November marks National Diabetes Month. It includes World Diabetes Day, which happens to fall on the anniversary of insulin discoverer Frederick Banting’s birth on November 14. Yesterday was T1Day, a day for the Type 1 diabetes community to come together and not only raise awareness for our disease, but to provide support.
Yesterday was also my first inauguration into the world of Type 1 diabetes. I have been a Type 1 diabetic for the past five years, diagnosed late at 22, and in that time, I’ve only met a few other diabetics like myself. But yesterday, I volunteered at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s annual Hope Gala in DC.
From the start, one of the fellow volunteers asked me if I had diabetes. I noticed the pump attached to her waistband, and for the first time in my life, I truly felt a part of a community. I explained that I had no family history and that I was diagnosed as an adult, as opposed to most Type 1’s who are diagnosed in childhood. But even so, we talked about insulin pumps, about exercising, about being diagnosed, and the everyday balance.
She wasn’t the only one. I wouldn’t say I met many diabetics yesterday. There were only 10 volunteers on daytime set-up. But I met a world that wanted to cure me, that was advocating on my behalf. And I saw so many insulin pumps. They didn’t look so ugly and obtrusive. In fact, I thought it funny that I’ve slowly gotten over trying to hide mine, and yet on these other young women, they looked kind of cool. Even though I had one, I wished I had one.
I had the opportunity to ask questions about the disease and about different medical device options out there. Even though I was older than most of these young women, I was still young with the disease. Everything I know I’ve learned mostly on my own. As much as I talk to other people about it, only those who’ve lived with it truly understand what you’re going through and can laugh about it.
Towards the end of the afternoon, a few of us were huddled around a cocktail table, guarding the silent auction items and conversing about upcoming diabetes events and logos. A fellow volunteer’s insulin pump made a beeping noise. No one looked up or said anything. At first, I thought her battery might be low because mine only beeps when the battery is low – I have it on vibrate the rest of the time.
Ten minutes later, it made another beeping noise. I was surprised she didn’t check it, but I didn’t say anything. By the third beep, I realized it wasn’t beeping because her battery was low – it was beeping because it was administering insulin from lunchtime. Unlike me, she wasn’t embarrassed by its obtrusiveness. She let it beep to alert her of any changes, while I forced mine to vibrate.
I smiled then and said it was time for me to go and hoped I would see her again at another event.
“Well, I would hope so,” she said with a huge smile. I nodded and grabbed my belongings. A “walk for diabetes” t-shirt fell out of my bag, and I picked it up, placing it back within my belongings. It had been a free gift for volunteers, and I knew henceforth I would wear it proudly.