Now you see me, now you don’t, diabetes

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There’s a strange phenomena that comes with living with diabetes. Perhaps the same as living with any illness or condition that slowly, gradually, over time, progresses. So slowly we don’t see it progressing; I certainly don’t feel it progressing.

It progresses whether we take care of it or not. In the background, slowly during the ordinary days when I get up, work at my computer, meet friends for lunch, walk through the city, laugh through dinner out with my husband.   

If I look back I know exactly when my ophthalmologist told me she saw the first sign of an eye problem – a slow growing cataract when I was 52. The first sign, after 34 years of being so relieved I had no eye problems, now I did.

I remember exactly when I got my first, of the two I’ve had, frozen shoulder. It was the day I got off the plane after living in Tokyo for six years. Day after day my shoulder became more limited in its movement and more painful. 

For a year I went from my endo to my family doctor to an occupational therapist, even a chiropractor while I was visiting friends in San Francisco. But it wasn’t until my mother told me to go to her chiropractor when I came home that my shoulder was properly diagnosed and treated. My second frozen shoulder 15 years later needed an operation. When I asked if this could recur, my ace surgeon said, “Maybe, in about fifteen years.”

I consider myself lucky that after 40 years of living with type 1 diabetes I have relatively little to show for it. Yet, when I sat in the doctor’s office four years ago and was lucky enough to hear I had a significant hearing loss I could only cry and think diabetes. 

When I notice my calves cramping more than usual, as I have the past few weeks, I can only think neuropathy. And while I notice for the first time an odd pulsing in my forearm, like a string being pulled on my nerves, and it subsides, but never really goes away, I think, diabetes? 

Now you see me, now you don’t, diabetes. You are there and not there. I can forget you, but never as long as for a day. While I believe I’m better off to work hard at keeping my diabetes in control and complications at bay, I also know, I cannot control anything, least of all whether complications will creep in in the mist of day, while I’m trying so hard, or during the dark of night, while I’m hoping only to wake up in the morning.  

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