As a teenager, I wasted much time flipping through Seventeen and Glamour, and eventually I graduated to Cosmo and Vogue. I would start on the first page, feeling OK, but by the time I got to the last page, I felt pretty disgusted with myself. I wasn’t thin enough or tall enough or muscular enough. My boobs were too small, my butt was too flat, my skin was too flawed, and my face was too round. It’s not like I was ever going to be able to afford those $500 shoes or that $1000 sweater, so why was I reading this $4 magazine, because frankly, it made me feel like shit. I stopped buying those magazines about ten years ago. Good riddance too.
I know I was told when I was very young that diabetes would be cured within five years. Every year as a child when I blew out the candles on my birthday cake, I wished for a cure. Every year. I did that until maybe sometime in my teens or possibly even into my 20’s. When I was closing in on my 5th D-anniversary at age 10, I remember being in the car with my mom, and telling her that I would be cured really soon because it had been almost five years. I don’t recall that my mom had much of a response, and who can blame her? What do you say to your diabetic 10-year old who took that “cure in 5 years” message to heart?
As a kid, being cured seemed as glamorously feasible as being a super model. I could have magically restored beta-cells, and strut around in 4-inch Italian leather heels and a slinky Kashmir wool dress all in one fell swoop. As disillusioned as I became that my ungraceful, average body wasn’t going to support my career aspirations, I became just as disillusioned that this supposed cure was nothing more than fairy tale fodder for a girl, humiliated by having a disease.
Just like I used to page through those magazines, longing to have things that just weren’t meant to be mine, I used to believe I’d be cured. I was told by doctors no less that we were only a few years away, and I blindly believed them. I climbed on that rollercoaster, thinking it was a ride with a glorious ending, and I rode, and rode, and rode. News of this or that development sent me soaring, then the realization that it never materialized sent me hurtling back toward ground again. I had been told I’d only have to ride for five, maybe ten years, but ten years became fifteen, and then twenty, and so forth. In time I realized that the glorious ending to that ride was as fictional as those Photoshopped girls on the glossy pages staring back at me at the supermarket check-out line. The ups and downs made me sick – not to my stomach, but heartsick – and I had to ask myself if that’s how I wanted to spend my life, looking to the latest medical news to finally deliver on a promise made when Jimmy Carter was president and I played my favorite record, Grease, on a pink turntable while I sang to my Barbies.
To this day, it crushes me to hear diabetic children being told there will be a cure in five to ten years. I know adults are trying to instill hope in those kids, but I guess no one stops to think that such a statement could do more harm than good if it never pans out. Add all the qualifiers you want, “might”, “hopefully”, “probably”, ”maybe”, but a kid filters that out and just hears that they’ll be cured. I’m still bitter that that was my experience, and it makes me angry to see kids and families being dragged onto that same rollercoaster I rode for so long, believing in that same glorious ending that I was expecting back in 1983.
We all do the things we have to do to get through each day with diabetes, and much of that comes down to self-talk and belief. In order for me to continue, I had to let go of the belief that I’ll be cured because it built me up and tore me down until I was too exhausted to care about my ‘betes anymore. If I get to the point where I don’t care, it won’t matter if there’s a cure in five years because I’ll be too dead to experience it. It’s a self-preservation tactic at this point. Logically, I don’t deny that there could conceivably be a cure in five years, but for the sake of living well with diabetes, I have to invest my hope in being well and being happy with this disease, not being cured. Being raked over the coals of disappointment even one more time is more than I can stand to consider. I need to feel good about who I am and what I have, a diabetic with type 1 diabetes, if I’m going to manage this disease everyday for the next five years or for the rest of my life, no matter how simultaneously unpredictable and monotonous it is.
So to the question, hype or hope, that’s been posed by Amy, that Scott has weighed in on, and Allison has also thrown out for reflection, all in anticipation of DRI’s Diabetes 2.0 this Saturday in NYC, I’ll take neither. The longer I live with this disease, I just don’t care to read about any of it. It has no bearing on my life and doesn’t change what I need to do to take care of it. Instead it stands to destroy the positive attitude and perseverance that I’ve almost impossibly created from bitterness, hate and resentment. Living well and being happy with diabetes is a delicate construct that is tested everyday with fluctuating BG’s, imposing tasks, and endless responsibility. I’m finding greater success since my cure subscription met the same fate as my subscription to the fashion magazines. Better to appreciate the life I’m living than pine for the one I can’t have.