Unless you know Nikki or her family you won’t see the invisible giant that follows her around every single second of every single day. Her invisible giant is type 1 diabetes and it’s invisible because you can’t see it in her face, you can’t feel it in her touch and you can’t hear it in her laugh – but I can. It never leaves her and it never will. It makes her future uncertain and for that alone, I hate her giant.
I wonder how many T1’s feel the need to indulge in justifying how big this disease really is. They don’t look sick, so how bad can it be right? I wonder how many people, people who may have met a T1 or may have read about T1 or watched those dandy T1 commercials, feel that they know exactly what diabetes is and don’t understand what all the fuss is about. They don’t understand the fogginess that descends out of nowhere to take over the brain, they don’t understand that there is no such thing as a “virtually painless blood sugar meter”, they don’t understand that insulin keeps a T1 alive but is in no way a cure, they don’t understand what it’s like to live with an uninvited giant that only you can see and so many people don’t take seriously. They don't understand what it's like to have your brain so confused that when you speak only noises come out. They just don’t understand.
I wonder how many people hear about a T1 and say “well at least it’s not cancer or something worse”. Since when did chronic, debilitating diseases become a competition? I wonder how many T1’s or their parents have heard “I have friend who has diabetes and she doesn’t worry about that”. I wonder how many T1’s and their families have heard “I know someone who has diabetes, but only a little”. There is no such thing as only a little diabetes; that’s like being only a little pregnant. I could wonder about these things for hours, but I don’t let myself. I take my cue from Nikki and all the other T1’s I’m privileged to know, they do not feel sorry for themselves and they do not let it defeat them.
Diabetes is not a part time disease. It never takes a break. It never ceases its attack on internal organs, eyes and limbs. It never tires and it will never quit, until we find a cure. I live with it along side Nikki; I do the middle of the night blood checks, and I listen for her breathing and hold my own breath each morning as I go in to wake her up. I cry with her and worry over her. Her dad and I deal with the astronomical expense of this giant. Yet there will come a day when we will no longer be responsible for all of that. Nikki always will be. She will never, ever get to take a day off or get a break from it for a couple of hours. She will always struggle with the highs and lows, with the fact that a simple cold can turn into a major ordeal; she’ll always have to be aware that her blood sugar levels can affect the grade she makes on a test and she will always deal with the expense of the disease. Even though we will walk with her forever and help her deal with all of this – we can only walk beside her, we cannot take this walk for her and for that, I hate her giant.
Diabetes landed in our life on April 6, 2003 and I look forward to the day we can kick it out of every life it has interrupted. Until then, my hope is that people will seek to educate themselves on the disease and help fight to find cure. Get involved, get educated and be supportive. Diabetes may be an invisible disease, but its victims are not. The faces, every single one of them, that you see in this blog entry all have type 1 diabetes, they would love to have your help finding a cure.
If you have type 1 diabetes and are willing to share a photo, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d like to do a blog entry that is just the faces of the people who live with this giant. Diabetes may be Goliath, but T1’s are definitely David – and in the end David, with the Lord's help, destroyed Goliath.