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The Day My Husband Was Diagnosed With Type 1 Diabetes

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He had been unusually tired. For weeks, he complained of constant thirst and was drinking one soft drink after another all day and got up several times each night to go the bathroom.

He filled a bowl with ice cream and sat in his recliner. It was January 4, 1995.

I took a family medical book from the shelf because there was no internet, at least not yet, in our home. I flipped through to the index and located the section I was searching for. I turned to the page and read the symptoms to my hubby as he ate his ice cream.

Diabetes. I was familiar with type 2 diabetes; my father was diagnosed and managing it well. I suggested he schedule an appointment with our family doctor, and we went to bed.

Although he was tired and not feeling well the following evening, I convinced him to come with me to my parents’ home so we could check his blood sugar. When the meter didn’t register a number, I assumed there was a problem with it. He decided to stay at my parents to rest while I visited with them in the hospital where my mother had been admitted earlier in the day.

I left him and headed to the hospital across town. I pulled my dad aside and asked about the meter. He assured me that it was functioning just fine hours earlier, and he pressed me for more information. When I told him the meter just displayed “high,” concern swept his face. He called a nurse to explain, and I began making phone calls.

Our oldest hurried over to check on her dad. She was a nurse and knew his condition could deteriorate quickly. When her repeated knocking failed to get him to the door, she began to look for a way to break a window. He finally responded, and she rushed him to the nearest emergency room.

January 5, 1995, was the day that my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. At the age of 41, it was assumed he had type 2, but time and testing would prove that his pancreas had ceased to produce insulin. His diagnosis was updated to type 1 diabetes. It was a defining moment, first and foremost for him.

Our family circled the wagons. The glass pedestal that once held a freshly baked cake each week was tucked under a counter. Our girls began running with their dad. He was immersed in learning as much as possible about needles, insulin and testing supplies.

His life now centered on living “within the lines” — the safe range between low and high blood sugar.

I’ve shared a bit of his story, but I wouldn’t attempt to speak for him. He lives every day with the reality of diabetes. It’s his body and his to manage.

However, I live with him and his disease is woven into the fabric of our life together. If it were in my power, I would heal his body, not only of the disease but of the damage it brings. But I can’t and he carries on; we carry on because that is what a marriage is about.

I want to applaud him, actually. You know, at first single, firm, staccato claps that rise into an ovation. He deserves it. For 21 years, he has been determined to live life within the lines.

Are you wondering how that looks? Perhaps you’ve had a diagnosis and the landscape of your life is suddenly no longer recognizable. You are reeling. I tell you, you can do this.

As one who has watched from the grandstands and at times walked the edge of the pool for every lap of this life he now lives, I tell you that you can do this.

He has chosen to face diabetes head on and refuses to ignore it. He’s learned the weapons of his defense and he has employed them.

• He never, ever misses an appointment with his

• He always knows his A1C, and it has a target on it (it’s going down).

• He is on top of his blood sugar.

• He exercises and controls his weight.

• He embraces new technology and tools.

It’s not a perfect science. There are days when no matter what he does, the numbers betray his best efforts to manage and that day’s battle is lost. Diabetes is a tricky foe, but it isn’t a death sentence.

And there is so much hope! Twenty years ago, he carried needles and insulin in a cool pack along with a meter for testing. It was a literal lifeline, but it was so much baggage.

Today he wears an insulin pump that delivers a steady drip of insulin, much like his pancreas once did. His continuous glucose monitoring device constantly reports his blood sugar; not only that, it lets him know whether it is on the way up or down. It sends alerts to him and to me when his blood sugar approaches a dangerous threshold.

He endeavors every day to live within the lines; he chooses to manage diabetes rather than allowing it to define him.

I hope a cure will come someday, but in the meantime, take the offensive and live within the lines. I tell you, you can do it!

Originally published: August 17, 2016
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