We never really realize how bad it could be, do we? Or sometimes we just don’t want to think about the worst case scenario. For the amount of time we spend worrying about the little things — Does my outfit look alright? Is my house clean enough? What am I doing tonight? — we often forget the bigger things. We forget that our friends may need us more than they vocalize, that not every moment lasts forever, and that some things that we want to change most are also the most out of our control.
For only four years now, I have been a diabetic. I have Type 1 Diabetes. For four years now I have also wavered between those two phrases: “I have diabetes” vs “I am diabetic”. Anyone with a chronic illness can tell you that we don’t want to be identified solely as such, and yet it is consistently who we are. About one year after diagnosis, when my insulin levels were depleting more rapidly, I cried to my younger brother about how I hated this illness, hated getting sicker, wished I would never have been this way, didn’t feel that anything was fair nor that I knew who I was anymore. He told me:
Diabetes is the best thing to ever happen to you. It is who you are. It is who you have always been, but it is something that you did not have to face until now. It just had to come at the right time, but it is not a bad thing because it makes you Katie.
Some friends drifted away out of confusion or fear, but other friends and family came toward me and stayed with me because, seriously (excuse me…), who the fuck cares whether I have to stab myself with a needle once in a while or whether I might get too dizzy to focus some days or whether I pay more attention to what I eat and when I exercise than other people may do. We all have our thing, and in 2011 this suddenly became mine.
That being said, living like this isn’t easy. This past week, a friend gave me a wakeup call. I won’t mention her name because she did nothing wrong nor on purpose but I did bring her to the hospital. She too is a “T1D” and was staying with a friend who couldn’t recognize the symptoms of a dangerously high blood sugar. “I didn’t know it could get that bad,” her friend told me.
I’ve heard it before: it’s not actually chronic, you’re over-exaggerating, it’s not that bad, just take your medicine and eat some sugar… In fact, it IS chronic and we are NOT over-exaggerating and it IS that bad sometimes. The extreme could lead to a coma, kidney failure, blindness, or even death.
It is not our responsibility to understand every illness out there and how to treat them, but it is our duty to recognize what our close friends and family are going through on a daily basis and, most importantly, to know how or when they need us there.
In my lifetime I know there will be a better solution. I know I will out-live many of my friends. I know I will do anything that I want and never let a couple of needles hold me back. For that reason, within one year of being diagnosed with diabetes, I moved overseas, learned to snowboard like a Coloradoan, ran my first half-marathon, and applied to grad school.
This year I am running the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Denver and raising money for the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation. I’ve done this before, and I’ll continue to do it until I help find a solution. I want to make others more aware that it could be “that bad”. I want to help find a way to make every child’s life better and prevent as many young children as possible from growing up too fast. I want my fundraising efforts to help more children avoid a lifetime of worrying that it could get “that bad”, and live longer lives of hope and happiness.
And most importantly, I want you all to always, always, always test your friend’s blood sugar before ever self-diagnosing them with a “high” or a “low” because sometimes a bit of information could truly save a life.