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On 20 years with Type 1 Diabetes

I think it's finally time to hit 'publish' on this post, considering it's been sitting here for, oh you know, like 2 weeks now ;-) Sometimes I "April" about things too much (this is Chris's term), and with my dad here for Christmas I realized that it's definitely a trait passed down, haha, love you dad!

To be honest, I never thought the day would come when I would say, "I've had Type 1 Diabetes for 20 years."

20 years ago a cure was 'just on the horizon' and as an 11 year old kid I took that phrase to heart - I had to. My continued existence was based solely on whatever the endocrinologist said - pancreas, insulin, autoimmune, blood sugar, islet cells, shots. I didn't know what I didn't know at that point. I had never heard of an insulin pump or glucose meter. Ketones and hyperglycemia were just big, meaningless words. Carb ratios and counting might as well have been formulas for travelling at light speed. I wasn't overwhelmed - I was just, well, a kid.

But that diagnosis 20 years ago literally changed the course of my life. It may be called "Juvenile" Diabetes, but there is nothing juvenile about it. One day I was a happy-go-lucky child, and the next I was thrust, unprepared into adulthood. I had to develop and hone a piece of my brain to make life or death decisions about my health on a moment-by-moment basis. I had to learn to deliver insulin via syringe several times a day, and prick my finger for a blood sample even more often. I had to learn those blasted carbohydrate formulas and insulin sensitivity factors - my life depended on it. My mom carried around a thick book full of carbohydrate counts for a few years (no apps in those days), and if I didn't already have it memorized, my burden was looking up the count before ingesting.

I reflect on those days now and its painful - it was such a heavy heavy load for an 11-year-old. Type 1 Diabetes doesn't have a "grace" period where you can build yourself up to taking a shot for everything you eat. You don't get to practice counting carbs. Nope. From the moment you hear those words "Type 1 Diabetes" it's game time. Every shot is for real, every carb is a monster, and every low blood sugar is a panic attack. Every day is an honest-to-goodness test with a score at the end, and another one tomorrow, and every day after that. Passing the test means you get to live another day to take another test.

This may sound depressing and morbid and generally unpleasant - but that's kind of how Diabetes is.

The good news is, it does get easier. Shots get easier to give, carbs get easier to count, new technology means low blood sugars are less likely. Insulin pumps take some of the calculations out of the day-to-day disease logistics. Continuous Glucose Monitors mean less finger pricks and better trending data. The internet means support groups are open 24/7 instead of only Tuesdays at 7pm. And there is just something about practice and hindsight and perspective that sure does lighten the load considerably.

Am I melancholy about living with Type 1 Diabetes for 20 years? You bet.
Am I thrilled about living with Type 1 Diabetes for 20 years? Absolutely - it means I made it 20 years with this disease, and hopefully there's another 20 in the cards.


  1. Hey April! Happy diaversary, and congratulations on passing 7300+ "trial by fire" tests! Here's to both of us passing many many many more.

    Thanks for all you do – you're an inspiration to many of us, there NASAing away with diabetes. :-)

    Don't ever forget just how badass that is, no matter what your assignment is that day.

  2. You are a very clever individual!

  3. I remember that book. It used to ride in the car in case we ate out.

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