Grateful for World Diabetes Day.

In the Fall of 1975 at the age of 13, I was not a healthy person.  Every night after a full dinner I would get up from the table and make myself a sandwich, yet I was losing weight at an alarming rate. I was horribly thirsty all the time and it was agony to sit through the last ten minutes of a class at school because I had to go to the bathroom so badly.  I knew that something was not right, but for some reason no one in my family, including myself, thought I should see a doctor. Then one evening a voice on the television announced "These are the symptoms of diabetes: increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, weight loss, fatigue and blurred vision."  I saw a doctor the next day. 

He did a urine test and discovered there was sugar in my urine, but it was a Friday so he decided to wait until Monday to send me for a glucose tolerance test, thinking, in the ignorance of a 1970's doctor in a town of 3,500 people that might have had one other Type 1 Diabetic, that maybe I was spilling glucose in my urine because of some sugar on my cereal that morning.   

In those days a glucose tolerance test meant you went to the lab, drank a Big Gulp of what had to be cola syrup (disgustingly sweet) and then sat, bored to death for four hours in the waiting room, because nobody had bothered to tell me anything about the procedure. You couldn't leave because your urine and blood was tested every hour to see how long it would take your pancreas to bring you back to normal.  This seems counter intuitive to me, in fact I think it could induce a coma in some undiagnosed patients and I'm hoping they do something else now a days.

By the end of four hours, I had read every pamphlet in the waiting room - except for the ones on VD even though as a 13 year old I reeeeally wanted to read them, but as I said it was a small town.  My Mom was a high school teacher and my Dad a police officer.  I figured there'd be talk. 

At lunch my doctor called and my Dad told me I had to go to the hospital just as I was smoothing some butter on a piece of homemade pumpkin walnut loaf. I put it back on my plate without having even one little bite.  Turns out my blood glucose level was 30 - normal being about 5.5.  Later I heard my doctor had apologized profusely to my parents for not getting me into the hospital sooner.

We've come so far in 36 years.  No one relies on urine tests for glucose monitoring - it never really told you much to begin with.  I've gone from a bulky home glucose unit that cost $300.00 (1970 dollars) that I had to get from the States.  They weren't available in Canada yet, but my dad had a friend in Michigan who was a pharmacist.  Now I have one I can fit in my pocket.  You can get one from any pharmacist for free as long as you buy your first set of test strips at their pharmacy.  I've gone from one injection a day, to two, to several and finally to a more "normal" continuous delivery of insulin (basal) from a pump that's smaller than your average cell phone and that also calculates my glucose carb ratio allowing me a very simple way to figure out how much extra insulin (bolus) I need before each meal.

I can't say I'm grateful to have Type 1 Diabetes, but I can say I'm grateful for how manageable it has become.  Many thanks to all the scientists, philanthropists, nurses and doctors, dieticians, diabetes educators and everyone who gives even a little bit of time or money to help find better ways to manage this challenging disease and haven't given up trying for a cure.

I'm grateful for Wold Diabetes Day that celebrates one of the discoverers of Insulin 90 [now 94] years ago.  Today is Dr. Frederick Banting's Birthday.  He and his student Charles H. Best saved my life.  Without insulin, I would not have seen my 15th birthday.  Before insulin the average life expectancy after diagnosis was 1.6 years.  It was a death sentence where you slowly died of starvation because your body needs glucose to function. Your muscles need it, your brain needs it, your heart needs it, everything needs it.  It's like the gasoline in your car.  And when you don't have it, your body in it's search for fuel, begins to consume itself.  First the fat, then the muscle, then the organs.  So if you suspect you have diabetes, get thee to a hospital!

I'm grateful for my parents and everything they did to help me accept and manage this disease.  I'm sure they spent many a sleepless night on my behalf.

I'm grateful for my husband's extended medical plan that gives me 100% coverage on my pump and supplies as well as BC Pharmacare that covers a percentage for those who aren't as lucky as I.

I'm grateful that so far, after 36 [now 40] years of management, good and bad, I'm not exhibiting any signs of  complications.

I'm grateful that my children are healthy and in all likelihood will never have to deal with this condition themselves.

I'm grateful for my husband who today when I said "It's World Diabetes Day."  Said "Oh Yeah, the day when diabetics wish everyone in the world would get diabetes so they wouldn't have to explain it anymore."  Besides insulin, a sense of humour is also a great help.


  1. Well, Happy World Diabetes Day! Everyone should be thankful for the day. For those who have it, celebrate the advances! For those who don't, be aware of your good fortune.


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