Little did I know that on 15 April 1998 my life would change forever.

Little did I know that I would learn just how strong I could be at the times I have felt most vulnerable.

Little did I know that as my beta cells were being destroyed, a fire was stirring up as I readied myself for a career in advocacy.

Little did I know the power of insulin.

Little did I know that what would save me was my peers walking the same path, before me and with me.

Little did I know that I would be able to escape into my head as I tried to make sense of diabetes, and from there I would start to share my story.

Little did I know that while I felt the health I took for granted be swept out from under me,  that I would actually become the healthiest I ever could.

Little did I know that my focus would move from music education to information provision about living well with diabetes

Little did I know that the love and support of strangers would see me through some of my darkest times.

Little did I know how much my family would rally around me, hold me up and get me through.

Little did I know that use-by dates on boxes of lancets are a waste of time!

Little did I know that sometimes, laughter, while not necessarily being the best medicine (insulin gets that award!), it is certainly what helps to make a situation manageable.

Little did I know that my then-boyfriend, now-husband, would be the greatest quiet advocate I could ever hope for.

Little did I know just how fortunate I am to have been diagnosed with diabetes living in Australia, or how uneven the diabetes landscape is for those in some parts of the world.

Little did I understand privilege.

Little did I know that I would learn to wear the badge of deliberately non-compliant defiantly, proudly, loudly.

Little did I know that the combined challenges of diabetes combined pregnancy would almost break me, the reward would be a daughter who has, every day, repaired the hurt, heartache and pain. In spades.

Little did I know that advocating for those of us affected by diabetes to be given the first seat at the table, and a microphone at a conference would be the underlying message of all my work.

Little did I know that the voices that matter are often the ones that don’t get to be heard.

Little did I know that my body would be permanently connected to technology that allows me to do the very best I can.

Little did I know that someone nodding and agreeing that my health condition sucks big time is actually all I need to hear when things are so tough.

Little did I know that while there were times the health system and the healthcare professionals within it seemed to be trying to work against whatever it as that I was achieve, once I found the ones who would listen to me and work alongside me, I have felt nothing but supported.

Little did I know that food was such a source of political angst, or something that others felt they have the right to force upon others.

Little did I know that there are so many cures for diabetes; none of which work.

Little did I know the power that words have – the power they have to build me up and to cut me down, often at the same time.

Little did I know that Twitter and Facebook would be platforms I use to share, to learn, to engage.

Little did I know that the anchors of love, support and friendship I have found in the diabetes world are just as important, if not the most important, aspect to my diabetes care.

…I know all that now. And so much more. My diabetes turns twenty this weekend, and with it, I feel a sense of achievement, relief, triumph. And deep-seated sadness, too.

I feel diabetes has taken a lot from me, but it has also given me some gifts that have shaped me into the person I am today. I feel now that I can stop feeling like a newbie in the diabetes world and perhaps stake some claim to being part of, if not the old school, the middle school.

When I was diagnosed, the idea of living with diabetes for twenty years seemed like a life sentence and I guess in some ways, it kind of is. I still fear what is around the corner; there is so much unknown about diabetes. But I feel I can look back with some pride and complete understanding of how fortunate I am. I managed to get through the first twenty years relatively unscathed – mostly through luck and circumstance.

I can’t say I’m necessary looking forward to the next twenty years of diabetes. But I’m doing all I can to be ready for it.

Things I did know: my mother’s Xmas zippoli will always – ALWAYS – be part of my eating plan!

More diaversary writing:

16 years – Diaversary: Words to 24 year old me

17 years – #DayOfDiabetes

18 years – On this day

19 years – Heart on my sleeve

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