Saturday, 16 October 2010At the start of November, I will have been doing this whole diabetes thing for a year and a half. Whether you think that's a long time or not is, I think, a matter of perspective. You can accomplish a whole lot in a year and a half. To channel my musical theatre nerd for a moment, let us consider Rent. There are many ways in which you can measure a year. They suggest a whole variety of things, but also measure a year as 'five hundred twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes'. So half that again would be... according to Google.... 788 923.149 minutes. Yes I googled it. That's far too much maths to be doing in my head on a Saturday.
My point being that if you look at a time like that, it suddenly seems like an awfully long time. On my part, dealing with T1 has become such second nature in a lot of ways that it feels strange to think about 'the time before', because that's almost like another person these days. But that's how I look at it. Other people will see it differently. And that's what I really wanted to talk about.
So I have Type 1 Diabetes. Big revelation there, but it's true. I was diagnosed at the age of 24, and apparently 'well past' the prime age for T1 diagnosis. It does seem that T1 is thought of by many as a 'kid's disease', being that yes, the prime age bracket for diagnosis is childhood, and for heaven's sake, it used to be called Juvenile Diabetes. What does that mean for the rest of us? Kids with T1 grow up. Adults get diagnosed with it too. I know I'm not the only one who was diagnosed outside of childhood or puberty.
I remember being in hospital after being diagnosed. A doctor (who is now my consultant) came and asked me if I wouldn't mind talking to some medical students. Because I was 'unusual', and they 'almost never got someone being diagnosed outside of childhood.'. I was put on metformin as well as insulin at the hospital as well. Because I was clearly in DKA, but they still weren't sure I was a T1 for a couple of days. Because I was 'too old'. This did make me feel just a little bit like there was something wrong with me. Apart from the whole broken pancreas thing, obviously.
Like I say, I know people who were diagnosed outside of childhood, but the majority of T1's that I know were diagnosed as children or teenagers. They're the norm. So what does that make me?
I've thought long and hard about how to say what I'm about to say. Sometimes life as a T1 diagnosed as an adult can be a bit 'lonely', for want of a better word. You were never a 'child' with diabetes, and as far as I know, my mum and dad have never sat up at night thinking about my diabetes. They've never had to 'deal' with it - it's always been my thing (please feel free to jump in if you feel I'm wrong, Mum, since I know you'll be reading this!).
I have heard from various sources that I 'don't understand', because I never had to deal with growing up with D. I'm an adult, and I've not had their many years of experience. But that doesn't mean that I don't know a thing or two. I've been dealing with this myself since day one. Sure, I've had a lot of help from wonderful people, but the shoe drops with me and no-one else. Just because I haven't been doing it as long, doesn't mean that I don't know what I'm doing.
I was amazed this summer, watching twitter, and reading the many blog entries aboutCWD: Friends For Life Conference. I had always assumed that this event was....well, for children, as the name does suggest. I would never have considered attending, because I'm not a child with diabetes, nor am I a parent of a child with diabetes. But then I saw all the reports coming in about it (and the Roche conference, but that's another case entirely!). And I wished I was there. I think it's about needing a sense of belonging.
I will never be able to reminisce with you about 'way back when'. I never went to diabetes camp. I never had to deal with teachers not understanding. I never went to a prom or graduation and worried about it. But we're all here in the same boat. We all have 'Lost Boy' pancreases (pancrei?). One day they decided not to grow up, and all ran away to Neverland. We have the pancreases that never grew up. Mine just ran away a little later. And despite that, I'm here, and I'm on the same journey with you. I test, I carb count, I inject. I hypo, I hyper. I get blood drawn, I think in numbers. It's like in The Velveteen Rabbit, which was one of my favourite books as a child. I do all these things that you do as well, whether you've had T1 since childhood, or if you're like me, and joined in a little later in the game. Regardless of the starting point, we're all real.