secret to long life with diabetes

The Secret to Long life with Diabetes

Living with type 1 diabetes is hard for sure, but it’s not all struggle and one can unlock the secrets to live a long life with diabetes. There are periods lasting up to several hours when I don’t think about my diabetes. So it’s not constantly on my mind, and even when it is, it’s not too bad. When you think of it as a lifestyle, it can be easier to bear.

Though I have to say, it can be a bit hard for a non-diabetic to understand what life with diabetes entails. Type 1 diabetes needs so much constant management and thought, that it often becomes our second nature. I know my wife understands it deeply, but for a someone who doesn’t live with  a diabetic, it can be difficult to grasp the impact diabetes has on our lives.

For me, it has become a part of my personality. My world grows or shrinks with the success of my treatment. When I’m struggling with it, it is all I can think about and the fears bring me down. I become like a beggar looking for a coin, whose world becomes the size of that coin. My world becomes the size of diabetes. I’m “scanning” my body for symptoms of highs and lows, thinking about my next and previous meals, physical activity, evaluating current cannula spot “sweetness”, amount of insulin on board, feeling bad about failed self-care, fearing that abnormal lack of sensation in my big toe and what it might mean. The list goes on. And while I am thinking about these things, I’m not thinking about anything else. Nothing else fits in my world at that moment. In those moments, diabetes is far from a lifestyle choice.

But there are times when I feel like I love my diabetes. And it’s not like I’m an unstable personality, I just adapt. When I’ve been at an optimal self-care level for a longer period of time, I somehow forget all the bad things. I remember all the proverbial coins I have received from diabetes. That, in fact, I am very rich. You can juggle my purse of gold coins here.

Drawing inspiration from the stories of other diabetics

The main thing that empowers me in addition to treatment going well, is other diabetics. I get energised and filled with hope when I’m in the company of t1ds or even when I just hear an inspiring story from someone about their life with diabetes.

Like when a couple of weeks back, I interviewed a type 1 diabetic who had been diagnosed 60 years ago. He had had a lack of feeling in his feet in the early 80s, when he was not able to treat himself well enough. His eyes had already been under the laser back then. The complications had raised their ugly hydra heads. But then, he found balance in life and diabetes after receiving one of the first consumer bg meters. And you know what, the lack of feeling symptoms went away and his body recovered. That was 35 years ago and he is still kicking around, even doing heavy labor. That story got me filled with hope and joy. Of course, the man won the gene lottery as his body adapts to his diabetes extremely well. But still, he started his treatment back in the time when one measured blood glucose from a day’s worth of urine. Today, we have great tools and treatments and if we truly want, we can always take better care of ourselves and our diabetes.

So what was the man’s secret for a long life with diabetes? First, he told me he has always considered life with diabetes more as a lifestyle than living with a disease. Secondly he brought up regular intervals between meals and constant exercise in the form of physical labor. He is a farmer and all the days are filled with tasks where you have to strain yourself. Got to try out that lumberjack life!

Before we said our farewells, I watched him cut down a tree and trim it. He wore his lumberjack gear and all I could think was that I couldn’t discern whether the brisk man working in front of me was 70 or 30 years old.