Long before I became chronically ill my older brother struggled with chronic illness. He constantly had strep throat as a kid, which resulted in the removal of his tonsils and adenoids, and he got pneumonia twice in one month. Any time a stomach bug or the flu went around he always got it and was out of commission for much longer than the rest of us.
When he was ten some more alarming changes began to take place. He would drink copious amounts of fluids, which caused him to start wetting the bed, something he had never done before. He also lots of ton of weight and looked super pale and frail all the time. If you’re familiar with type one diabetes, then you know these are obvious symptoms.
He was diagnosed in August of 2007, when he was ten and I was seven on the first day of school. My paternal grandfather had type one and died of diabetic related complications. He didn’t take care of himself, went blind, and had to have one of his legs amputated. While he died back in the 70’s, and medicine has changed a lot since then, it was still a scary diagnosis to get.
I remember my dad picking me up from my friends house and waiting the whole drive home to tell me the news until we walked through the door of our house. I didn’t know what diabetes was since I was seven, but from the look of sorrow on my fathers face I knew it was bad. We visited my brother in the hospital and I’ll never forget his thin pale face siting in the hospital bed. I let him prick my finger (even though way back then I was terrified of needles) and it made him excited.
I can’t speak to how diabetes changed his life (besides the obvious), and he isn’t one to share his emotions, but it definitely changed mine. I have a much greater knowledge of both type one and type two diabetes. My families eating habits changed a lot to cut carbs, especially in unnecessary places like liquids. Neither I nor my sister complained about these new things, because we could see how hard it was for our brother and parents.
The sound of my brother crying and begging my parents not to give him his Lantis shot will forever haunt me. He was only ten years old, and his life was flipped completely upside down. At that time I didn’t see it like that, because I couldn’t possible comprehend the complexities of getting an initial diagnosis of a chronic illness. Now when I is see “jokes” like “this hamburger is gonna give me diabetes” or “that looks like diabetes on a plate” they infuriate me. The lack of knowledge and false information out there astounds me. Especially surrounding type two. Not everyone who has type two is fat, eats terribly, and lives a sedentary lifestyle. There are so many factors that can play into someone have diabetes. There are even a ton of medical professionals who are so uneducated about diabetes and believe the myths surrounding them.
Being on the flip side of chronic illness now, I try to take what I learned as a sibling and observer and use it when handling my own relationships, and examining the ways chronic illness affects them. I feel lucky, in some sort of twisted sense, that I’ve gotten to experience both sides, because I believe it’s taught me much more than I could have learned form only experiencing one or the other.
Lots of Love,