Day 5 – If you could swap with one chronic condition, which would it be?
Swap? SWAP?! Could I just “swap” for no chronic condition? Pretty please?
I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to live with any other chronic condition apart from diabetes. I’ve grown accustomed to life with diabetes, just like Sideshow Bob grew accustomed to Bart Simpson’s face. A diagnosis with any chronic condition is a life changing event and the thought of having to adjust life again just makes me cringe. Not that we have much choice in the matter of course. I think every condition has its bad sides and good sides and it’s easy to get buried and lost when times get tough. It’s also interesting how having a ‘condition’ or ‘disease’ has that natural connotation of a tough and limited life. But it definitely doesn’t have to be that way. My boyfriend is very timely at reminding me that if we focus on the negatives, that is all we will ever see. Diabetes, like any other ‘chronic condition’ has changed my life. However, I refuse to say that it has made life more difficult or complicated. That’s not to say it hasn’t at times of course, but everyone has their own struggles and little road bumps here and there. Instead, I would like to say that diabetes has changed me for the better. And in many ways, it has.
Diabetes came as a rude shock to me, my family and friends. I remember going out for dinner with my friends and refusing coke, saying I can’t drink it anymore because I have diabetes. I was greeted by a stunned and awkward silence. I remember sitting in front of a meal and just dreading eating all the carbs because I knew it would affect my sugar levels. I remember being disappointed when I excitedly told my doctor that my levels have finally fallen below 10 but still wasn’t good enough. I was even more upset when my endo told me what my target range was. (Hint: it was far from what I was at!) I remember the dread of going onto needles and feeling like I’ve failed myself and mum because she had worked so hard to keep us active and eating right to avoid this. I remember feeling like my world was collapsing around me. Most of all, I remember feeling so alone, isolated, lost and hopeless.
I tried desperately to reach out. I didn’t know what I was looking for but bloody hell was I looking! I tried attending educational services like carb counting and asking about support groups for people my age. But I was told there was nothing for me because on paper, I had type 2 diabetes and not type 1. Everyone in the waiting rooms at my clinic were generations apart from me. Needless to say, I didn’t make many new d-buddies there. But then I found out about Diabetes Camp Victoria, and my life changed.
Going on my first camp as a volunteer was the most liberating experience I’ve ever had. I found a new family – my diabetes family. They welcomed me with open arms and took my under their wing. Suddenly, I had a group of people who understood my frustrations with diabetes. They opened my eyes to the world of type 1 diabetes and to say I learned a lot that week of camp was an understatement. They didn’t let diabetes stand in their way of life. No way! They have accepted it as being part of their lives and carried on doing what they want. To say that these guys were inspirational is also an understatement.
Since discovering camps, I’ve also discovered the diabetes online community (DOC) through blogging and joining the twitter sphere. All I can say is that some the achievements that these guys have accomplished has my mind blown! The DOC is such a supportive and warm environment. Even during times of controversy within the community, we are always there for each other. And can I just say the DOC has kicked some serious troll butts in the past! Just goes to show that you should don’t mess with diabetics! Ever! And because the DOC reaches out worldwide, there is always someone online willing to keep you company while treating that 3am hypo. The DOC never sleeps!
Another thing I would credit the DOC for is for being my inspiration and motivation to keep pursuing my research and studies. Young adults with type 2 diabetes are definitely a minority and sometimes they feel like they aren’t being heard. Having been in a similar situation, I’m determined to help them by being a voice. I’ve always liked helping and educating others and now I am very much looking forward to giving back as much as I can to a community who has helped me out by reminding me of all the good things embedded in life with diabetes. And I think it’s for that very reason that I refuse to swap my ‘chronic condition’ for any other!