I was diagnosed in 1972, and yes, this year celebrated living 50 years with diabetes. The celebration included Joslin’s 50 year medal and a dinner out with the husband. Often, when I speak to audiences of people with diabetes or health professionals, I say living so long with diabetes has given me historical gratitude. I almost feel badly for those relatively newly diagnosed who don’t have it and can only feel the heartbreak of getting this disease.
I am well aware I didn’t have to boil and sharpen syringe needles like the people who came years before me. The insulins I used during my first two decades required lots of planning, when to take them, the long hours they lasted and when they peaked. Then you had to match your eating to all that. Inevitably, you were feeding your insulin. My mother still begs me to take food with me when I leave her home and head for my two hour train ride home. Today’s insulins, and certainly insulin pumps, have liberated us from this.
If you use an insulin pump, they came along in the early 1990s. Apparently the first one was the size of a back pack. There is a photo of it floating around online. Insulin pens were launched around the same time. Personally, I’ve always been on MDI (multiple daily injections) and my basal pen, Tresiba, is a breeze to use. I tend to use a vial and syringe for my rapid-acting insulin because sometimes I want a third or a quarter of a unit and manufacturers obviously haven’t found any cost benefit to create such a pen.
And I surely never could imagine while I was poking my fingers round the clock every day, that one day I could wear a tiny device (CGM) that would tell me my blood sugar every five minutes, and whether it was going up or down, or not, and how quickly. Or that we’d have smart pens or an insulin pump and CGM that operate together, or looping created by people with diabetes?
Whether you’ve had diabetes, like me, for decades, or are new to the game, seeing how much our medicines, knowledge and devices have improved over the decades, can lift your spirits. I know it does mine.