On January 27, 2014, I celebrated 20 years of living with diabetes. It might seem strange to read that. Celebrate a disease? Hardly. Being diagnosed with diabetes is not a happy event. I don’t celebrate or relish the fact that I live with this infuriating disease. But I do celebrate the happy, successful and loving life I’ve led, despite the fact that I have this infuriating disease.
My Diabetes Diagnosis
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was eight years old and I remember it vividly. I remember the visit to my pediatrician, because I complained of an un-related earache (I’m pretty sure I was just trying to get out of school). I remember my mom telling him about my symptoms and I remember the dull, fluorescent yellow light of the bathroom where I urinated into a cup. I remember my mom telling me I had diabetes and I remember the drive to the hospital. I remember being so thirsty and I unfortunately remember vomiting from diabetic ketoacidosis as soon I was admitted to the hospital. I remember being afraid to prick my finger, I remembering injecting insulin into an orange and I remember the workbook the diabetes educator gave me to teach me about diabetes.
For some people, diabetes is the worst thing that has ever happened to them. For me, marking the day that my life irrevocably changed is a point of pride, because I’m able to acknowledge and celebrate all the wonderful things in my life that diabetes couldn’t take away.
Celebrating my Diaversary
My parents started this tradition of celebrating my diaversary (as it is sometimes called) after my first year with diabetes. I had begged and pleaded with my mother to let me get my ears pierced. I tried all the usual tactics that children employ, from listing off all my friends who had their ears pierced to demanding a good reason why I shouldn’t. Eventually I must have worn my mother down, because on the evening of January 27, 1995, my mother drove me to a nearby jewelry store where they did ear piercings.
It continued every year after - I received everything from dolls, to make-up, to knitting needles (knitting was a popular hobby among my college friends and I wanted to try). Eventually when I moved out of the house, my parents stopped giving me diaversary gifts. They still acknowledge it, but the celebration continues with me and my husband. Traditionally I get flowers and we go out to a nice dinner to celebrate the big day.
For my 20th diaversary, I was able to celebrate among my fellow D-friends. My husband and I had just officially moved from New York to Minnesota that day and we arrived with record-breaking wind chills. I was convinced no one would want to trek anywhere, but my dear friends wouldn’t let a little cold weather stand in their way. True Minnesotans! I was able to mark the occasion with lots of laughter and the sharing of D-memories.
Celebrating the Positives
Diabetes has certainly given me a lot of grief over the years, and given the choice, I would most certainly give it back. But since I can’t, I choose to appreciate the wonderful people I’ve met through having diabetes. I choose to celebrate what I have accomplished, from traveling to Europe, getting married, and thus far, avoiding any diabetes complications.
Diabetes is an extremely challenging, confusing and chaotic disease that doesn’t give you a break or cut you any slack. I have found it helpful to realize that even though things might not always be perfect, I am putting a lot of work into managing this disease and that’s worth something. That’s worth a lot. Managing diabetes is a thankless job, but all that we do and all that we’ve accomplished is worth celebrating. It’s a big deal to manage diabetes day in and day out, and we should pat ourselves on the backs once in a while.
So no, I don’t celebrate life with a disease. But I will certainly celebrate life.