Last fall, in the living room of a friend's downtown Chicago apartment, I was surrounded by police officers, Catholic schoolgirls, angels, devils, and one gigantic banana. This was no surreal dream, just a Halloween party, and one at which I was feeling underdressed. Yes, I was one of those costumeless guys, either too cool or too embarrassed to chance sticking out in a crowd of sore thumbs. And, of course, my lack of enthusiasm for the night didn't go unnoticed. My friend introduced me to one of his classmates, who explained his own get-up (it was inspired by the Arrested Development sitcom) and asked what I was supposed to be.
I considered resorting to the classic explanation that I was a "Guy Without an Idea." But instead I reached into my pocket and pulled out my insulin pump.
"I am a cyborg," I said.
This is partially true, by my reckoning. As a type 1 diabetic with an insulin pump, I suppose I could be considered a marriage of flesh and machine, a flawed human augmented and improved by today's most advanced technology.
In reality, though, I'm just a regular guy who has learned to look at a serious condition with a little humor. I consider this small bit of perspective a nice side benefit of having thorough control over my diabetes.
Things were not, and sometimes still are not, always so carefree. I was diagnosed with type 1 at just over a year old. Naturally, I have no memory of this, but my parents have made me aware of the massive lifestyle adjustments and chronic fear that crept into our lives with the diagnosis. This was an illness that would require constant monitoring and a draconian kind of control. There would never be room for error, when I was an infant or, potentially, for the rest of my life. And that, you'll surely agree, isn't very funny.
My parents closely watched my blood sugar when I was too young to do it myself. Eventually, when I was at school for large parts of the day, they taught me how to do it on my own. And as I grew older and gained more independence, I taught myself to understand how I felt, how to interpret and react to my blood sugar tests, when and how to eat, when to exercise, when to be extra vigilant, and when to, yes, relax a little bit and just live with what I call my "lazy pancreas." (Honestly, it has earned the moniker. The thing hasn't done a day's work in over two decades.)
Of course, I am not perfect about my control. I sometimes stumble into a frightening, shaky low or an infuriating high. All told, though, I poke fun at diabetes and myself in good conscience because I am serious when it comes to controlling my blood sugar and my life.
I am a cyborg, after all. I'm programmed to operate at peak efficiency.
Matthew Fox is a recent graduate of Northern Illinois University. He lives in Hoffman Estates, Ill.