When Tracee was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 19, she wrestled with the physical and emotional challenges of having the disease. Being the only one in her immediate and extended family with diabetes, she felt it was unfair for her to deal with having a chronic disease when no one else she knew had to deal with anything similar. Over time, Tracee realized how she chose to face this life-changing disease can make even more of a difference in her overall well-being. Read how Tracee overcame and continues to overcome diabetes challenges that encourage her to live a larger and fuller life.
I realize this may sound bizarre, but there is something about having diabetes that pushes me to live larger and fuller than I think I would have if I had not had this disease.
Shortly after my diagnosis in my teens, I found myself wrestling with the physical and emotional challenges of having a chronic illness. I was frustrated with the changes I had to make in my life in order to stay healthy. I felt self-pity about the “unfairness” of having a chronic and cruel disease when no one else I knew had to deal with anything like this. I was angry at others for being able to live what seemed carelessly, mindlessly, and free of medical constraints. I was exhausted from having to think (what felt like every second of the day) about how to manage a disease that I could have some “control” over – but not complete “control”. And, I was afraid – afraid that my life’s desires and dreams were destined to be thwarted by an unwelcome intruder – diabetes.
But life didn’t stop to indulge my feelings, and I quickly began to understand that my life would only be beautiful and good if I led it with three things: confidence, intelligence, and undying courage. My acute awareness of the reality of my diagnosis, the potential debilitating diabetic complications, and the reality of the precariousness of my life led me to make a very conscious decision to do all I could to make the most of the life I had. I wanted to LIVE NOW – to get the most out of the life I had – and to not let diabetes stop me.
Now, over 35 years later, I can actually say that there are many aspects of having diabetes that I can be thankful for. The preciousness of life is with me every waking moment, and that daily attention I have to give to my health care reminds me to approach each day with bold thoughtfulness and fearless intention… while I have the chance.
The first 10 years after my diagnosis, I was using multiple daily injections (MDI), and did well enough. But after I got my first MiniMed insulin pump in 1989, I felt so liberated! I could be so much more flexible in the way I managed my life and this made it easier to open those doors I was so determined to walk through. My dream of having a family came true with the birth of three healthy children. I was able to advance in my career with no medical setbacks. And I have, and still continue to, span the globe seeking adventures and volunteering in third world and developing countries.
My post diagnosis questions have been plentiful, and sometimes don’t have easy or clear answers. What are the risks of my children getting diabetes (should I have children at all…)? How will I deal with blood glucose checks (and possible low blood sugars) and meals during important business meetings? How will I adapt my diet and insulin needs to foods that are completely non-western while I travel? How will intense heat, humidity, and living in somewhat unhygienic circumstances affect my blood sugar control? How will seeing and working with animals or suffering people in dire conditions affect my state of mind? How will I manage my diabetes when I’m scuba diving, surfing, mountain trekking, or going for hours and hours with little sleep?
It has taken some pretty focused attention and extra energy at times to figure out how to adjust my treatment program to the demanding and changing external variables I continue to expose myself to. And, sometimes I feel tired of having to “pay constant attention” to my health or of even having to consider all the questions that I need answered before I take on activities that many people don’t have to give much thought to. That feeling is certainly valid, as having diabetes is not always a smooth or predictable road. But each time I stumble or lose some steam, I always come back to that personal belief that took shape not too long after my diagnosis …I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret the opportunities I didn’t take BECAUSE of my diabetes. I want to experience each current moment with gusto and purpose and I always want to look back and feel good about the way I lived my life. And as of now, I look back at the amazing life – FULL and LARGE – that I’ve had so far and see no reason that the next 30+ years wouldn’t be the same!
Tags: diabetes diagnosis
, living with diabetes
, type 1 diabetes