Diabetes Forecast

The Healthy Living Magazine

Shaping Diabetes


"By George, I think I've got it!" shouted a friend of mine, who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. "I'm living in the middle of a triangle."

Over 30 years of living with type 1, I've often heard glucose control referred to as a fine balance. The image of an old-fashioned brass scale would appear in my head. Yet my friend's revelation got me mentally sketching a new image. She was right: Managing diabetes is like living in a triangle of food, insulin, and physical activity level. There's more to balance than the two sides of a scale. Yet are there really only three sides?

I grew up in a family of quirky, creative thinkers. I recall a childhood afternoon sitting around trying to label everyone we knew as a piece of fruit. "Naw, she's not a grapefruit—how 'bout a kiwi?" Or, "That little girl, she is an absolute blueberry!" While the challenge of finding the perfect fruit to typify diabetes didn't speak to me, assigning a shape to diabetes did. And the steady triangle just didn't cut it.

My first memories of taking responsibility for controlling my diabetes date back to high school. Perhaps a triangle is indeed the most apt shape for those teen years. After school, I dashed to my locker to grab a snack before volleyball practice. My NPH was in full force by that time of the day, so I had to balance insulin with carbs to prevent hypos while exercising. The general three-sided geometry remained constant day after day—insulin, food, and activity. My control wasn't stupendous, but the triangle stood stable, never teetering on a point.

College years changed everything. That time period was a big wheel, with diabetes in perpetual motion. There were loops of erratic variables: Insulin ran after food, sleepless nights chased insulin, activity chased glucose levels, inactivity pushed sugars higher, and unpredictable schedules tried to catch carbs. I'm sure I could've stomped on the brakes and wrested control. But at 19 years old, who wanted to do that?

And then I got married. Another soul stepped into the picture, and I had someone else's needs to factor into the geometry. The wheel slowed down. Insulin, food, activity, and dear husband each took a side, and my circle morphed into a square. We aimed for a fixed schedule and happy stability. This worked well for a bit, until the birth of our first child combusted the square. The sides flew out of control and floated weightless for a while until I got a grip: Life with diabetes became a proud pentagon.

Identifying the shape of my diabetes granted me a valuable perspective. The way I see it, diabetes control is indeed a balance–yet the details of what needs to be balanced are highly individual. This is something that everyone needs to take into consideration in order to support long-term, good control.

The shape-reformation process has occurred many times since my diabetes was a pentagon. We now have seven amazing children (right), and with steady, well-controlled steps, my 11-sided diabetes struts happily in the shape of a hendecagon.

Debbie Burack lives in Beitar, Israel.

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While she’s still spinning music, DJ Spinderella (aka Deidra Roper) is no longer spinning her wheels when it comes to getting the right information to help her family members who have diabetes. Read more >