe of people living with diabetes who surround and support me when I need it most.