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The Side of Diabetes Most Diabetics Don't Talk About

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“So you just need to stay away from a lot of sugar and you’ll be fine?” “You just have to watch how much candy you eat, but that’s it, right?”

For nearly two decades, I’ve been asked questions like those at least once a week. Sometimes it’s by people who are just getting to know me, and other times it’s by complete strangers. I’ve been a type I diabetic for 16 years. Diagnosed during my sophomore year of college, I’ve learned how to live with this disease.

But it’s not the sugar intake I think about all the time. It’s not the pricking of my fingers six times a day or the guilt I feel about downing that second cookie when everyone around me has already eaten four. It’s the impact diabetes is beginning to have on my body.

The changes came slowly and without formality. For the first decade, I didn’t really notice anything. But in these last five years, some changes have reared their ugly heads. Who knew how little people wanted to talk or hear about them?

I blame it on fear.

Diabetes can affect nearly every part of the human body. It can damage nerves, clog arteries, slow digestion, damage kidneys, cause blindness, force amputations and many other deplorable conditions.

I switched from four to six daily insulin shots to an insulin pump seven years ago. It was a good thing. No, a great thing. I no longer had to take 50 shots a week, and it left me with much less to carry around.

But as a result, I’ve placed somewhere around 900 insulin pump insets in the fatty tissue around the mid-waist section of the stomach. It’s left me with bruising and scar nodules the size of silver dollars that won’t go away.

My feet are changing, too. I have severe swelling and fluid retention. And my toes often feel numb. My doctor says it’s likely nerve damage. There’s no cure. I can only resort to pain relief. And, oh the pain. It’s insane. My vision has decreased, but there’s no sign of blindness yet.

But I don’t sit around talking about this side of diabetes. Most diabetics don’t.

I’m thankful for a husband who “gets it.” He’s seen the worst of it and will surely see more.

Instead, I walk with the pain and inject with the scars. I silently pray for a cure, but realize it might not come so soon.

I don’t need folks to feel sorry for me. I’m just asking for more awareness. Awareness of the heart. Because each person with a chronic disease is experiencing something you might not realize. So have some heart.

I’m also asking for awareness about diabetes itself. Diabetes isn’t simple and easy. They’re so much more to it than denying yourself that piece of cake. Diabetes can hurt. It can wound. It can change everything.

Originally published: June 1, 2015
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