‘The Fault In Our Stars’: Diabetes Edition

Diabetes is hard, but I won’t die from it. At least, not right away. I believe that I will eventually die of a heart attack. With the constant ups and downs of my blood sugar levels, I am sure even if I was given a decent heart, it would not be able to last years with this kind of stress. But at least it didn’t have to endure it for the first 22 years of my life.

It’s possible I may die from something else entirely, unrelated to my health, like a car accident, an injury sustained from rock climbing, food poisoning, etc. Okay, I’m being dramatic, but it doesn’t make sense to spend my days thinking about death, something I learned while reading The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I love the title, by the way, but when I saw previews for the movie, it looked kind of cheesy and unrealistic, one of those “feel-good cancer movies,” if there can even be such a thing.

Then I read a review of the book and thought I might like it. After all, even though I’ve only been to one funeral in my life, I think about death a lot. I used to worry about receiving a call in the middle of the day that one of my grandparents or siblings had passed. I used to worry my friends would be one of those statistics for teenagers killed by drunk driving. When I wrote stories, one of my characters always, inevitably died (many times the main character because I’m that author).

We all must deal with death – endings and beginnings. And so I wondered what it would be like to be diagnosed with a terminal illness like cancer, knowing death was coming, and there was nothing I could do about it. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, one of my immediate thoughts was, “it’s not cancer.” But it’s still a chronic disease, and there is nothing I can do about it.

The main character in John Green’s book refers to herself as a “grenade.” Eventually, she is going to explode, and everyone will be left to deal with the pieces (spoiler alert: I haven’t finished the novel so my perception on everything may change in a few days). One of her reasons for not getting close to a boy, another “canceree in remission,” is she doesn’t want to hurt him; she doesn’t want to burden him with her impending death.

Not that I’m planning on dying anytime soon, but I could also relate to this. As open as I am about my condition on this blog, I rarely tell people about it. I don’t want them to see me as fragile, but I also don’t want to burden them with my disease. Because once they know, they become responsible. Even though diabetes is largely self-managed, it comes with consequences.

What if I overdose on insulin and have a seizure? What if I forget to take insulin and become incoherent? What if I leave my meter at home on a night out to Annapolis and my friends have to leave early so I can go home and check my blood sugar? (This actually happened, by the way).

I am already burdened enough. It’s not terminal, but I walk around with it every day. It’s constantly in the back of my mind. With every step I take, I am aware of how much insulin is in my system, how much insulin my pump is administering, how many carbs I had for my last meal, when was the last time I ate, when should I eat again, when do I need to change my pump reservoir, when do I need to change the sight for my CGM, when my pump needs a new battery, whether this walk will make my blood sugar drop, how am I feeling right now – is it a result of low or high blood sugar, etc., etc.

Although I am not jealous of cancer, I am jealous of the fact that sometimes it goes away. Diabetes will never go away. But if I had to choose between a cure for cancer and a cure for diabetes, I would choose cancer. Diabetes can at least be managed. Cancer is a result of what we’ve done to pollute this planet and our environment, but also a result of living longer. I don’t like what we have to do to our bodies to fight these diseases, but I’d much rather prick my finger 10 times a day then go through chemo.

So what I am saying – that I’m grateful I have diabetes? No. If I could rip diabetes from my body like the plugs constantly attached to me, feeding me insulin, then I would. But today, I was able to run along the Inner Harbor as the sun set, and for that, I am grateful. My blood sugar may have been 200 from the cupcake I ate earlier, but all I had to was inject some insulin and run a few miles, and my body became normal again, if only for a second.

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