Life in LADA land

Living Philippians 1:6 with type 1.5 diabetes

The unanswerable question

on November 19, 2013

I keep getting the same question from people about my diabetes. I’ve written about this before but I’m going to do it again because at heart I am an educator. So now you get a little bit of education about diabetes. Again.

There are variations on the question, but generally it is the same question. It goes like this: “Is your diabetes getting better?” or “Do you have better control over your blood sugar these days?” . While I would love to be able to say “YES!” to both of these questions, the reality of it is that No, it isn’t getting better, nor will it ever get better.  But that would sound really hopeless to someone who does not understand this disease and I don’t want to simply leave them thinking I have given up or am too stupid to get better. But type 1 diabetes never gets “better”.  Once a pancreas has stopped working, it doesn’t regenerate.  Losing weight won’t make it go away, nor will exercise, or eating all the right foods, or any of those miracle “cures” that keep popping up on my facebook page.  Even Type 1s who manage it really well and keep their A1c in line with recommendations struggle with it at times, simply because we cannot know how our body will react to anything – food, stress, activity, whatever.  There is no such person as a perfectly controlled type 1 diabetic, and certainly  not me.

One of the problems with this question is that it is often asked in a situation where a long answer isn’t expected or possible.  I am trying to figure out a short, one to two sentence answer to it, which will educate others to the nature of diabetes (and perhaps other autoimmune diseases like it) and also make them aware of what all diabetics deal with on an everyday basis. I’ll  suggest some possibilities here, but if anyone reading this has any other suggestions, please pass them along. I can always use the help!

So one way to answer this question is to tell the person that “I will never be able to duplicate what my body was created to do on its own, but I do the best I can. Everyday is a new challenge and I can’t necessarily count on the fact that doing the same thing I did yesterday will have the same effect today.”  At this point, I have probably lost the person I’m talking to and they are wishing they had never asked……  Probably I should just stop after the first statement.

Another way to answer the question is to say “I work hard to control my blood sugar, but I cannot predict how my body will react to anything, so it’s all just guess work.”  Wow, that makes me sound like an idiot.  But honestly, that’s the reality of it.  I can set up basal programs in my insulin pump for weekdays, weekends, swim days and other days, and dosing schedules for meals at different times of the day, but none of these work perfectly all the time. After all, there is pizza in my life.  And Chinese food.  These setttings are just the best guess I can make in general (with the help of a great advisor), and the rest is left to me to correct for the unpredictable stuff that happens.

The best answer to this question I think is this: No diabetic (whether type 1, 1.5, 2, Gestational or whatever) will ever be able to control their blood sugar perfectly. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (see Psalm 139) and as good as the technology for handling diabetes is (and it IS great and getting better everyday), I will never be God. (Good thing, right?)  My pancreas stopped working and I cannot regenerate it nor recreate what it did before Thanksgiving 2010. (Yep, my 3rd Dia-versary is coming up in a couple of weeks. Oh joy.)  So what is the right question to ask a diabetic?  Try these: “What are you learning about yourself as you deal with diabetes everyday?”  or “How are you handling the time and attention that dealing with diabetes takes?” or “How can I be praying for you?”  “Where do you find encouragement and support on the hard days? Do you need someone to call, or text or email during those times?”  Or just simply, “How are you feeling right now?”.

I know the impossible-to-answer questions originate from good hearts who care about me and who truly do want to help.  So I don’t say all this in resentment or derision.  I say it as a public service announcement.  Hopefully, I can take small steps to educate others about the nature of this disease, which relates to many other conditions as well.  If that’s true, I’ve accomplished something good here.


3 responses to “The unanswerable question

  1. jane elliott says:

    well said Colleen!!!

  2. Denise says:

    Very well said! I was Dxd with Type 2 in 2000 and in 2010 testing showed I actually have LADA. It’s a merry go round of sorts but one that won’t stop. 🙂 I’m glad to have found your blog!

  3. Michelle says:

    What about saying, “I rely on insulin and continuing education to keep my life in balance. I can’t live with out either. “

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