I have a significant birthday coming up. I’m turning 40 tomorrow which, when I mention it, is generally met by people either speaking in hushed tones (‘Are you okay about it?’) or high-fiving and hugging me (‘You go girl!’).
I am okay with it and in all honesty, hitting the big four-oh hasn’t been something that has freaked me out or filled me with dread. I think about how I was when I was 20 or 25 or even 30 and I know that I’m proud of the person I am now. I’m comfortable in my skin.
I also have my 15 year wedding anniversary coming up. In times when we’re told that the marriages last an average 8.7 years, it feels good to cross off this milestone.
As much as birthdays and wedding anniversaries should be celebrated (I’m a big believer in cake, cards and carats) I’m actually finding that it’s actually my diabetes anniversaries that are becoming more and more meaningful.
This year, I ticked the fifteen years with diabetes box. I look in awe at friends who have had diabetes for many more years and at Kellion medallists who have lived lifetimes with the condition. But reaching fifteen years and doing a quick check of how this condition has affected my life leaves me with mixed emotions.
There is satisfaction that my annual complications screening checks come back with favourable results. Even the six-monthly visits to the ophthalmologist have become bearable – or at least, less traumatic – because the reports from my lovely doctor have been positive. Cataracts notwithstanding, there doesn’t seem to be any significant diabetes-related damage at the back of my eyes.
The way that my hypos have changed over recent years doesn’t leave me feeling quite so confident and self-assured. I am concerned about the times I’ve needed assistance, and with the white out hypos where I have lost significant chunks of time.
And then there are the things that lurk in the back of my mind, pushed away and only allowed to come out in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, or in moments of surprise when I’ve forgotten to keep them hidden. Things like worrying about reduced life-expectancy or becoming reliant on my family for my care. And fear that despite common sense and what I’ve been told that it really is because of diabetes that I have miscarried three times.
But mostly, there is fist pumping when I think of how diabetes hasn’t stopped me from doing things; nor has it decided how I will live my life.
So I’m planning on big celebrations for turning 40 – it should be celebrated and not with any of this ’40 is the new 30’ crap. But with acknowledgement and some pride of who I am, what I have achieved and the wonderful people I have around me who fill my life with love and happiness. I’ll celebrate the places I’ve been and look to the places I’m going. And I will also acknowledge that in over 15 of the 40 I’m celebrating, I’ve done it all despite diabetes.