Love, Diabetes Style
My husband's nickname is "Sniffer Dog." It is a respectful nod to the peculiar talent he shares with dogs trained to detect blood sugar fluctuations. From my mannerisms or body temperature, Tom can tell if I am high or low. Sometimes we will be in a group of people, and he will surreptitiously touch my cheek and whisper "60" or "300." Other couples yell out Jeopardy! answers; we shout guesses at my OneTouch meter. I joke that I should rent Tom out to other people with diabetes, but his abilities are so specific they can be applied to only one woman: me.
When I was dating, sharing my diabetes introduced a new level of intimacy and vulnerability. How soon was too soon to pull out a syringe at dinner or tell a boyfriend I had to cancel movie plans because of ketones? There were awkward conversations about how my pump was attached, and it wasn't easy letting someone see my site. I began recognizing that if I hid my diabetes from someone, he wasn't worthy of a relationship. Diabetes is as much a part of me as being a writer and an animal lover; anyone not willing to embrace that would never be my spouse. When I met Tom, it was natural for me to share my diabetes with him. After letting Tom see the challenges I faced with diabetes, I let him choose if he wanted to play a part in my condition.
Tom's ability to read my blood sugars grew in tandem with the strength of our relationship and the depth of our familiarity. We went on a backpacking trip around Asia. As we relied on each other for everything, Tom began playing a significant role in my care. He showed his love by setting glasses of juice next to me when he saw that I needed it and casually suggesting I test my blood sugar at times when I felt fine. Time and time again, as the meter flashed "52," I would ask, aghast, "How did you know?"
We are partners in all things, including my diabetes. If I wake Tom up at night, he runs for the apple juice. He understands my dread of getting blood drawn and distracts me at phlebotomy appointments. Recently, my doctor reported that my A1C was not low enough to try for a child, even after months of attempting to tighten control over my blood sugar, and Tom held me as I cried in frustration. Tom reminds me to test when I drive; he suggests I wear my continuous glucose monitor when blood sugars baffle me; when traveling on business, he leaves juice boxes by my bedside.
As a teenager, when I made a list of characteristics for my future partner, I wanted someone smart, confident, and honest. I didn't know that the diabetic side of me would have a different list. I also need a person who encourages me to go running when I want to watch TV, who senses when I need juice before I do, who fills his pockets with glucose tablets, and, most important, who genuinely wants the best for my well-being.
Christen Eddy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 3. She lives in Boston with her husband and is at work on her first novel.