news

I’m so sweet that I got Diabetes.

by MIRIAM ERYAN

“God forgot to give me flaws,” so later in life, last December in fact, I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I make light of it like that all the time. “I was so sweet that even my own body couldn’t handle it,” I joke, and then you get those half sympathetic, half thankful you made a joke faces in reply.

Miriam

It’s true, you never really know what to say when someone is sick and Diabetes is a tricky one. You never look ill, you can still exercise, you eat healthily (mostly because you want to, but other times because you have to). In a way it’s a great thing that nobody looks at you and instantly knows that something is wrong. In other ways, it’s devastating because as a fiercely independent young woman, when I’m breaking into a sweat and my bones feel like their rattling, when the room feels like it’s closing in on me and  my sight begins to blur, I’m suddenly reliant on strangers to rescue me. I’m forced to admit that something is wrong and that can be the hardest thing to say.

I know it sounds cocky. It can seem proud, but appearance has always mattered to me… then I got diagnosed. I still do my hair and makeup everyday (maybe sometimes to compensate for what’s going on inside me) then that external beauty quickly diminishes when I have to pull out an insulin needle at breakfast, lunch or dinner with friends. I’m fortunate though. I have a great support network and most won’t even bat an eyelid as I’m doing it. I do catch other people’s uncomfortable glances though. To them I’d often like to tell them what seven needles pierced into your skin everyday feels like to me. It doesn’t always hurt, I don’t always mind it, but I never enjoy it and I don’t enjoy the uncomfortable looks but why don’t you try jabbing yourself with a needle right before you eat everyday, wherever you are? Don’t get me started on the anxiety of having to tell someone on a date, just in case illness is a deal breaker for them (and to be honest I’d understand that – no one likes excess baggage).

In many ways, I’m lucky – I got to spend 23 years without the pain and without the panic that accompanies a hypo (when your sugar drops and you might pass out). I could never say it was fair or fortunate for a four year old to have to deal with this. That’s the age that many young kids are diagnosed with this illness. I don’t know how a kid could cope with regular finger pricks and injections or constant attatchment to an insulin pump. I don’t know how their parents deal with the anxiety and fear that they’re child might die in their sleep if their sugar levels aren’t well managed or how they’d go to work, weighted with worry over how their child will cope with the next sugar drop and if that will send them to hospital. I’m lucky. I am. I know I’ll always manage.

I, like 122,300 other Australians (thank God I’m not alone in this) am affected by Diabetes. The disease usually arises in childhood but it lasts a lifetime because it destroys your pancreas’ ability to produce insulin, which is vital for life, vital for weight loss, vital for regular function of your entire body. There is no cure – yet and it is certain that going on a diet or cutting down on sugar doesn’t stop type 1 diabetes (so every insensitive sod I know who has asked me that, please STOP). It’s difficult enough to deal with.

ADVERTISEMENT

Normally, I’m stoic about this.

Normally, I wouldn’t say a word. When people tell me I’m eating so healthily I’ll rarely let on that it’s because of a stomach turning fear that if I was to submit to any sugar craving, I’d end up comatose, or an amputee, or with kidney failure (they’re the scary extremes of Type 1 Diabetes that doctors scare you with in you first week of diagnosis).

In fact, anyone who is not at my gym or in my close friendship circle wouldn’t have a clue about my diagnosis. I do a great job of hiding the pain. I’m excellent at hiding the needle. Sometimes…stupidly, I even try to brave the symptoms of my hypo so people won’t know that I’m struggling. It’s hard to explain but I just hate to admit to weakness and knowing that this is a supremely female quality is what strengthened me to share this story.

For a while, I was miserable because my diagnosis was a rare case that no doctor could definitively explain. They still can’t but I’m past waiting for an explanation and eight months on from my diagnosis, am ready to let both strangers and friends know that this is me. I’m doing great. Some days (except when I’m injecting my insulin) I’ll forget I even have it but I’m submitting to my desire to share this because I might need your help one day. I do right now.  It’s in both of our best interests to know about Type 1 Diabetes. Someone you know might have it.

Nobody knows enough yet, many may not care, but as a sufferer, I’m done with grieving the health I took for granted and ready to use what I have to make a positive change to the treatment of this disease. It’s my duty to make sure that the medical world is doing something about it. That’s why I’ve registered for the Diabetes Walk for a Cure.

I still believe in the good of humanity.

I always have hope for happy endings.

At the end of most days my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. I live a full life that is abundantly blessed. I have a manageable disease and it’s a lotto win compared to some of the others, but I’d rather not have to manage it all – that would be the real jackpot.

My endocrinologist thinks that in five years’ time, there’ll be a medical breakthrough that will end this sweet battle.

One way to help is to donate to my page. Help fund a future in diabetes breakthroughs. 122, 300 people will thank you for it. Donate here.

Miriam is a television researcher and  producer. You can find her on Twitter here and her blog here.
00:00 / ???