December Cure Champion

in , ,

It was the summer of 1975. I was eighteen years old and weirdly excited about the fact that no matter what I ate each day, the next day, I weighed a pound less. This went on for about a month (a 20 pound loss that I could afford!), but in the meantime, all of the other “you’ve got diabetes” symptoms were rearing their ugly heads.  I went to the doctor, and after a quick urine test, he pronounced that I had type 1 diabetes (T1D).

That was certainly a turning point in my young life, and luckily, it was my first endocrinologist who turned me in the right direction. He held out his two hands and said, “Learn about this condition, take care of yourself, and live a normal life or ignore the disease and…,” well, you can imagine the rest of his comment.

So taking care of myself is what I have done for 47 years. Never perfect, always just striving to stay as healthy and in control as I can. As a teacher for 44 years, I have made it my mission to educate anyone who will listen to me about diabetes. I have made it my mission to make sure that everyone around me knows how to treat a reaction if I need help. That included my own two children. If I was cranky or yelling at them, they would say, “Hey mom, need to check your sugar?” and I would say, “No, I am just annoyed with you!” My students are also allowed to make that inquiry if I seem off. I think it helps everyone see that although T1D is 24/7, it is a disease you can live with.

When I began there were just shots and urine tests, and that was it. Now, we have continuous glucose monitors (CGM), pumps, and all sorts of technology to make life more manageable. For that, I am always grateful.

On my 65th birthday and my 47th year with diabetes, I decided to forsake presents and do a fundraiser for JDRF, an organization that impacts the lives of T1Ds and their families. It was called Flannel Friday at Yarmouth High School in Maine. I vowed to pay 10 cents for any of the 600+ people in our building who wore flannel and to throw in an extra buck for each advisor group that was 100% in flannel. I figured I’d make a personal donation of $100 or so. But it caught on, and people from all over our school district sent money. I even got support from one of our middle schoolers who has had diabetes since she was a baby. She was thrilled to see that we were bringing awareness about diabetes.

Yes, diabetes stinks, but it is a disease that you can embrace and live with for a very long time. Here’s hoping that the next generation will see a cure.

-Lorrie King