Today is about diabetes but not mine personally. My aunt has diabetes and she has had it for fifty four years. She as four when she was diagnosed and the first in my family. Before that my gran had never heard of diabetes. My aunt did not have a blood kit and certainly not an insulin pump. What she did have was needles that needed sterilised and one of those horrible vice things that held her whole leg to give an injection. She was given a single potato with dinner and denied the majority of our present day diet. She was told she might never see adulthood and went on to have two children of her own. She’s a hero. She’s my hero.
I grew up frustrated with her. While my mum said my diabetes should never stop me my aunt struggled to work full time. I did not realise then that she had complications and mum did not. Mum had new technology and aunt did not. Mum had ‘stable diabetes’ and aunt did not. Neither do I. My diabetes is brittle, as is my aunt’s. My mum is blessed, and now realises it, with diabetes that is hard, of course, but follows the rule book. If she follows the A, B and C rules of her Doctors she will get the results she wants. I can follow the same rules and end up nearly in hospital. It is just the beast of the illness. We now understand each other far more clearly. I now see the aunt whom anyone would say to her ‘you don’t need to go back to work, you’ve paid in, you’re ill’ and who insists ‘no, I can do some hours. I can work. I can do something’. Her organs are giving up. She is still trying to find a way to do something.
My aunt is a giver. Her ex-husband wanted to breed dogs so she did and she took care of them (apart from a wonderful week where my tiny flat had 8 lab puppies in them. I loved it. My mum, cat and hamster hated it…weird huh?) . She supported her kids to follow their dreams. She took in their pets when they could not care for them and she balanced her health and caring for my elderly grandparents. She appeared on the tv years ago and the family bundled into my grandparents to watch it and record it on a tape. It was a hypo detection device that ended up failing but hey, she tried. And it was her 5 minutes of fame.
She’s always been the other option to phone. I’m not saying I played my aunt and mum against each other but from my teens I knew my diabetes was closer to my aunt’s than my mum’s and so I went to her for advice and for back up. Some say it is playing them against each other but fundamentally I was put in a position where I had to put myself first and find allies. My aunt was an ally. Mum understands it now.
As adults we support each other and bring different information to the table. My aunt recently looked at a book that said she needed insulin for cabbage and sweet corn then phoned in panic when she went hypo and my first thought was ‘;erkjgb;kewrg;ewrgb DUH’. MOST of us need to eat a TON of EITHER of those to need A TINY bit of insulin. She took loads of insulin. I saw it in dafne too. Half a tin of carrots and 3u of insulin and wondering why a person was hypo an hour later.
Some people will go hypo with those things but they are the minority. We laughed over the phone and I felt weird being the one to give the advice. She’s looking to get a pump too but her diabetes stabilised enough that the hospital wondered. I don’t know if she will get one, or indeed if she wants one but I personally think she needs one. She is so sensitive. I think it would help her. But then I see what she thinks she needs for a roll and all but fall over! We all have our ideas and our ways.
No one is right or wrong. We live our lives and we do our best with the information we are given. My aunt is nearly sixty but she was not sent on dafne when it first happened even though her diabetes was brittle. She still says ‘exchanges’ and then corrects herself. So do we blame her generation for not trying or not doing enough? Uncalled for I say.
My grandmother never thought she would see her daughter graduate and now she’s about to hit retirement. (medically, maybe and national seems to be galloping off but STILL). So yeah, my aunt has a lot of complications and she’s not perfect and diabetes is probably going to be why she retires. And she is my hero. Because if she listened to the odds she would never have seen me be born at all and now we’re a half century later.