One of my friends introduced me to someone the other day as a “diabetes expert”. I’d never really thought of myself as an expert.
Do I fully, 100%, in depth understand the biology of diabetes? Not really. I function pretty well at the islet cells don’t work level, beyond that I only really take an interest in the biological side when I look at the feasibility of treatments or cures eg you’re giving people new islet cells? Sounds good, how do you make sure you their bodies don’t break those like they broke the last lot?
Do I understand my diabetes? Can anyone say yes to this? If you can, could you please let me into the secret? I have a good idea of how my body reacts to insulin, various foods, stress etc but not to the point where I’d claim to understand it. I understand my washing machine. If I select programme C I get a 30min quick wash, if I select programme F I get a long, hot wash for my whites. I understand it perfectly and it never changes. My diabetes frequently surprises me, my washing machine doesn’t. Therefore I must conclude I am more mystified by my own diabetes than my washing machine, but I do feel I understand it enough to live well.
Do I empathise with what it’s like to live with diabetes. Oh yes. I’m there. I understand that perfectly and am often found smiling or grimacing in empathy when I listen to someone else recount the details of a 3am hypo.
I watched in a mixture of horror, admiration and amusement at a diabetes conference once when a speaker told an audience of parents of diabetic kids that she’d lived with diabetes for 20 years. Actually, she’d been a diabetic nurse for 20 years and I’m sure she was good at her job. Sadly, that’s not quite the same as living with it and she hit a real nerve with the audience. One fabulous mother spent the next 5 minutes passionately pointing out that working with diabetes all day, and living with it 24/7 are two very different things:
“You may consider yourself an expert in diabetes, but you’re not an expert in living with diabetes until you’ve dealt with 3am hypos, been brave enough to put in extra insulin for mysterious highs and survived the terrifying first time you let your diabetic kid have tea at some other kid’s house.” Mother of a child with diabetes
I love parents of diabetic kids, they’re the best!
While I may shy away from being called a diabetes expert, I’m very happy to claim to be an expert in living with my diabetes. I’ve got 26 years of experience and all body parts still functioning perfectly, what more do you want!?