Invisible Illness: Type 1 Diabetes

kerri1If you just snapped a quick picture, you wouldn’t see it.  Not unless you were looking for the small signs, like my insulin pump.  Or my spotted fingertips.

Type 1 diabetes isn’t something you can see on me.  It’s not an illness that, at this point in my life, comes with any constant external symptoms.  I am fortunate enough to not use a wheelchair or need vision assistance devices.  You can’t see my disease, even though it’s something I manage every day.

I seem “normal.”  (Stop laughing.  Let me use the word normal for the sake of this blog post, at the very least!)  I seem like your average 30 year old professional woman (again, stop laughing), recently married, inspired to achieve, and happy.

And I am happy.

But my good health is not without great effort.

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic illness, and one that has required daily maintenance and effort from me, and from my caregivers, for the last 23 years. Every morning starts with my meter.  Every meal I’ve eaten in the last two plus decades has been preceeded by a blood sugar check and an insulin dose.  And every night has my finger pricked by a lancet before my head hits the pillow.

This isn’t a pity party.  Not by a long shot.  My life is healthy and I have a very fulfilling existence, even if days are book-ended by diabetes and even if I’m now wearing medical devices 24 hours a day, every single day.  And back when I was a fresh-faced little kiddo, people seemed to want to cure my disease because they didn’t like the idea of a small child dealing with this disease.

Kids are fun to cure.  They’re cute.  And their futures seem worth investing in.

What confuses me is how quickly people forget.  Type 1 diabetes became a part of my life a long time ago, and I don’t remember even a snippet of “the before.”  But even though I’ve lived very well with this disease and kept it from defining me in any way, it’s still here.  And it’s still something I deal with every day, regardless of how well or poorly controlled.  But just because I’m no longer a little kid with the bright, shining future, am I any less diabetic?  Any less deserving of that cure?  Just because you can’t see my disease, and because I seem to have it under physical and emotional control, does not mean it’s past the point of deserving a cure.

Here is a vlog post that I did back in February about vlogging during a low blood sugar and how “diabetes can look so normal yet feel so rotten.”   It’s a video that shows how invisible diabetes can be, but how visible it feels from the perspective of those who live with it:

Children with diabetes grow up to be adults with diabetes.  And all the while, we’re still ready for progress. And for hope.  And for a cure.

This week, September 14 – 20th, is Invisible Illness Awareness Week.  And today, I’m raising my voice for type 1 diabetes.

National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week is a way to raise our collective voices to improve the lives of people living with chronic illnesses.

Kerri Morrone Sparling is the author and creator of Six Until Me, one of the first and most widely-read diabetes patient blogs. Voted “Best Patient Blog” in 2008, SUM has been a reliable source of diabetes lifestyle information in the blogosphere.

Six Until Me already has a strong and loyal readership comprised of people with diabetes, the caregivers of diabetics, medical professionals, and those living with chronic illness, and has been spotlighted on WebMD, The Lancet, AOL, US News and World Report, and CNBC. She has contributed to many diabetes-related websites and publications, and is a passionate advocate for diabetes awareness.

With and over two decades of experience living with type 1 diabetes, Kerri earned a position as Editor and Community Leader for a diabetes-media company. In addition, her work has appeared in her dLife column, Generation D, her diaTribe column “SUM Musings,” and she has guest-blogged on several well-known medical and social networking sites. An expert in social media and its influence on patients, Kerri has spoken at new media conferences and has been a repeat featured guest on dLifeTV.

Recently married and looking forward to starting a family, Kerri and her husband Chris reside in New England.

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