The First Time I Met Someone Else With Diabetes After My Diagnosis
I had known him for many years already. We attended the same elementary school throughout childhood and had already completed the first two years of high school together. But I hadn’t really known him. Not the way I do now.
It was the year 2000. I was in grade 11 and I had just spent a week at the hospital learning how to count carbs, measure my blood glucose and inject insulin. Monday morning I walked into school, a little nervous about carrying this new diagnosis of type 1 diabetes and even more so about managing this new disease on my own. As I approached my locker I saw someone sitting on the floor, leaning against it.
We had known each other for years and had been friends in a small-town, classmates-forever kind of way. But on this day his presence was significant. It carried meaning. Matt also has type 1 diabetes and he must have heard the news of my diagnosis because he was waiting for me.
I don’t remember our conversation that day but I do remember many points of connection from then on. Matt became a more consistent presence at my locker. He helped me struggle through the realities of living with this disease, he listened to me vent and commiserated with me about the frustrations of this life. We lent each other insulin when one of us would forget it at home, compared glucose readings at lunch, and took our shots together in the cafeteria. When it was time to upgrade to insulin pumps we shared rides to the hospital for all the pre-pump appointments, sat side-by-side listening to the nurse, and watched each other the first time we inserted our new infusion sets into our abdomens. At school we would pass each other in the halls and swap stories about other kids calling us robots or teachers asking us to remove our pagers while in class.
We were part of a tiny little club with rules that only we truly understood. As much as I felt a massive sense of loss for all the things my diagnosis had stripped me of, being friends with Matt added to my life. Diabetes wasn’t just about losing freedom and spontaneity. It wasn’t just an illness. It was an identity. It became a deep part of who I am and I can now point to gains in my life directly related to diabetes.
Most importantly though, Matt made sure I wasn’t alone. Although we have both moved away and moved on, I’ll always be grateful to him showing up at my locker that day.