“I have diabetes, or I am a diabetic.” One or the other, or both?

I used to say “I have diabetes,” as I felt “I am a diabetic” defined me more than saying “I am a husband, I am a teacher, I am a son, I am a brother, etc, etc.” Yes, all those descriptions were more accurate than letting the disease I have define me.

Yet, if I hadn’t had diabetes, I probably wouldn’t have met the woman who married me, become a teacher,or earned a post-graduate degree. So maybe if”diabetic” didn’t define me, it has indeed shaped me and molded me into the person I am today. And how much of my time is spent checking, pumping a bolus, thinking about blood sugars? A lot of time. It does not control my life, but it does affect and influence it, all the time, even in my sleep.

So, I’ve accepted and admitted that being a diabetic isn’t a “part of my life;” it’s a big part of my life. Does it define me? In many ways, yes. Does it define my heart and soul? No. It just affects my existence. Daily. And my existence continues to be based on my care and control of my Type 1 diabetes. And when people ask now, I’ll tell them “I am a Type 1 diabetic” or “I have Type 1 diabetes.”

Why highlight Type 1? Not because of any opinion of Type 2 diabetics in particular, but my need to let others know that I am solely dependent upon insulin, and my life revolves around that need and dependency. Admitting a dependency is never easy, but with the admission goes an empowerment of friends and/or co-workers whose appropriate actions I may need one day. If calling myself a diabetic is what it takes to inform and empower my friends and co-workers, so be it. A question of semantics should not stand in the way of protecting ourselves and possibly, the ones we love.

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