If, like me, you have just the one chronic disease it’s sometimes hard to get the whole dodgy pancreas situation into perspective. It feels like it’s a real pain at times, but how does it compare to other afflictions? Having had the luxury of muddling through the world of infertility for the last 6 years, I thought a quick game of diabetes vs infertility top trumps might help.
Getting away from it all – the 24/7 nature of diabetes can be draining, the inability to take a day or even an hour off. This is where infertility wins. You can choose to lock it in an cupboard and leave it there for months. You can take a break from it and refuse to think about it. And nothing really bad happens. Occasionally, when a particularly braindead celebrity announces they’re pregnant it starts banging on the door and shouting. It likes to rant about where the hell Darwin is – how are the genes of that braindead cretin being allowed to reproduce over ours?
Infertility win – it’s traumatic, but at least you can neglect it for months at a time without it coming back to bite you.
Other people’s reactions
Diabetes often provokes unhelpful and misinformed reactions. “Did you eat too many sweets as a child”, “My Aunty Marg had that, her leg rotted off and she went blind”, “Should you be eating that?”. Generally they’re not particularly supportive, just random ill-informed statements .
People don’t know what to say if they find out you’re having infertility treatment. It’s a tough one. It’s very personal, it makes people sad, we’re not well equipped to respond. The big difference over diabetes is that most people at least manage to come across as very well meaning, but can I just explain a couple of things. “Oh my cousin had IVF 17 times and now she has twins so it does work”. Thank you, I know you’re trying to give me hope. But really, the thought of getting to the point where I have to do this 17 times makes me want to give up now and eat my own head. And I’m quite well aware that it works, I’ve read the research, I’m not doing it because I’m short of a hobby.
Then there’s the other old chestnut, “my friend had been trying for years. They went on holiday now they have quads. Relax and you’ll be fine.” There is of course evidence that stress isn’t overly helpful with the whole conception business, but in my head will always be the response from a witty friend “Why thank you for your expertise. The lack of relaxation is, of course, the cause of our infertility. Not an in-balance of hormones and useless reproductive system. We shall relax immediately.”
Infertility win – comments about infertility are generally not that helpful, but they’re well meaning, which is more than you can say about some of the diabetes related comments.
Everything about making a baby takes an age. Drugs always seem to take at least 2 weeks to work, then you have to wait 2 weeks to see if you’ve managed to conceive. If not, you’ve got to wait until next month. Everything is in a timescale of weeks, there are no short cuts.
Diabetes is the perfect condition for the chronically impatient. I make a change to my insulin, I see the effect within hours. I can mess up, go hypo and have it all sorted within an afternoon. That’s pretty satisfying.
Diabetes win – other than sitting on a pump waiting list, there are very few interminable waits when it comes to diabetes, it’s a nice fast, reactive affliction.
For me insulin has only really has one side effect. Hypos. They’re inconvenient and unpleasant but I do theoretically at least have some control over when they occur.
The particularly evil thing about several fertility drugs is that that give you symptoms that are very similar to those experienced in early pregnancy. That’s just mean. They make you feel ill and drive you insane at the same time, making you constantly question whether that slight queasiness is morning sickness or just the drugs. And a sympathetic note for menopausal women. I always thought you were making a bit of a fuss over hot flushes. Surely you just get a bit warm? I take that all back. Hot flushes are not just being a bit warm, they’re feeling like you’re going to spontaneously combust any second. They’re turning bright puce and sweating so that people in meetings ask if you’re ok and your husband moves away from you in bed because you’re soaking wet and radiating heat. They’re not good.
Diabetes win – hypos are horrid, but are largely manageable when compared to the nastiness of infertility drug side effects.
Can you be cured?
Diabetes – no.
Infertility – not in the flick a switch and make it go away forever sense of the word. But treatment can often remove the problem for long enough to enable you to spawn offspring. At which point, infertility is no longer an issue.
Ability to control
One of the most frustrating things about infertility is your inability to do anything about it. Of course, you can do what you can to help – keep fit, eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke etc, but if there’s a fundamental problem that isn’t going to fix it. Fixing it requires a lot of prodding and poking, plenty of drugs and a lot of waiting. There isn’t an awful lot you can do.
With diabetes I have control. I know what to do if my blood sugar is too high or too low. I can take action and fix the problem. Of course, diabetes doesn’t always play ball, but at least I can do something, I’m not sitting around waiting for someone else to do it for me.
Diabetes win – there is nothing more stressful than having no influence over your own destiny.
And the result is…we have a draw. It turns out diabetes and infertility are equally unpleasant, just in different ways. Lovely.