This is a piece I contributed to my friend Sas Petherick’s book The Body Stories.
I poke holes into my body 6-16 times a day, every day. That’s 2190-5840 holes per year. Some of those are for bloodletting. Others let in the hormone I long ago stopped producing. Contrary to what is a weirdly common question: I do still feel it, even after nearly 27 years. In fact, over the last year or so they have all begun to hurt more than they ever did before, a fact which makes no scientific sense; but there it is.
I listen intently to my body in order to be able to hear the beginnings of things I need to ward off: low blood sugar, high blood sugar. A migraine. A panic attack. Sometimes an innocuous thing sounds malignant, and I gather up all my tools and strategies for what turns out to be nothing at all. Other times the opposite is true, and I’m soundly defeated because I misheard.
About once a year I am overtaken by a huge bitterness over this hand I was dealt as a ten-year-old. Why can’t I just live my life? What I wouldn’t give to be able to simply give myself over to the moment, without reserving some part of myself to act as sentinel. To not deal with medical professionals who understand so very little about what it’s like to live this way, yet pass judgment upon the way I manage it (which is, I’ve been made to understand, pretty damned well). To not answer the same five inane questions from mostly well-meaning people. To not keep a constant algorithm in my head. To never again ask myself silently, and almost unconsciously, If x equals insulin and y equals time and z equals food, then what is your current state, factoring in hormones and nutrition and energy levels and depression and stress?
The truth is, I’m lucky. It’s not cancer, or AIDS, or any one of what must be a million other more difficult, more immediately damning, conditions. Had I been born one hundred years earlier, I’d have died before my eleventh birthday. Had I been born to a different mother, one without a medical background, I’d likely not have done so well.
I never remember that you’re diabetic, many friends say to me. You just don’t make a big deal about it.
I never know what to make of that. The truth is, it’s not that interesting. It’s not likely to kill me, despite all the secondary conditions that have struck the majority of people who’ve lived with type 1 diabetes for this long – all of which I’ve managed to avoid. Borrowed time, I suppose. Still: not all that interesting. What’s more, I’m not interested in turning it into a cause I discuss, let alone champion. It’s a hoop I jump through, all day, every day, and I’ll be damned if I let it be anything more than that.
But this body? Oh, I know it’s not much to look at. It will never win any awards for fitness or graceful carriage. Still, this body deserves a medal. For swift and mostly accurate communication. For diligence. For endurance.