Diabetes is Absolutely a Big Deal

by Brandon

Gonna’ get a little personal on this one. I normally don’t talk about my personal life in any substantive way, but November is Diabetes Awareness Month and today is actually World Diabetes Day, so I feel like I owe it to my wife to talk a little about the disease. You see, my wife has type 1 diabetes. She was diagnosed when she was 4 years old. She got her first insulin pump when she was 10. Because the insulin pump is permanently attached to her hip, it’s often a conversation-starter for folks. I’m going to tell you about one of the first times I witnessed one of these conversations, which also happens to be my first major lesson in regards to diabetes.

We were on a cruise, heading toward the Bahamas. It was our honeymoon. For the duration of the cruise, we shared our dinner table with another couple. If I remember correctly, they were from North Carolina. On the second night, we were having dinner and getting to know this other couple when they noticed my wife’s insulin pump. As soon as they saw my wife pressing buttons on the little device attached to her hip, they asked about it.

My wife gladly explained what it was. She explained that she had diabetes and she explained that the pump helped her to maintain regular blood glucose levels. The other couple seemed genuinely interested and this led to a rather drawn out question-and-answer session about diabetes.

“So you can’t eat sugar?”

“I can eat sugar. I just have to keep track of carbs and adjust my insulin appropriately.”

“Does it hurt when it pumps insulin?”

“Not really.”

“Do you ever take it off?”

“I take it off when I shower, but really, it’s attached pretty much all the time.”

“So you have a needle in your stomach at all times?”

“It’s technically a small tube, not a needle, but yeah. It’s always there.”

“When did you get diabetes?”

“I was diagnosed when I was 4.”

“So you have juvenile diabetes?”

“Yeah. It’s also called type 1 diabetes.”

It went on like this throughout dinner. After several minutes, I began to feel protective of my wife. She was there to enjoy a cruise, after all. She wasn’t here to host a diabetes seminar. I started to worry that all the questions were making my wife uncomfortable, so I decided to move the conversation to a new topic.

“It’s not a big deal,” I interjected, “as long as she takes care of herself.”

The man and his wife both just nodded, apparently understanding that I was basically saying, “Let’s move on.” The conversation quickly moved on to the inherent awesomeness of being on a cruise.

I felt good. I had successfully moved the conversation to something more pleasant without creating any awkwardness.

Or so I thought…

After dinner, as we were walking to the upper deck, my wife stopped in a hallway and said, “Bran, can I get preachy for a minute?”

“Sure.” I could tell she was slightly nervous.

She was quiet for a few seconds, then said, “Don’t ever tell people diabetes is not a big deal.”

“Ah, crap,” I said. “I’m sorry. I was just trying to move the conversation along. I figured you were getting tired of all the questions.”

“That’s cool,” my wife said with a smile. She wasn’t angry. She just wanted to make sure I understood. “I appreciate that you were looking out for me, but I’m fine with answering questions about diabetes. It’s something I’ve lived with all my life and I’m happy to answer questions about it.”

“Got it,” I said.

“I just want to make sure you understand that diabetes is a big deal,” Laura said. “It’s a deadly disease that has killed millions of people.”

“Consider me properly chastised,” I said.

“Good deal,” my wife said. “Now let’s go have fun.”

We went on to have a great time on the cruise.

Intellectually, I understood my wife’s point, but I didn’t get it on any kind of emotional level. Not  yet.

A couple months later, I got it. Life rammed the lesson home.  (Continue to Page 2)

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