The Angry Type 2 Diabetic: The Privilege of Living with Diabetes

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Privilege of Living with Diabetes

Dear Beautiful Person (who happens to have diabetes),

Today, you are here. Is there a purpose to your being here? A universal, master purpose? Many claim to have the answer to this, but the honest response is that no one knows. The question is, in fact, irrelevant. You are here. That is a fact. Everything else is just speculation.

It matters not if it's an illusion, a grand plan, a godly design, or a happenchance. You are here.

And while you are here, think upon the magnitude of your existence: The last science knew, the universe was 13.8 billion years old. During much of that time, Earth was a big, hot mess. Life only began to evolve 3.5 billion years ago. Modern man, alone, has only existed for about 200,000 years...  and only in the last 30 years or so, have we seen vast improvements in industry, technology, education, science... and medicine.


If you would have been diagnosed with diabetes (of almost any type) back in the 1800s, it was most certainly a death sentence -- if not, a very challenging life.

Insulin wasn't discovered as a treatment for diabetes until the 1920s, thanks to Banting and Best, when many children were literally dying of malnutrition and emaciation. Banting had the heart to insist on not patenting their new-found medicine, so that it could reach as many as needed it.

Metformin was invented in the 1920s as well, and has been used in other countries since the 40s, and 50s. It was not, however, approved in the United States for use with type 2 diabetes until 1994! Yes, that is not a typo. 1994.

Back in the pre-insulin days, starvation was all people knew to do to control diabetes. To eat basically no carbohydrates, or really anything much -- as proteins and fats can also raise glucose (though, admittedly, to a lesser degree). Many simply died because it was so stressful -- or they just couldn't resist pinching food, while no one was watching.

It wasn't until the 1980s when a person with diabetes was able to monitor their levels, independently, and the first glucose monitors appeared. If they had insulin -- that was a good tool -- but if they didn't, all they knew to do was avoid eating sweets. Diabetes has always been with us, at least in the archaeological records, since Egyptian times, and we've known it's a disease about high glucose, but aside from that, there wasn't much monitoring of glucose levels until well into the 80s. Ask anyone who was diagnosed many years ago, and they will tell you stories of urine testing (sometimes, once a month, at a doctor's office), and sharpening and boiling their own needles, for sterility.

In fact... we really didn't know that diabetes was not a disease caused by eating excess sugar and sweets, until at least the early 90s. The other day, I saw a very old VHS tape for an old Vitamix blender I have acquired, and in it, they recommended diabetics substituting honey, in place of sugar. I guess in their minds, anything that was natural sugar, was not really sugar.

And here we are now... 2013. With a variety of different types of insulin, mimicking both basal and bolus outputs from our pancreas, insulin pumps and CGMs to allow us to eat with more freedom and catch hypoglycemic events, the knowledge of counting carbohydrates and the freedom to eat cake, diabetes alert dogs, and glucose meters small, sleek, or indistinguishable from an iPod, small, and painless needles... and on the thresholds of smart insulin, biohub and artificial pancreas options, and noninvasive glucose testing.
. . .

Yes. Diabetes is still hard. But we are blessed to live in 2013, and not 1913. We can see ourselves as the victims of fate, or as the blessed recipients of a grand universal lottery. Think about the kind of life you have the chance to pursue, right now... that you would have never had a chance to pursue back then. Let it sink in -- let it's blessings humble you. 

Yes... diabetes can be embarrassing. But all disease is humbling. 

Even if you never had diabetes, life is much of an embarrassing process, as well... At birth, and near death... someone has to wipe our behinds. We get old, and lose our good looks... we may get cancer, and lose our breasts, we may get alopecia, and lose our hair... We may be like Farrah Fawcett, and get colon cancer -- colon cancer. 

Illness is humbling -- for we have to accept that we are frail, that we get sick, that we get old, and yes, sometimes... that we haven't always done the best to take care of ourselves. But, can you think of anyone who has been perfect -- all of their lives? Always perfect? I know one or two who claim they were -- and you know what -- I honestly don't like them very much. For one, they are liars. They may have read the manual on living, but they haven't actually lived very much. No one learns to ride a bike from reading a book -- and thus it is with living. Some of us just have to fall a few more times, than others... and it is our beautiful, gnarly scars, which make us who we are.

I never thought of Farrah Fawcett as much of a hero -- until her war with colon cancer. And I never thought much at all, about Ryan O'Neal, until his passionate devotion to the woman he sought to wed on her deathbed. 

Don't be angry at your loved ones, beautiful person (who happens to have diabetes). It is not a matter of blame. It is not a matter of fault. Don't leave this world, and lose hope... for these massive amount of events I have listed had to have gone through... and for you to be here, in this point in time. Your loved one, well... your loved one simply LOVES you. They are in deep fear because they do not want to be without you -- at least -- not sooner than life will will. Can we blame them? 

I was angry once... at my father for (in my own warped perception) not trying harder, at life and circumstance, and God, and you name it. I was once that angry loved one... living in FEAR. Sheer fear. But, you see... for whatever reason, you are here -- in this very moment in time, and a time when you happened to meet your loved one. This is a very precious moment in time... In fact, to quote Lawrence Krauss -- a renowned Theoretical Physicist: 
“Every atom in your body came from a star that exploded. And, the atoms in your left hand probably came from a different star than your right hand. It really is the most poetic thing I know about physics: You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements - the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life - weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode . . . The stars died so that you could be here today.”
Is diabetes embarrassing? Well, sometimes... But I am in fact honored to be so privileged to be alive, today... right now... Experiencing this universe, the love of friends, and family... The patter of rain on my window pains, the loving purr of my cat, and the imperfect love and friendship of that idiot that still lives here which I call my husband.

Yes, I am honored... to be living here, and living with diabetes.


  1. Lizmari, They are still at not understanding sugar (re. your honey comment above). I picked up a sugarfree cake recipe book this morning and noted it was using dextrose in its recipes!
    Thank you for speaking so well for all diabetics.

  2. i was once the agry one too... thank you for sharing <3

  3. Totally agree. IF I have to have diabetes, I'm so thankful to be living with it today. Thanks.

  4. Wow, what a great post liz.

  5. Great post liz.