You have been my adversary and advocate for nearly 54 years. Since the age of 9 you have guided, for better or worse, throughout my entire life. For many of the early pre-teen and teenage years I hated you! I missed out on so much - parties, summer camp (no camps for diabetics then), overnights at friends' houses, trick or treating, and (of course) all the best foods. You were at best an adversary and at worst an enemy - don't get me started on the trips to the hospital. They were the worst! Especially the first one, when after a single day on the pediatric floor the doctor assigned to me dragged me out of bed to take me down the hall and into a room with a patient my age. "What's wrong with him?" that ass-hole bellowed. "I don't know," I told him. "I think he's just sleeping?" "Sleeping! He's not sleeping. He's in a coma. He's a diabetic like you. He doesn't take care of himself. He comes in every couple of months in that condition. He'll die soon and so will you, if you don't take better care of yourself!" Lesson learned. You're going to kill me. "And if I'm really lucky," another voice told me about the same time, "It won't happen until you're 35."
So, I began a 26 year wait for death - sometimes trying hard to ward you off by caring for myself compulsively and other times figuring, what's the use? I might as well ignore you and enjoy the years I have left! During those times I neglected your care - no urine glucose tests, no finger sticks, no regular visits to the doctor. Whatever happens, happens. Except things happened, which involved more than you and me: Marriage, three children, & (eventually) two grandchildren. Work in the church too, which most days I love - most days. It was here you began to be more of an advocate than an adversary - the second never completely eliminating the first, of course. You advocated for the extension of my life with and for those I love. You nurtured a sense of compassion in me toward those who also live with some chronic or life-threatening diagnosis. Diabetes, sure, but also heart disease, cancer, M.S., M.D., A.L.S., addictions, and all those mental illnesses diagnosed in my family. You helped me sit with them in their diseases and, as you know, into their deaths... Could I have done this without you? Who knows? But I'll give you credit for this one!
Thanks to a stroke and visual problems - which you caused, by the way - I guess I need to give you some indirect credit for pushing me to take my self-care more seriously over the years. An insulin pump, a great endocrinologist, a vision-saving eye doctor, better diet and consistent exercise - don't take all the credit for this last one; the dog encourages daily walks! These habits have lead to reasonably good health, especially for someone who has lived with you for 54 years. An advocate in some ways...
Would I have chosen those 54 years without you? Absolutely! But do I understand the way you have been a major player in forming who I am? I guess another absolutely is in order. Don't get a swelled head - or pancreas, though (ha!) - depending on what happens, I may hate you again tomorrow. Today? Well, we're on pretty good terms, and I guess that's not so bad.
Male, Age 63
Diabetes, Type I Pastor
Brianna Schiavoni, LCSW
“Ms. Schiavoni has given a voice to many people who battle various diagnoses. Through this therapeutic and empowering writing project, participants can finally share their story and reclaim their power over that diagnosis!”