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Through the Highs and Lows of Being Married to Someone With Type 1 Diabetes

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James and I have been married for 11 years. He is the first man who did not make me feel like less of a person or a burden to him for my type 1 diabetes. Living with a chronic disease is difficult enough for the person affected but my diabetes impacts him as well.

He wanted to share his perspective on living with and loving someone with a chronic disease.

When I first met Jaime, she tried to hide the fact that she was a diabetic. I guess she didn’t realize that being a detective made me pretty observant. Besides, it was 2007 and no one wore pagers anymore — that thing had to be a pump! She wasn’t very good at hiding it but I figured she would tell me when she was ready. When she finally told me, I could tell she was so nervous and was mentally preparing herself for the worst.

At that point, it was game over for me. It didn’t matter to me that she had diabetes. I was more amazed by her tenacity than the fact that she had to wear a little device all the time. I was more impressed with the fact that despite having diabetes, she didn’t let that limit her from doing anything she wanted to. If anything, it made her push herself harder and do more. The callouses on her fingers, the spots where she used to do shots all the time, and a pump alarming in the middle of the night didn’t bother me. So she had to check her blood sugar and count carbs? So she had to wear a pump that most of the time I didn’t even notice?

OK… she could also hold her own at the shooting range and makes an awesome tortilla soup. I liked the sound of her laugh, the size of her heart, and how her face gives away every emotion she’s feeling. Diabetes didn’t matter to me — at that point she did.

Jaime is a ridiculously stubborn person by nature. If you know my wife, then you are quite familiar with this adorable trait. I know she’s managed her disease by herself for a long time and sometimes it’s a hard for her to let me “help.” Several times, she’s had to remind me that my only job is to “not let her die if she has a low.” I know that part of that is she wants to shield me from the drudgery of the disease and so she very rarely talks about her basal rates, site changes, and other stuff with me. I know that she wears the continuous glucose sensor for my peace of mind. It’s a sacrifice she makes for me so I know she’s safe when I am not there to protect her.

The other morning she had a really bad low glucose level. She wasn’t waking up and I had to give her four of her liquid glucose packets to get her to wake up. The easiest way I can describe those five to seven minutes when she is there but not really “there” are terrifying. I hold my breath until I can see the light come back to her eyes and I can see her come out of it. I wonder if she is going to be sick for the rest of the day. I wonder if I gave her too much glucose or not enough? I run through the million “what-ifs” in my head. What if I wasn’t here this morning? What if this happened in the car on the way to work?  What if this happened and it was just our daughter, Callie, here to help? What if she didn’t wake up?

It’s almost as if a light switch flips when she comes out of the low. The first coherent words out of her mouth were, “Babe, don’t call EMS. I’m fine.” It’s at that moment when I can exhale and she takes her diabetes back over from me. It’s at those moments when she radiates strength, a fierce perseverance and sometimes, a quiet resignation. Sometimes though, I can see the brave mask she wears slip. And I can see how much she hates it. How much it takes out of her. How much it scares her. Then I see her spine stiffen and she pushes through it. And in those moments, I hate diabetes.

Jaime got up and got ready for work. She was moving slowly and I could tell that the low had taken a toll on her. But she had a meeting she couldn’t miss that morning and she asked me as she left the house, “I’ll be OK. Did you pick up my dry cleaning yesterday?”

Well, dang it.

Originally published: March 28, 2019
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