A Letter to Diabetes

By Rebecca Redmond

Rebecca Redmond, her Grandmother and Dr. Frederick Banting

Dear Diabetes,

Do you remember when we first met?

It was not what either of us were expecting. It was certainly not what I wanted. However, as sick as I was then, any diagnosis resulting in something being medically wrong with me hopefully meant there was a solution. And there was. For that, at the time, I was grateful.

At the beginning, it was tough. We did not properly understand each other. But I like to think that we have started to. 

When we were first introduced, all I knew of Type 1 Diabetes was of my distant relative, Sir Frederick Banting (who co-discovered insulin), and the faint remembrance of a girl in elementary school who had to have extra snacks sometimes and required needles before lunch. Beyond that, I was completely ignorant.

Our sudden togetherness found us melded together; it was hard to tell where I ended, and you began. I did not like that feeling disoriented and struggled to navigate all the emotions that came crashing down on me. It felt like I had lost control. 

There were so many people involved in our first moments together. Too many. And in all of that we lost the opportunity to organically journey this new road together. Much to the disadvantage of both you and I, dear Diabetes.

It felt like we were blindly travelling forward; we didn’t trust each other yet, and that seemed dangerous, but still we ventured onward.

Our new relationship was ill-timed at best. I was exiting childhood and staring at (young) adulthood with unease and apprehension. Our honeymoon was anything but. Some might even call it a nightmare.

Our chances precarious. Heck! We are lucky to be here at all.

Do you remember that first endocrinologist we saw? The one that had me randomly inject myself with insulin and was forced to stop practicing medicine in this country. I was never given a proper chance to deal with you. And you stood no chance against my teenaged know-it-all state of mind.

Those few classes my GP signed me up for barely helped. Mom came to a few of the food classes, but the rest were filled with what I felt was useless information. Sitting in those hospital rooms, with people old enough to be my grandparents, and all of whom did not have the type of diabetes I did, had me feeling out of place. I was 17 turning 18, yet far from grown up.

It seemed we were doomed from the start.

It was a difficult time for everyone. I understand that now. 

Misunderstandings and misconceptions tangled with the stickiness of the unknown lead to some dark days in the beginning. All I wanted was to be normal. Something that was hard enough without YOU tagging along. And, in the end, I simply could not keep ignoring you. 

And you made that perfectly clear. 

You can be a real pain in the butt, Diabetes. But I get it. Sometimes you have to be to get your point across. 

I really thought I was doing well that first year of university. I was living away from home, with you to keep me company, and truly believed I had things under control. That DKA (Diabetic ketoacidosis) episode proved I did not. As did the heart attack and eventual coma. My brain has never been the same.

That was an event! It really was. And I should not be here, but I am. I do not know what or who is responsible for that. For a long time, I was angry. Please believe me, Diabetes, when I say, it wasn’t you, it was me. Because it was. 

But I understand those emotions more now.


I am glad we mended those broken bridges and arrived at the point where we both knew where the other stood. We may not have reached true understanding, but acknowledgement can go the distance in its place sometimes. 

We have flip-flopped in our treatment of each other over the years. Especially up until I became pregnant. It was no longer just you and I because I had another onboard. Someone so much greater than me. So, I allowed you to take the reigns. I put you first, as they all suggested.

I gave over all that I had in favour of my child’s well-being. And it was easy. So much easier than I thought. When your life is your own, you feel a great power and ability to do whatever you please. When it is that of another, you feel great responsibility and an onus to do the right thing. 

Our relationship changed with that shift in my perspective.

And my heart wants to explode just thinking about that sweet soul. Because he is my everything. My greatest joy. My inspiration. He makes me a better person and it is humbling when I hear him say, “Mom.”

Thank you, Diabetes, for working with me and helping me keep him safe.

Hey! Remember that time I hurled myself over my anxiety and tried stepping outside of my isolation bubble? I was so excited to find a group of people like me, other people living with Type 1 Diabetes. I tried to tell them I was grateful for you. 

I had spent so much of my life feeling like garbage that I just wanted to shine a little light in a dark corner. Even if only for a minute. Remember how they admonished me? And it destroyed me, Diabetes. It made me feel so lost and unworthy. I removed myself from all of it and vowed to never return.

I mean, those were supposed to be my people, T1Ds like me, and they hated you. And they felt so strongly and with such force that I simply could not compete. They could not see in you what I was starting to… So, I ran. I ran with everything I had in the direction opposite to them.

For many years after that, it was just you and me. 

But that is a lonely place. We have been lucky to have those in our orbit that support us. Some have even saved us. From ourselves. From each other. Though, as lovely as they are, they do not totally get us. 

Perhaps, that is what made those waters so tempting for a second time.

Remember when we stepped outside that bubble the second time, Diabetes? 

It was scary, but it was worth it. I met another just like me, a most inspiring spirit. She was wonderful and understanding. She stood on the border of a whole new world, with arms wide open and she ushered me in, making sure I knew that every apprehension and hesitation was perfectly understandable. She taught us how to jump hurdles and how to get back up when we fall. She reinvigorated my want to learn more about you, Diabetes.

She travelled over the seas to grace us with her company. Never had I experienced anything like that before – it was as though we were of the same ilk. Family. And you, Diabetes, you brought us together.

That meeting was a beginning. A catalyst for all the things that have followed. You have compelled me to meet others, do more, and step further and further away from my comfort zone. Thanks for having my back, Diabetes. I really do not think I could have done that without you.

You continue to push me in ways I never knew I needed. In ways I never knew I wanted.

I still get frustrated with the hiccups you thrust upon me, but I am never angry. Not anymore. I realize that you and I have a unique relationship that forces us to work together.

Side by side, with each other.

Because of YOU, I am me. It sucks, sure. Life is not easy with you in the mix. But would I be me without you? I really do not know. I refuse to live with regrets. I passionately believe that all the good moments, all the bad times, and all the ugly instances got me here. And you know what? Here is pretty darn good. 

There are things I have done because of you, and things I have avoided too. But all in all, you are as much a part of me as the heart that beats just below my surface. Diabetes, dare I say it…I love you. You have shown me all the sides of my complicated nature. You have exposed me in the most humiliating ways and humbled me equally so.

I have welcomed so much good into my life in the name of you, Diabetes. Made friends, found family, and forged memories I will forever cherish. I have learned so much about myself and what I am capable of. How ever would I have been able to do that without your nudging?

There are still those who do not understand my love for you. You can be, after all, quite fickle. A downright jerk, sometimes. Sometimes you show up when it is undesirable, always when it is inconvenient. But is that not a lot like love? A challenge? A bit of hard work?

We do not always shine, you and I, Diabetes. But we are always together. Forever and always.

I thank you for all the good and the bad that you have brought my way. These last decades have been full of everything, and so full of LIFE. So, thank you.

We have come a long way. We have a long way still to go, but we will go together. We will walk that bumpy road, endure the highs and the lows and the whatever else comes our way. Because that is how we roll, Diabetes.

You and me.

Thanks for all the good times that made me smile. Thanks for all the bad times that made me grow. Thanks for all that you threw in face to see if I was paying attention. And thanks for keeping me accountable. Thanks for it all.

Because the truth of it is, without you I would not be here. I would have never emerged, never pushed myself, never truly explored who I am. You are not always predictable, and seldom do you glisten, Diabetes. You are a little bit gritty, and I am glad you are mine.

Affectionately yours,

Rebecca Redmond with the insulin commemorative flags