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[IP] Re: 20 years...37 years.. and all other boasts
To those who are angry with their doctors for telling them when they were
diagnosed that they could expect to live another 20 (25? fill in the blank)
years, consider this:
When I was 24, and my diabetes was only 7 years old, my sister's best
friend, Linda, was diagnosed with type 1. She was 18 then. I was almost
happy over the news. My thought was -- Oh boy! Someone to share with,
someone I can maybe give advice to on dealing with shots and food, etc.
I don't know if the doctor told Linda she'd have another 20 years. I
never heard of any such projection myself. Linda had trouble with her eyes
within months. About a year after diagnosis, at age 19, she died.
That was in 1981.
From my friend's (her sister's) description of her last hours at the
hospital, I gather it was diabetic ketoacidosis. My friend told me about her
frequent need of potassium shots. She was surprised to hear I had never had
a potassium shot. She told me that Linda had asked on that last day if it
was a sin to want to die.
I don't know what happened. Twenty-one years later, I still sit in
stunned silence when I remember Linda -- a healthy, beautiful (Linda means
"beautiful") and active girl whose life was taken by this disease in a
matter of months. It's unfathomable. It hadn't really occurred to me that
Diabetes could kill you if you took your insulin and you were quick about
treating lows. From the perspective of Linda's life, a 20-year projection
has a whole different feel.
I think, treating diabetes not only requires balancing carbohydrates and
insulin, but the balancing of attitudes. It's a hard thing for us to get
right. Although it doesn't excuse them from trying, it is also a hard thing
for doctors to get right.
We can be annoyed with those who foment fear by issuing life expectancy
reports. Even so, if the imagined confrontation with the doctor ever came to
pass, I bet he or she would be pleased to see you still alive and doing
Perhaps we should be more annoyed with the doctors who foment
complacency, who gave us our needle and vial, handed us a pre-fab diet,
patted us on the butt and told us "You'll do fine."
It is stressful, even crippling to live in fear that death might be
around the corner.
It is also crippling -- in the literal sense of crippling -- to believe
that diabetes isn't really that big a deal. This is often the form of denial
seen in Type 1-ers who really can't outright deny having diabetes since we
have to take the shot every day, but can deny that the disease will have any
impact on our lives. Unfortunately, if we actually live according to that
belief, we could end up with some really unpleasant surprises.
Sometimes I think I see this kind of denial in the postings that boast,
"Oh, I've had diabetes nine years now and no complications!" I ask myself,
should I be the bad guy and point out that most people with Diabetes don't
notice complications until about the 15-year mark?
I, too, am cheered by the stories from folks who have lived 20 years with
diabetes and still no complications, yet that doesn't change the fact that
it killed my sister's best friend before she was out of her teens.
Diabetes needs fear tempered with optimism. Optimism preserves our
enjoyment of life, makes us go out and fight to be able to get the jobs,
pump iron, fly planes, do the stuff that non-diabetics do. Fear is the
reason we push the NIH to adequately fund diabetes research.
P.S., just in case -- there is no criticism whatsoever intended here. I've
been annoyed with doom-faced doctors too. You all just got my wheels
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