What would you do if someone you loved developed an autoimmune disease? A disease that attacks the insulin producing beta cells that live in the pancreas.
What would you do if they could die from this disease if not treated by insulin injections? Insulin injections that must be administered by needle six to seven times at day – minimum – to keep their blood glucose levels at a normal healthy range, their entire lifetime.
What would possibly be the root of this assailant on someone you love? This aggressor would be Type 1 diabetes. A debilitating disease. A disease of mystery and power.
This disease knows no bounds. It could attack you. It could attack me. Research has not proven why, or how. They know an autoimmune response is triggered. Maybe from an infection, maybe from an inherited gene, maybe even from not being breast-fed as a child. In addition, not everyone that has an autoimmune trigger develops diabetes. Some do. Some don’t.
The first person I ever knew with diabetes was my paternal grandfather. He died in 1975, I don’t remember him. I missed a chance to know him – he died too young. I never really knew anything about diabetes, despite my grandfather having had it. I was just a little kid. It didn’t affect me. I had no reason to find out why I didn’t grow up with my grandfather.
What did get my attention was another man who had Type 1 diabetes. His name was Uncle Bub. I would come to live with him and his sister during a separation from my second husband. It was a turbulent time of my life. Uncle Bub was my saving grace. He was my friend. Someone I would talk hours to. His health had deteriorated quickly with Type 1 diabetes.
In the previous years, He hadn’t taken care of himself and let his blood sugar levels get too high. He didn’t inject the life saving insulin. His body began failing. He had a stroke. He lost all feeling in his fingers. He developed heart disease. He lost his right leg, from above the knee down. He lost all his toes, except the big one on his left foot. He was near blind.
This six foot two inch tall man of such stature and pride, a leading manager for over twenty years with an oil company, was reduced to near helplessness in a wheelchair. His life stricken and battered by this autoimmune disease. He could no longer live by himself, nor take care of himself. This independent man had to rely on others. It was harsh and painful. The disease, left uncontrolled, wrought havoc on his fifty year old body.
When I came to live with him, I helped him as many ways as I could. His strength weakened, lay coiled inside. He was a fighter. Most men would have given up, faced with the nightmare, but he fought and he lived. I would load Uncle Bub’s insulin shots every morning for him. He could administer the shot himself, just not prepare it. His fingers, without nerves, could not navigate such a delicate task, nor he could his damaged eyes see the fill lines.
I would take him as many places as he wanted to go. Often to the computer electronics store, or Walmart, or to out to eat. I would throw his wheelchair in the car and off we’d go. Nothing could stop us. He never let his disability keep him down. In fact, he got the biggest kick out stuff – like when I searched, and searched for his matching sock. Um, yeah, he only needed ONE sock. Boy, did that give him belly laughs for the longest time.
We even got to take our girls to Orlando together (his granddaughter, my daughter). Airplane, car rental, two hotel rooms and two little girls ages ten and eight trek across the country. I wheeled him all over Universal Studios. He wore a cowboy hat everywhere. No matter who we met, they called him Big Tex. To make the trip truly memorable, a hurricane hit Florida. We rode it out in the hotel. Hurricane Charlie. He smiled and entertained the hotel guests all day during the storm. It took their mind off it. His smile lit the whole dreary room.
He was the first man I knew and loved with Type 1 diabetes. My heart ached over his disease. He died a year and half after our trip. Heart disease and complications of Type 1 diabetes. What a shame. What a loss. He had so much life in him. He was such a dear confidant to me. He wasn’t even MY uncle. He was first husband’s uncle. His love for me shows , what an incredible man he really was.
The second man to enter my life with Type 1 diabetes? My boyfriend Jason. He developed the autoimmune disease while serving in the Marines, diagnosed February 1997. He was 22 years old, in the pinnacle of his youth. What a shocking blow. But what could he do? This was his fate. There is no cure. He dealt with it, like the soldier he was. Twelve years now, he has tested his blood sugar, by puncturing his finger, taking a drop of blood, and feeding it into a meter.
If it’s high, he takes insulin to bring it down. He has to pierce his skin with another needle, using pressure, to inject a shot. It’s as painful as it sounds. If it’s low, he has to take in sugar to bring it up. If he goes too low, he could go into a coma. If he goes too high, he has to take another insulin shot. It is a dangerous game. It is a guessing game. Most days, there is no winner – just the constant ups and downs.
The highs and lows don’t come without a price. The highs, are edgy causing light headiness, thirst and nausea. The lows, are blackened vision, spots – an inability to stay alert. Imagine those things happening to you. Imagine how that would affect your moods and your nature – while working, while parenting, while sleeping, while exercising. It’s no cake walk. Welcome to their life.
In my quest to understand, I decided to check my blood sugar. I pricked my finger. I fed the meter. Mine was normal, of course. I did it ONCE. He does it, six to nine times a DAY.
One time during lunch, my blood sugar dropped. I was sick, anxious, and nervous. My leg twitched constantly. I wanted to rotate my head several times around, thinking that MIGHT make me feel better. After I ate, it took thirty minutes to kick in and stop the madness inside my skull. ONE TIME. Jason does this on a daily basis.
My hearts grieves over this disease. Not because one, but TWO men I love dearly have their lives directly affected by it. One’s life was cut short. One’s life could very well be cut short, if they don’t find a cure soon. I can try to put myself in their shoes, but I will NEVER truly know the pain of living with Type 1 Diabetes. I only know the pain of watching a loved one, bear the burden of Type 1 Diabetes. I pray for a cure. I long for a cure. I have hope for a cure.
October 24, 2009 – I will walk for a cure. I will walk next to the man I love with his beautiful children. I will walk in honor of Uncle Bub’s spunk, that encouraged me during a very low stretch in my life. I will fight for Jason. I will fight for the millions affected. I will fight to see him healed and free. I have to believe…we’ll win this fight.
What would I do? I would do anything.
If you’d like to join me in this cause -please do!- I would consider it a privilege. Even as little as $5.00 could bring them closer to solving this mystery. From what I understand, they are very close.
If financially this is impossible for you, then all I ask is that you say a prayer for those enduring Type 1 Diabetes. Pray for their strength, pray for their journey, and pray for their families – who love them and ache to see their strain. Lift them up.
Pray. Hope. Believe.
Diabetes – Walk for a Cure- Click here to visit my page and make a donation.
*Link updated for October 2010 walk for a cure.*
***edit and update September 17, 2010**
This year’s Diabetes walk is Oct. 23, 2010. We have “registered” for donations. This time I am asking family and friends attending our wedding October 10, 2010 to gift us the greatest marriage gift we could accept. A hope for a cure. The link above has been updated to this year’s walk donations. We deeply thank-you and send you love and blessings in return.