I had an interesting experience a couple weeks ago while flying to Las Vegas. I was stuck in a window seat, separated from my friend a few rows up. My CGM vibrated to let me know that it needed to be calibrated so I took out my glucose meter to test my finger. The man sitting next to me started to laugh. Not the reaction I was expecting.
I gave him a perplexed look.
“I was just about to do the same thing.”
Ohhh a fellow T1D! What a coincidence! It’s always nice to run into other type 1 diabetics in the wild. We started chatting, he told me he’s had type 1 for 26 years and no complications. We talked about his choice not to use a pump, how he exercises every day to help manage his blood sugar, and how he watches what he eats. But then the conversation took an interesting turn.
He started telling me about a coworker of his that also had type 1 and didn’t take care of himself and ended up passing away. And then another story about a patient at the office where he works who also was a type 1 with some pretty bad complications that he watched quickly progress and become worse and worse. I hear these stories, but not usually from another T1D. Forgive me, but being stuck on an airplane, I really don’t want to hear sad stories of people with type 1, I know what can happen. What started as a nice coincidence, started to feel more like a warning/lecture. When the flight attendant came around asking if we wanted pretzels, peanuts or cookies, I opted for the peanuts which I wanted, but wondered what my seat mate would have thought about me if I had chosen the cookies.
People manage their diabetes differently. I could tell that this man was very careful about what he eats (he didn’t touch the cookies that came with his airplane lunch combo), what he drinks, his exercise, and probably many other aspects of his diabetes and general lifestyle. And it works for him which is great, he’s healthy and seemingly happy. But when he talked to me, there was this inherent judgement in his voice and stories, he seemed to say, you should be doing this too if you don’t want to end up like the people in the stories. And sure, I know I could be better about certain aspects of my diabetes management and what I eat, but it’s my life and my decisions. I’m sitting here trying to think of what empowering thing I could have said back to him. But really, I shouldn’t even have to sit there and defend my choices and how I live my life with diabetes. Honestly, what I should have done was said “I’m sorry to hear that. If you don’t mind, I’d like to finish watching my movie” put my headphones back in, and enjoyed the rest of my flight.