Do you remember your life before diabetes?
I was thinking about the Bionic Pancreas the other day. What it does and how life is different for the few days that people are on it. How they can eat what they want and do what they want and they don’t have to think about numbers or symptoms or back-up plans. The idea that, for the most part, life on the bionic pancreas means just being. I know that a bionic pancreas is not a cure. But it made me think about what it could be like to have life almost without diabetes.
I thought about what it would be like to eat a meal and not check my blood sugar, count carbs, take insulin, and wonder if what I did would be enough. I thought about it and I realized that I’d never really done it before. Of course, having been diagnosed at eight and half years old, there were plenty of meals where I ate without thinking about what I was doing. Hundreds of meals, actually.
And I don’t remember any of them.
I have only the faintest memories of life before diabetes. I remember playing in the sprinklers at day care. I remember the day my brother was born. I remember throwing up in my elementary school’s hallway when I was six (it was quite traumatic). I remember my second grade teacher reading stories in his funny voices. I remember… There’s not much before diabetes.
But I remember diabetes.
I remember the weeks leading up to my hospitalization. I remember the persistent thirst, waiting in line at school for a drink of water and then going to the end of the line for just one more. I remember my third grade teacher pulling me aside, commenting on my pale skin and dark circles, asking if everything was okay. I remember waking up three, four times a night to pee. I remember my dad sitting in my desk chair in the middle of the night, waiting for me when I got back from the bathroom. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember it scared the shit out of me.
Then there’s the day I was diagnosed. I remember the fluorescent yellow lights of my pediatrician’s bathroom as I peed into a cup. Oddly enough, I remember my reflection in the mirror. I remember waiting for the phone call. I remember my mother telling me I had diabetes. I remember the drive to the hospital. I remember throwing up all over myself. I remember feeling very small in the Intensive Care Unit.
My strongest, most vivid memories begin with diabetes. And I carry diabetes with me through all the memories that came after. Many wonderful things have happened since being diagnosed with diabetes, but the truth is that diabetes was there for all of it. Prom, graduation, learning to drive, moving away, college, moving away again, traveling, getting married. My memories are not only about diabetes, but diabetes was still there.
There is so very little before diabetes. But maybe someday I will have an After.