My name is Bill Towe. This year represents my 40th anniversary since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was diagnosed at age 7 during a required sports physical before our little league baseball season. I never experienced any pre-diagnosis issues, it was dumb luck and timing that lead to my diagnosis.
With my upcoming 40th anniversary (June 27), I reflect on how living with Diabetes has affected me as a person and molded my life. A few specifics stand out.
Don’t be afraid
I was never afraid of it. Either out of ignorance or sheltered upbringing, I never thought diabetes would negatively impact my life. That was always the case, even though my endocrinologist would greet me by saying, “Well, you made it another year.” which infuriated my mother. I simply disregarded it. As a kid, the extra steps I endured each day were simply extra hassles that ended up becoming a part of my daily life. Today, I just think everyone does what I do each day to maintain good health—they do just what they need to in order to keep their own body healthy.
I owned it. I was never afraid to talk about it or show it off to my friends. In grade school I gave book reports and talks about it. I would show off the cool syringes and vials! I actually enjoyed the attention (go figure). Everyone knew I had diabetes and would watch out for me if something happened. Understand that back in the late 70’s, NOBODY had type 1 diabetes. I had a rare disease that most knew very little about.
I let myself be human. Being human, I did not always “follow the rules” with my disease. I broke the rules….a lot of rules, but I was always mindful when I took risks. Risks including: alcohol, missing an injection (being needle squeamish when you have diabetes can be difficult at times), not following my diet, not regularly testing, or being a typical, lazy teenager when I should have been exercising or counting carbs. These “missteps” were terrible, sure, but I learned a great deal from them.
My current doctor advises me to take the quality of life into consideration when I look to change something in my diabetes care. It’s important to be happy as well as healthy. A piece of cake on a special occasion can be fine, if I manage it.
I educated myself. When I got older, I took a focused interest in what diabetes was and how it affects the body. I set up my own diets and exercise routines. I learned how certain foods affected me, how to manage calorie intake and eat measured meals that worked for me, not just ones that were published in a book. This gave me the freedom I wanted to “live.”
I found an endocrinologist that I loved…and still see him every three months. This is the key: finding a doctor that wants to understand and know me makes my ownership so much easier.
40 years later
I am 46 for another month. I have no complications from diabetes. My vision is 20/20. I am active. My kidneys are 100%. I am strong. I am healthy. I use the latest technology to control diabetes (OminiPod). This device has helped me get my A1C in the mid-5 range.
Take it from a veteran. If you are dealing with diabetes, it will not change your life if you don’t let it. With modern technology, you have the ability to live a complete, healthy, complication-free, full-length life. You can own your diabetes or it can own you. And really, I have never considered my diabetes a “disease.” The word “disease” has such a negative connotation. My diabetes is a part of me, like the color of my eyes, the tone of my skin, or the passion in my heart.
Take control of your situation one step at a time. You don’t have to do it all at once, but take that first step. I am a 40 year vet of diabetes and I am winning.