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My Diabetic Friend

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When I was in high school (don’t ask how long ago), I had a good friend that had Type I (childhood, insulin-dependent) diabetes. When I first found out that he was diabetic, I wasn’t sure how to react. I was still a kid, and I hadn’t ever known anyone that was diabetic before, or any had other chronic disease for that matter. To be honest, I think I felt nervous at first. I wasn’t sure what being diabetic meant. Would my friend act weird around other people? It seems petty to even think about that now, but I was a young teenager then, at a time when what other people thought about me was so critical to my self-esteem.

As I got to know my friend better, hanging out at school and going to church camps and youth group meetings, I found out that he really wasn’t strange. I didn’t have anything to be worried about in that regard. He was more-or-less like any other kid. To be sure, there were some differences. He had to be really careful about what he ate. He couldn’t eat any kind of sugary candy or drink soda pop. I ate candy and drank sugary stuff pretty much whenever I felt like it. He had to make sure he ate at regular times and got enough calories. I skipped meals and ate as much or little as I wanted. When he played any sports or took physical education classes, he had to be sure he had a snack or drink of some sort so that his blood sugar level didn’t get too low. I ran track and cross country and burned calories at a ferocious rate, running for literally hours at a time. It would have been nearly impossible for him to maintain that level of calorie consumption.

But my friend seemed to take all of that in stride most of the time, and didn’t make an issue of it. He behaved basically like any other kid, so I never thought that much of it – except for one thing: the shots.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit it – I’m totally a wimp when it comes to shots. I hate shots. More than once, I’ve fainted dead away after getting a shot – I’m not exaggerating. I have to ask to lay down when I get a shot at the doctor’s office. Go ahead and laugh at me – I can take it. I’m not a wimp about that, and I’ve learned over the years that embarrassment and humiliation are just emotions, and they go away after a while. I’ve seen surveys that have said that people’s number one greatest fear is public speaking. Well, I’d much rather get up and speak in front of 10,000 people than get a shot. I’m not at all kidding.

When I found out about the shots, I couldn’t believe it: “You have to have shots twice a day, every day, for your whole life!

Yes, from the time he was five years old, my friend needed insulin injections twice a day, every day at regular times, without fail, or he’d die.

The shots would have killed me, I think.

So, it’s for my friend that I’m blogging for a cure for diabetes. After high school, we went our separate ways, off to college, then jobs and family. I haven’t seen him in years. Last I’d heard, he’d moved away from the Northwest, where we grew up. We’ve lost contact. But when I see anything about diabetes, I think of him, and I think of all the thousands of shots. To me, that’s a good enough reason (although there are many, many more) to find a cure.

I’ll be posting more on this during the month of November, which is American Diabetes month. Posts won’t be every day, since I don’t have time to write that often, but at least once a week. Thanks to John Mudd for bringing this to my attention.

Visit the American Diabetes Association’s web site to find out more about diabetes and what you can do to help find a cure.

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  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Pete, excellent and moving – it’s an insidious disease

  • Ray

    A very nice post. I also have Type I diabetes, and I give himself an insulin shot twice a day. For quite some time, as I wrestled with this disease, I dreaded the day when I might have to start injecting myself. But when the time came, learning how to do it (and do it comfortably) was relatively simple.

    The first shot was really really difficult, but once I steeled myself to push the needle into my stomach and push the plunger, I found it was not nearly as bad, or as painful, as I had feared. Sometime, when I am careless or rush myself too much, I can give myself a very entertaining bruise, but the vast majority of the shots I take are simple, painless, and quick.

    Not only that, but the technology for administering insulin makes it easy and comfortable too. I use insulin pens with screw-on caplike needles, which make it very easy to measure the dosage and deliver it with no pain, provided you it right.

    Thanks for this post. Very nice.

  • Its worth remembering that Steve Redgrave – 5 times Olympic Gold Medal winner in rowing – is diabetic.

    Diabetes is a problem, but it doesn’t need to prevent you leading a full and athletic life.

  • diabetic:

    Thanks for the comment. I didn’t expect one after so long.

    You are absolutely right, of course. What I didn’t mention in my post is that my friend was also a quite good athlete while we were in high school. Given the medical technology of the time, it may have been difficult for him to compete in intense, long-duration sporting events (like long distance running), but he was a pole-vaulter, swam and did lots of different sports. So if my post implied that diabetics couldn’t live active lives, I gave the wrong impression. Diabetics – the ones I’ve known, anyway – certainly can and do live very active lives when they choose to, just like anyone else. Your example points out that diabetics are able to compete at an extremely high level in any sport that they choose, provided they have the talent and desire. There is no difference between diabetics and non-diabetics in that regard.

  • i own yo7u

    i got diabetes i can do all that stuff