I’ve been following a number of people online who treat cancer survivors and their families. Many people have survived cancer in my family, and my father died from mesothelioma. I know diabetics who have to care for their friends or family during chemo treatments, and embody the role of caretaker. I can only applaud the strength and courage of both fighter and caretaker.

My mother has had Stage 4 cancer and now has diabetes. She said something to me a few years ago which I wasn’t sure what to make of. She said “You know, if I had to pick, I’d rather have cancer. I either live or die from cancer. The doctors do all the work – you just sit back and do what you can, but the chemo and radiation is scheduled, dosed and delivered by doctors. Then, you get to go home (if you’re lucky). But diabetes – this is nothing like my cancer. I can’t escape this. No one else figures out what I should eat, how much to take. And it’s not even just once a day – it’s all day long, day after day after day. I’d rather fight cancer.”

Mother’s wisdom strikes again.

I think many of us can relate to the grueling task that diabetes self care can feel like sometimes.Diabetes doesn’t have “popular”public support like other diseases. It can be hard for someone to call a friend and say “I’m having a hard time with my diabetes – can you come over and help?” Friends may not know what to do. There’s no end to this illness, and it’s taxing on both the person with diabetes and their friends and families.

There’s a few lists of ways cancer survivors have changed their outlook on life, and I love reading them. I’ve decided to make my own for people with diabetes.

Here’s what these courageous people taught me about how to live.

1. We replicate an organ

Let’s take checking your blood sugar in public and taking a correction with a pen or syringe. We get to trigger all sorts of phobias in people – the sight of blood, the fear of needles, for starters. We get stared at and dirty looks. There’s no shame in taking care of ourselves. We have a right to outside-of-body blood sugar management just as much as they have a right to do it all automatically. Let’s not use stares as a reason to not check in public. We are diabetics -that’s just what we do.

2. Their thoughts don’t have to be your thoughts.

While the looks may hurt or make us cringe, we don’t need to pay attention to it. They may tell you “You can’t eat that!” and if so, so what? There’s no number for the Diabetes Police.

Only we have the power to decide what we can and cannot do.

3. We can be beautiful and cyborgs too

We carry enough electronic equipment to compete for the geek-of-the-year award, and this can make us self-conscious. If you wear a pump or cgms don’t the let fear of how you look stop you from doing what you  need to do for your health. No one cares how you look if you could have gone out with friends more often because of the convenience of a pump than if you had to stay home alone because you were afraid of how you look to others.

4. Our minute-by-minute reminder for life

We don’t get to forget we have diabetes. We don’t get a break. While this can sounds stressful, it can also be a tool we use to remind ourselves to live in the present. We can only fantasize but for so long before a blood sugar swing brings us back to the moment.

We manage to not only stay alive but manage to pull off a meaningful life with diabetes. We don’t have to let the unpopularity of diabetes make us self-conscious and it can motivate us to live a full life.

What things have you done to live a fulfilled life even with diabetes?


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