People with type 2 diabetes write back to their younger selves, to share personal insights and reflect on their experience of living with diabetes and starting on insulin therapy. In this post, Lori reflects on living with diabetes.
Lori was 32 years old and living in Ambler, Pennsylvania, USA, when she and husband George, or Gee, learnt that he had type 2 diabetes. Although she doesn’t have diabetes, Lori attended an educational session together with Gee and she resolved to help him eat properly. Gee was a diligent patient and, for the most part, watched his diet carefully for many months after his diagnosis. But he was also very private about having diabetes and divulged the condition to only a few people.
When it was time for his 40th birthday party, Lori, who goes by the nickname Sally, made an extra effort to make the party fun, but also compliant with Gee’s dietary restrictions. She festooned the house with balloons and baked a big yellow cake made with a sugar substitute. It was her first diet cake and she was proud of her accomplishment.
As family and friends streamed into the house, however, her heart sank. They came bearing cupcakes with sweet chocolate frosting. Lori, now 53, is writing to herself at this moment during the birthday party.
This is something you never expected! How will you be able to keep Gee from breaking his diet with all these cupcakes around? And how can you object to him eating them if his diabetes is a secret? Hardly anyone knows that he has it.
You are in a real bind – and, Sally, this is just the beginning. Being a good loving wife, you will try to coach him about what to eat. You’ll expect that he’ll listen when you say: “Don’t eat that piece of cupcake from your birthday party.” “Don’t eat that piece of chocolate.”
But as you will soon learn, it’s not that straightforward to be the wife of someone with type 2 diabetes. He will sometimes resent the interference, saying: “Mind your business. I’ll take care of it.” Other times he will simply shut down, saying: “I don’t want to talk about it.”
It’s all the harder because of the secrecy about his condition. Friends and colleagues will continue to unknowingly tempt him by offering cookies or sweets at cookouts, holidays and at work. You don’t like the secrecy but you will try to respect his right to it.
Sally, don’t be so hard on yourself – or on Gee. Remember that sometimes we have to let go. Not let go in the sense of not caring, but sometimes things are out of your hands. You can’t be in charge of his health – he has to be.
It’s hard to care and at the same time let go. Over time, you will pick and choose your battles. Perhaps you will make a little motion of your hand that signals, “That’s enough.” Or you’ll slip a whisper in his ear. You will find quiet ways to remind him that his health is important to both of you.
And next time there’s a birthday party, you’ll know to send out invites that simply say “sugar-free sweets please.” Or better yet, “Instead of treats, please bring a big birthday kiss to plant on the birthday boy’s cheek.”
Don’t worry Sally. Gee’s gonna be just fine.
This story has been edited by Ellyn Spragins and shared with support from Novo Nordisk Canada. The views and opinions expressed are not representative of Novo Nordisk, and should not be considered treatment advice. Novo Nordisk has permission to share this letter and included personal details.