In the months before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I had applied for a scholarship that would fund a year of graduate studies abroad through Rotary International. With one year of college to go, I had my eyes, heart and mind set on returning to Hungary (a place that I had grown to love) after college.
All that stood between me and Hungary was an interview to determine if I would be awarded the scholarship. As I was sitting in the hospital bed, learning about my new lifestyle with type 1 diabetes, suddenly a question crossed my mind– can I travel and live abroad with diabetes??
Although after diagnosis, I was generally pretty positive and happy to finally have insulin in my body, this was the most sinking thought. I had been dreaming about living abroad in my twenties and I had lots of ideas about where to go and what to do. What I didn’t know was if I would be forced to give up that dream.
Then, like a good American girl, I remembered that “I can do ANYTHING that I put my mind to”. Then I made a PROMISE to myself (without consulting anyone).
I would NEVER let diabetes hold me back from living my dreams.
That was the deal. And it was somehow easy to make from that hospital bed. When I got home after two and a half days with diabetes, crisis set in and I realized that EVERYTHING had changed. When trying to figure out how much insulin I needed to give for dinner on my first night home, I broke down. I yelled:
“I NEED TO KNOW THAT I CAN LIVE A NORMAL LIFE. I NEED SOMEONE TO CALL ME AND TELL ME THAT I CAN LIVE, TRAVEL, AND DREAM WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES.”
The next morning the phone rang. It was a woman with type 1 diabetes. In fact, it was a woman that I already knew. I just didn’t know that she had diabetes. Even before we met and she taught me so much that I needed to know, I felt a sense of peace. Because this woman is a world traveler who has done amazing things to help people around the world. I calmed down and knew that it would be okay– and that my deal with diabetes was still on.
After I got the news that Rotary would fund a year long experience for me in Hungary, I didn’t think twice about it. I just bought lots of supplies and learned as much as I could before I left. I told my endo that we would only be able to meet a year later. And I left, me and my diabetes, for an adventure of a lifetime.
Long story short, I’m still in Hungary. I learned to manage my diabetes with annual trips to the endo and home A1c tests in between. I had wonderful family that helped me get the supplies that I needed. And I’m thankful that diabetes didn’t prevent me from living the life that I currently live.
Almost five years later, I can say that the deal that I made with diabetes still holds. I have not let diabetes hold me back from living my dreams.
But somehow my understanding of the deal had changed dramatically. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I perceived the situation as:
ME vs. DIABETES
and I didn’t want diabetes to win. It didn’t, but my control wasn’t great either. So at some point, my perspectives changed. I realized that in order to fulfill many of my dreams, I first need to learn how to live WELL with diabetes. If I take care of myself, then that will give me much better chances at living the life I dream of…
Now how I see the situation as:
ME with DIABETES
and my control is a lot better when I allow diabetes to factor into my decisions. After all it is a part of me and we have a lifelong relationship. “We” might as well work together.