“C’mon babe, you need to test. Here, give me your finger. Oh, you’re low. Hang on let me get you a juice.” They say there are a million ways to say “I love you.” “Grab an umbrella.” “Here I made you some tea.” “You look exhausted, did you sleep well last night?” To me, “I love you” comes through in phrases like “you need to test your blood sugar.” “Did you take insulin for that yet?” “Want me to help you do your nighttime shot?” What may sound like mundane, or even nagging, questions to some are mutters of love and affection to me. To love a diabetic is to embrace their diagnosis.
I was diagnosed with my type 1 diabetes late for a kid – at age 16 – and therefore most of people in my life knew me both before and after my diagnosis. It wasn’t until I went off to college that I came to the upsetting and reality striking conclusion that everyone I met from here on out would only know me as a diabetic, not as the person I was before the shots and finger pricks.
When I first met my boyfriend, I was at a rough point in my diabetes care – trying to handle the pressures of school with the fluctuations of blood sugars and not allow one to get in the way of the other. It was like balancing on a high wire with your eyes shut; hard as hell and scary as can be. At first, I played off my diabetes like it was nothing. I concealed my pump, I tested my sugar in private, I dosed when no one was looking. It was that I didn’t want anyone to see me do it, it was more that I didn’t want that to be the only thing they saw about me. All that changed when I met Christian, however.
We had been dating maybe a week, in the very beginning when our relationship was just starting to blossom. After a long night of hanging out and working on homework together, I packed up my stuff to head back to my dorm room. As I was getting ready to leave, I felt it. The light-headed feeling. The confusing sensation that my hands were not attached to my arms and my legs were not attached to the rest of me. The cold sweats. The shaking hands. Christian looked at me, with his beautiful blue eyes full of concern, and said, “hey, are you okay?” I nervously laughed and said, “oh yeah it’s just my blood sugar; I think it’s low and I don’t have a juice on me.” He immediately grabbed my hand, slung my backpack over his shoulder, and said, “well c’mon. I’ll walk you back to your room and we’ll get it sorted out.” When we arrived in my single, I realized I was in fact VERY low (around 40) and one juice wasn’t going to cut it. I set my alarm for 15 minutes, guzzled a juice box, and told him I would be fine. “No. I’m staying until you’re safe enough to go to sleep.” He curled up in my armchair and assured me he would wake me when the timer went off. This continued until my blood sugar finally decided it was done with the games around 4am, at which point he unfurled himself from his position in the armchair, gave me a kiss on the forehead and left, assuring me that his ringer would be on and I was to call him if I needed anything.
Two years later and nothing has changed. He has taken on my diabetes with more strength and love than I could ever ask for. He truly wants to understand what is happening with my sugars, how we can fix them, and what he can do to support me. He knows the look I get when my sugar is high, and will gently prod me to test. He knows how to calculate my carbs and how much insulin I need to take. He keeps a stock of juice boxes in his room and can open one in three seconds, when my shaking hands are too weak. He stashes juice boxes in his car’s glove compartment and always has a bottle of water nearby in case of a thirst-inducing high. Most importantly, he is one of the only ones that truly knows my story. He knows the days when I’m miserable because of lack of sleep and high blood sugars. He knows how I fret about my A1C and obsess over whether or not to go back on the pump. He knows how to explain my diabetes, to friends, to his family, to random strangers that stare at me when I whip out a needle in the middle of a restaurant.
I know that he loves me. I know that my health is one of his biggest concerns and I know that he will do whatever it takes to make sure I am okay. I know that I can depend on him to help me in times of low blood sugars and highs. I know that, no matter what path I continue down in terms of my diabetes care, he will be there; holding my hand, with a juice box in his pocket.