Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Diabetes--does it get in the way?

There's a lot of talk lately about Sonia Sotomayor and her type 1 diabetes. Will it affect her ability to be a Supreme Court justice? Of course not. Mostly.

Trying to tell someone how diabetes affects your life is difficult. It changes everything. And at the same time, it's not a big deal.

In a story about Ms. Sotomayor and her diabetes, Time Magazine ran this photograph of a woman injecting herself with something. And yes, you can take insulin injections in your arm by squeezing it up against a chair or wall, but there are easier ways to do it. (And ways that look less like a hype getting a fix.) The most common places to give yourself an injection are the stomach, legs, and butt. They're easier to reach and they have more fat as well.

If I were to pick a photograph to show what diabetes is like, it would be this:

Yup. Food. I eat a lot of food in bowls. When you have type 1 diabetes (which I've had for 23 years), you have to count every bite of food you eat. For me, the easiest way to do this is to eat out of bowls. This far up the bowl is one cup. This far, two cups.

Pictured there, one cup beans, half a cup rice, for a total of 50 g carbohydrate, which translates to 7 units of insulin. I do a mental calculation like that every time I eat.

And that's the hard part of having diabetes. It's counting everything you eat. Thinking about when your next meal will be every time you step out the door. Keeping track of five prescriptions that need to be renewed at different times. Carting around a bag of supplies everywhere you go. Noticing that you walked three miles today instead of two. It's six doctor's appointments a year. Four to ten blood sugar checks a day. No vacation.

But all these things I do, they're what keep me healthy. Sometimes I'll catch someone giving me a look when I test my blood sugar. I guess testing reminds people that I'm "sick". Which is ironic. Testing my blood sugar and taking insulin make me healthy. If you ever notice me ignoring my diabetes for days on end, like a normal person, start worrying.

Occasionally, my blood sugar goes low. And I lose fifteen minutes or so of time waiting for things to come back into focus. And that part isn't such a big deal.

Twenty-three years into this, I have no complications so far. Statistics tell me I'll die seven to ten years earlier, probably from a heart attack. I'm not going to spend a lot of time worrying about dying at 87, rather than 95 (the age my great-grandmother lived to).

There are a lot of factors that should be considered before choosing Ms. Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice. Her diabetes just isn't one of them.


dsharp88 said...

Very insightful for those of us outside the world of diabetes. Thank you for sharing this!

Barbara said...

Right on! Thanks for sharing your perspective on diabetes and politics.

maggie and paul said...

Dear Molly,
That was amazing to read. Paul and I will ride in the Tour de Cure next weekend. We were riding to honor Mary Beth. When we told her she told us you were also a Type 1 Diabetic. So kiddo, we will be thinking of you also next Sunday.
Maggie and Paul

Chile said...

Glad to read you are taking care of yourself so well!