What Does Having Diabetes Feel Like?

Balancing Diabetes - What Diabetes Feels Like

I don’t have diabetes. Nobody in my immediate family has diabetes. Yet I still raise money for the Canadian Diabetes Association. I’ve raised nearly $50 000 for the charity, but I still can’t answer the question “what does having diabetes feel like?”, because I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll never know. So I run. I raise. I spread awareness.

It doesn’t happen often, but there are charities that reach outside those directly affected by the disease to inspire other communities to raise money for them. Think red ribbons (AIDS ), yellow wristbands (Livestrong), and ice buckets (ALS).

For me, those living with diabetes are an inspiration. I’ve written about those who inspire me here. But I meet more and more and more of them all the time. And I’m constantly wondering: What does having diabetes feel like? What’s it like being you? I want to understand.

On my recent beach vacation, I brought along Kerry Sparling‘s book Balancing Diabetes to get some insight into what it’s like to have a broken pancreas.

Sparling details her own journey with diabetes, after first getting diagnosed at the age of 6 and weaves in dozens of stories from friends in the diabetes community. This isn’t a ‘how to live’ with diabetes book, filled with all sorts of rules and musts and advice. Instead, it’s a ‘how i’m living’ with diabetes as those with the disease try to find balance in their lives.

What Does Having Diabetes Feel Like?

It’s remarkably emotional. It’s something I never fully realized about having diabetes. I just thought, “your pancreas is broken, you do some math, take some insulin, and you’re good.” But it’s not that simple. Without a pancreas to properly transform carbohydrates into energy in their bodies, diabetics now have to think like a pancreas. And it’s not always easy.

At our pub night last night to recruit more members to Team Diabetes Canada, I watched Brooke sit beside me and prick her finger and do a quick test before digging in to the plate of nachos, wings, and sip on a beer. Me? I just plowed in without thinking. Diabetics need to measure every morsel of food they consume, measure it against their blood sugar, and then be ready if things don’t work out.

The emotional toll diabetes puts on its patience is not something you understand until you see someone living with it. Kerri talks about the guilt her numbers bring her everyday. No matter how hard she tries to manage diabetes, those numbers are like a final exam every single time you prick your finger. They can call you a failure without uttering a word.

Kerri is constantly aware of her diabetes. Through college she reached out to friends to make sure someone always had her back if she went high or low. She checks every time she gets in to a car, to make sure she’s safe to drive. She put a sign in her cubicle at work so that if she went low people would know what to do.

I’m not diabetic. I don’t have diabetes in my immediate life. But as much as someone without any exposure to the disease can ‘get it,’ I know ‘get it’ thanks to Kerri’s book. If someone in your life is newly diagnosed, or you have a friend trying to find balance in their life with diabetes. If they want to just not feel alone and appreciate that, yes, there are others who have to manage diabetes even when they’re having sex, then Balancing Diabetes is the perfect book for them.

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