Diabetes and Relationships: My Man, His Insulin Pen, and I
I remember our first date. He showed up at my place clutching a bag of pretzels and a 2 liter bottle of Coke Light. “Coke Light?” I thought to myself – now here’s a man after my own heart! We settled on the sofa to watch one of two movies – his favourite (Old School) and my favourite (Kill Bill), munching and sipping away at the sugar-free drink. There was chemistry, that’s for sure. I remember focusing more on the proximity of his body to mine than on the scenes playing off on the box in front of us!
Between movies we decided to head across the road for a pizza and a glass of wine. And it was during this break in our movie date that he made the disclosure, “I have Type 1 diabetes.” I can’t really say that my world stopped or that my dreams caved in. Growing up one of my good friends lived with Type 1 and, while I can’t say that I knew much about it, I had the basic information and knew that it was definitely no death sentence. Also, he was so casual about it, explaining as he administered his insulin shot at the table why he had to take insulin, how it brought down his blood glucose levels and giving me the background. My heart ached for the three-year-old version of himself that received this diagnosis. But at this point, my 25-year old date was cool, calm, and collected about his ‘condition’. We went back to my place, watched the second movie and he kissed me goodbye at the door on his way home. My knees were wobbly.
Fast forward a couple of dates and I had my first real diabetes-related worry. Wrapped in the throes of early romance my man was perfect – in every imaginable way. (He still is, but eight years later it’s a different kind of adoration – you know what I mean!). We were hanging out somewhere when I all of a sudden realised that he had gone quite pale and that, despite the cool Cape Town breeze, he was sweating. A lot. Not trying to worry me, he asked me to please find him some sugar as he was experiencing a sudden low blood sugar. My heart raced and the adrenalin kicked into overdrive – my immediate reaction was ‘RESCUE’! One Snickers bar and a glass of orange juice later he was back to being the strong, healthy joker I was growing more and more fond of. And that’s when I made the decision to keep my handbag supplied with some sugar – just in case.
Fast forward a couple of months and we were now making a life for ourselves in the Big Apple. I mean, I knew pretty much from day 1 that this was the man for me, so when his work moved him to New York there was no way I was letting him go without me. We decided to get married (long story – ask me about it when we meet!) and went to great lengths to make this wedding as weird and wacky as it could be. It included all the elements – a long stretch limo with mirrors on the ceiling, a $5 golden tie for him, bought from a merchant on the side of the road, rings bought from Macy’s at their silver sale and a recycled dress with cheap shoes. The most important thing was that we were having the time of our lives – and loving every minute! The limo drove us through Times Square on our way down to City Hall at the southern tip of Manhattan and I quickly noticed the signs of his hypo…his temples started beading with sweat and he got that ghostly pale-ness about him. “Move over the car!” – we piled out, into a local drug store and, after this quick carb-refuelling stop, headed back on our merry way downtown to wedded bliss.
We’ve had diabetes intervene in many of our travels, parties, dinners, plans and actions, but it has never stopped us from doing anything. My heart no longer sets off on a gallop when I spot his hypo, as I know that he will be just fine with the right intervention. I’ve also learnt not to ‘hover’ over him when he is dealing with his hypo. Hand him the sugar and then give him some space! We have an agreement that when he goes off on his extreme sports events (my man is a triathlete, extreme snowboarder, avid kick boxer and a hiker) he will wear his continuous blood glucose monitor and always have some carbs in his pocket. At the same time, I let him get on with dealing with his diabetes. There’s a fine line between showing enough interest and being a control freak. I figure that he had this diabetes thing down pat way before we met, so I’m letting him continue along that good path that he’s been on. He tests his blood glucose levels multiple times a day, he has great control over his insulin intake, and Timesulin has made a huge difference in the amount of anxiety we both often faced when neither of us could remember whether or not he had taken his shot. All in all, diabetes is just one of the many, many factors in our lives together – and it has never overshadowed anything.
Today we live together in Stockholm and I am pregnant with our first…and second. We’re expecting twin boys in the coming weeks and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to sometimes wondering whether one (or both) of them had inherited their Daddy’s faulty pancreas. But I don’t dwell on that thought, because what if one (or both) of them inherited my knobbly nose, or my love of ’80’s boy bands? As with any of these traits, our motto is, ‘We’ll deal with it’ and I think that these boys are immensely lucky to have a father who has learnt to live his life with diabetes as full-on and passionately as he has. What a role model for them! And for me.