November is Diabetes Awareness month. Since November of 2000, I have been doing all I could to raise awareness during this time frame. I would send out letters. I would forward emails. I would post statistics and explain how diabetes almost killed my son.
Yesterday marked the 90 year anniversary since Sir Frederick Banting had that “Eureka!” moment that led him to discover insulin. For those of us who have seen what life can look like without insulin, we are forever indebted to this man who died before many of us were born. The path he forged in finding an external source of insulin has allowed my son to thrive today.
Insulin is not a cure. The challenges my son faces each day amaze and frustrate me. In an attempt to watch my waistline shrink instead of grow, I decided to log all of my meals on my Blackberry. Every morsel of food would be noted and the calories would be recorded. I lasted for a day but I make my son do this regularly. I help. I calculate. I support where I can but its not an easy task. No wonder he falls sometimes but sadly for him its not a matter of vanity, its a matter of life and death. Too much or too little insulin is hazardous to his health.
Since that fateful day in March of 2000, my son has been stabbed by a needle to receive life sustaining insulin over 7200 times. The number is actually smaller than it might be thanks to the insulin pump he has been using since he was five. The “pump” has a small catheter (infusion set) that stays in his skin and is only changed every 3 days (or when it falls out while having fun).
While insulin keeps my son alive, balancing the intake of food, insulin, activity and health requires the constant lancing of his fingers to test his blood. Not including routine blood work or testing his blood for ketones, he has tested his blood with his glucometer close to 40,000 times.
I see his hands each day (which are a mess because he only uses one spot to test no matter what) and I look at the small red marks on his body that show where the last infusion set was placed for his insulin pump. I can see the evidence of all of this jabbing. As I wrote out the numbers above showing how often his body has been stabbed, my mind immediately thought of a water balloon with multiple holes and water pouring out in small streams everywhere. Thankfully he is not squirting blood on a steady basis (although he has been able to get blood for testing on occasion just by pressing on a point) but I would love to see a cure for this disease before he starts!
Yesterday was World Diabetes Day and someone mentioned that people were saying “Happy” World Diabetes Day as if this was a happy occasion. Some noted that it was a happy occasion simply because it was a day that they did not feel alone. It was a day when others would recognize the existence of a horrible disease.
Personally I did not call it a happy day but did feel that it was a day to celebrate. November 14th is chosen because it is Sir Frederick Banting’s birthday. As one of the men credited with the discovery of insulin, I am more than happy to celebrate his birthday. Like too many others, I have seen what a person who lives without insulin can look like. That is just too terrifying not to celebrate the fact that this wonderful man made such an incredible discovery. It is a day to celebrate the fact that my child LIVES each day because of that isolated source of external insulin.
Someone suggested that this is just another day. We live in isolation. People do not understand the hardships no matter how much many of us try to educate them. I agree that most people don’t get it but every time just one person tries to learn. Every time one person asks just one question to educate themselves, that is one more person that we have reached. It is one more person that we have given a glimpse into what our lives are like. It is one more person who can begin to understand and work beside us.
November is Diabetes Awareness month. I admit that this year I have not been as loud or as “out there” spreading the word as I have in the past. As someone once told me, we have to do this every day not just one month out of the year and that is something that I try to do. I continue to work to educate and make people aware…one person at a time is a very good start.