Ask people what they consider to be great comedy, and many will reference classic television sitcoms like “Seinfeld,” “M*A*S*H” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Others may instinctively spew forth lines from their favorite movies: “I’m not dead yet!” “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” “I speak jive.” And some, most likely your grandma, will dive into a colorful reenactment of Richard Pryor discussing his under-the-counter pharmacological hobbies. Because after all, grandma speaks jive, too. What you’re unlikely to hear mentioned as the headwaters of the Great Chuckles River is “a chronic endocrinological disease of the pancreatic nether regions.” Or, as the juveniles call it, diabetes.
This month (April 19, to be exact) marks my 20-year anniversary as a Type 1 diabetic. As recently as the 1970s, this would be considered the Dialysis Anniversary, but advances in modern medicine have postponed receiving that lovely gift that keeps on sieving until, well, I guess when the bureuacratic overlords deem it so. Instead, I’ll be taking delivery of a bedazzled lancet device (a finger poker for the uninitiated) proffered by my favorite Walgreen’s pharmacist, Carl. Hitting the 20-year mark also means I’ve now enjoyed the glorious glories of organ malfunction for half of my life. I’m not really sure what that signifies, but I suppose if my existence gets called on account of rain, it will be, at the very least, official.
As you may suspect, living with a chronic disease teaches one a lot about oneself. Unfortunately, unlike living with a spouse you actually love (as I do – hey, sweetie), the education does not exactly come interjected with periods of fun and frivolity. It’s more like taking care of your house – you spend a lot of time maintaining the status quo in hopes of avoiding premature breakdowns or serious issues down the road. Yet in the end the toilets all backup anyway. Sorry for the mental picture there.
Nonetheless, diabetes has taught me many things. For example, even after 1 a.m. when nothing good happens, I will fear no roving gangs of vigilantes wielding 31-guage syringe needles. In fact, if they’re also wielding French silk pie, I will actually embrace said needles. But not for subcutaneous pie injections. Although I honestly can’t say why not. I mean, it is delicious, delicious pie, after all. Maybe if I mixed it with the right amount of Novolog…
Anyway. I’ve also learned that an insulin pump is not just a great way to get to enjoy things like the aforementioned pie a bit too much, but it is also a Delorean in my pocket – yep, a time machine. All I have to do is pull my insulin pump out of my pocket and some wisenheimer will ask if it’s a pager. In response, I affirm the question, inform my inquisitor that I’m a time-traveling coke dealer from 1998, pop my collar, lock it up tight and jiggy on out of there.
Furthermore, I can attest my life is worth roughly 10 times what yours is, assuming you are not also an emergency contact card-carrying member of the Insulin Cult. At least, that’s what my life insurance premiums tell me. Just imagine if I smoked, had high blood pressure, larded-up cholesterol and a documented history of Thin Mint overconsumption. Why, I’d be worth 50 or 60 times the national average!
At this point you’re probably thinking I’ll hit you with a bit about how diabetes has helped deepen my faith and walk ever closer with the Lord. But of all the things in my life that have drawn me nearer to God, I’m not sure Diabeetus Brimleyitis cracks the top ten. At least it didn’t for the first 15 years I had it. Now that I have kids, though, not a day goes by that I don’t pray for diabetes to be something they only know as a condition their daddy has. Because no matter how manageable it is or how normal a life one can still live with a gimpy pancreas, it’s always there. Gnawing on my innards, needing to be attended to like a chain-smoking uncle who surprises you one day by moving in and then demanding a steady stream of Pall Malls lest he put you into a coma. The sheer oddness of that metaphor alone makes me wonder if my blood sugar is low. See what I mean?
But until that cure I was promised was just “10 years away” 20 years ago materializes, all I can really do is poke some fingers, count some carbs, blast some boluses and keep on keepin’ on – trusting in God to protect both the size of my deductibles and my kids’ Islets of Langerhans. So, happy anniversary, diabetes, and enjoy your gluconic stranglehold on me while you can. For one day I shall arise, glorified in a resurrected body, crowned with Krispy Kremes and enrobed in hot fudge. No assistance from Carl needed.
Jason Fox is also a lactose bigot.