Hey there, type 1 diabetes, you unassuming little thing.
It’s just a Monday today. A Monday in late spring, where we’re still clinging onto the hope of a decent summer that may or may not be just around the corner. A Monday in which I got up, got showered, got dressed and went to work. I asked everyone how their weekends were. I told them about mine. I sat in meetings. I did my weekly shop on the way home.
There was no party, no event. A day of routine behaviour; pleasant and nondescript.
But today is also a unique day – an exceptional one in fact.
On this day two decades ago, when I was eight, I woke up and did a wee in a glass jar. I went to the doctors, and then I got sent to the hospital. I was prodded and poked and my blood was drawn from my arm. I thought it was all quite fun. I was told my pancreas had stopped working. I’m not sure I even knew I had a pancreas. I sure as hell know I’ve got one now, because for the past 20 years I’ve had to manually take its place.
I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 20 years. I’ve been a type 1 diabetic for 20 years. I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes for TWENTY WHOLE YEARS. You came crashing into my life without warning or invitation, twenty years ago today.
I’m not celebrating you, type 1 diabetes, because you’re a drain on my head, my body and – at frequent intervals – my heart. You are deadly and contradictory and everything and nothing to me. You don’t deserve credit because you are sly and cunning and unpredictable and irrational. You steal a certain innocence from people who deserve to be free of you.
I’m entirely loathe to say this because I think it’s exactly what you want, but I can’t imagine you not being there the second I wake up. You’re the first thing I think about in the morning, and the last thing I attend to at night. You interrupt my sleep, and sometimes you do your best to interrupt my day too. But we’re quite the team, you and I. Inseparable, respectful, interesting. You haven’t really ever stopped me doing anything despite some unbelievable attempts on your part, and you’ve made the journey quite something. I honestly don’t think, at this point, 20 years in, I would go back and change you. Don’t get me wrong; I’d be delighted if you just disappeared tomorrow, but I’m fond of you, in some ways.
Today I am celebrating the things you have inadvertently and unintentionally given me. An awareness of how precious my body is, a maturity that would have probably passed me by. A sense of achievement in the every day. A lust for life, a thirst for knowledge, an awareness that things are not all that they seem. A steely determination, patience that still surprises me, an unrivalled ability to think ahead, to attend to the little details. A considerate nature. Compassion. Kindness.
I have achieved in spite of you. And I have achieved because of you. 170,000 published words, incredible connections with incredible people who share the commonality of defying you on a daily basis.
I’m celebrating the people who have helped me get here, to this average and yet extraordinary Monday. Hospital staff, doctors, specialists. My dear parents who fought their way through the weight of your presence – steadily, protectively, hopefully. My wonderful partner whose grasp on your tricks and scheming ways blows my mind. Whose unquestioning and unwavering support has helped me live with you, and live beyond you, more than he will ever realise. Medical companies who want things to be better. Scientists who want our lives to be easier. My brothers whose happy little party you interrupted too. My school friends who just accepted it, and their mums who had me round for sleepovers even though they were a bit nervous. Teachers who were open to me teaching them about this, and colleagues who enquired and enquire, openly and earnestly. Friends who make my heart burst with love, who constantly show me how much life there is to live – and just how much I want to live it, with them. To make memories that have absolutely nothing to do with you. People who inspire me and make me want to be a better person. People who have it much worse than me. People who don’t get to choose whether they live or not.
So thanks for all the adventures, and many thanks for keeping things interesting, but this is a show you simply won’t be stealing. You may have turned up unannounced, and you may refuse to leave, but you’re at my party. And I’m 20 now.