Love and the Juvenile Diabetic

Editor's Note: Riva wrote this essay several years ago after marrying the love of her life. To read more of Riva, go to

| Jan 18, 2008

I'm a juvenile diabetic. Although, mind you, at 48, it's a bit of an oxymoron, isn't it? I'm also, for the first time, a newlywed.

You would have liked it: outdoor ceremony under the fall leaves, people flying in from Europe, roving waiters, superb band, but, unlike the bride who wakes up and all too soon realizes the wedding was the best part of her short marriage, I wake up to a loving, kind and nurturing man, who of all things, wants to be my partner - not just in life, but in my diabetes!

Do you know what that means for a type 1 diabetic who has managed her disease for the past 30 years, completely in a solitary fashion, to now have a partner in life, in love and in diabetic science? A man who religiously reads Dr. Joe online? Really now, this is going to require much more change than merely exposing my innermost self. This is my diabetes we're talking about. My shame, my weakness, where my deepest, darkest fears lie, alone, quietly not bothering anyone else.

A Deep Secret

The first 10 years after I was diagnosed I don't recall telling anyone. Who'd want to bring this up as dinner conversation? A dozen more years go by and my diabetes becomes my true confession, a gift I give a select few friends.

But surely not the details, the real ups and downs, the worry that rests far in the back of my head. For all the dating years, it may have occasionally slid a chair up at the table, but it was always sitting silently beside me. So even when visiting a former boyfriend in London, waking in the middle of the night in need - for sugar - I climbed over his body as he groaned, "What's going on?" "I need sugar," I said. He said, "Oh" and went back to sleep. Even then I did not say, "Is this all you care?" No, of course not. I handled it as I always did. Myself.

Last October I married a man who says as soon as he hears the plastic crinkle around the Sweet Tarts, "Are you low? Can I do something?" A man who follows me to the kitchen at 2 a.m. to pour me juice or dart both for the long-acting peanut butter bars and my quick-acting candies with questioning eyes.

The Secret Shared

I'd had 30 years to convince myself no one who doesn't actually have diabetes can understand how it works and the toll it takes mentally, emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically. The constant micro-management, the daily balancing, the no-days-off policy, the responsibility, yet powerlessness when your body responds unexpectedly. Who can understand all that? I've learned who. My husband.

It's been a learning process for both of us. Suddenly, after 10 years of friendship, as he moved from friend to husband in my life, his vague perception of my being a diabetic became startlingly real.

He searched Web sites, bought books and wanted to hear everything I wanted to say. And, because he could look into my soul and knows just who I am, I began to open this private world to him.

When my husband first began wanting in, I would shoo him away. "I can handle it," I'd say. Until I realized I was denying him the opportunity to share this with me, the satisfaction of contributing to my wellness, the intimacy of being with me in such moments. Of course I wanted all those things - just not attached to my diabetes.

But, as I began to let him stand by my side over the glucometer, watching for the magic number, as though we'd put money down at the track, I began to know I was safe revealing this part of me too. And I surprisingly find a huge restfulness in having a partner. When I wake in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, he's there. Of course, at 48, we joke, "Is it low blood sugar or low estrogen?" When I start babbling in the middle of the night making less sense than usual, he brings the juice.

I used to enjoy telling the story of how they discovered I was diabetic. "I had an unexpected winter break from my university" I'd say, "and when I awoke in my parent's house with torturous leg cramps they rushed me to the doctor." The doctor said, "Two more weeks and you'd be dead." C'mon, that's a great story. But now I have a better story.

How last year in a moment of true beneficence, I told my now husband he might want to reconsider life with a diabetic. And he said, wrapping his arms around me, "You're with me now and I'm with you." That's my diabetic story now. And I hope I can tell it for a very long time.

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Categories: Blood Sugar, Dating, Diabetes, Diabetes, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 18 January 2008

What a great story- it really hit home with me. In my new marriage, I am the non-juvenile diabetic, so I can truly understand and apprecaite your husband's role. I too have run to the kitchen in the wee hours bringing back juice and candy bars. I would do it a million times over becuase I love my husband so much and I want him with me for a very, very long time. I too, hover over the meter asking for the magic number and quietly ask him at a dinner party if he wants his insulin now (as the purse carrying member of the duo I offer to carry around the "gear"). I read, I research, I walk for the JDRF, and I read tons of stories like yours. I hope that, like you, my husband no longer feels alone in his disease. I feel that controlling his blood sugar is now a team effort, and I feel happy just to be able to do what I can. Good luck to you both in your new marriage- we are newlyweds as well, and new parents, and it is the bect time of my life! I wish you both the very best!

Posted by Anonymous on 18 January 2008

That was beautiful. I have been a type 1 for 40 years. I have had the exact same feelings as you. Congratulations on your marriage and best of luck with your diabetes.

Posted by Anonymous on 18 January 2008

Thank you for story. As a Type 1 who is still single at 38, this gives me hope!

Posted by Anonymous on 21 January 2008

Why run to the kitchen at night? Why not have food within reach of your bed?!? From someone who developed T1D 12 years ago, aged 30 years, and unexpectedly met my partner nearly 9 years ago - but very rarely need his help, which is a good thing as he's currently working for several months in Antarctica, as he does every year. I would never rely on anyone else to carry my kit - that's what pockets (in specifically selected clothing) are for! Personally, I'd find it very annoying if he ever checked my BG meter readings.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 January 2008

I've been in your shoes. I'm 30, type 1 for 23 years. I've had relationships where my boyfriend doesn't want to acknowledge the diabetes. Instead of bringing juice he would call 911! But that is long over with, my husband is awesome! How nice it is having a partner in diabetes. Someone who almost knows before you do that you need something to eat. Congratulations

Posted by Anonymous on 1 February 2008

I have a little girl who is type 1...I already worry who is this man she will fall in love with and will he truely take care of her as I do.

Who will get up in the middle of the night...take her blood sugar and dispense a snack if needed? I am an older parent...I do appreciate this article and comments of others who have gone through this. I know one day she will be more responsible. At her age she does not understand the numbers. Although she does know when she is high or low. Which is amazing to me. I had gestational diabetes and wonder how or what I could have done better...did I cause this? Although I have ask several doctors and they say type 1 is an autoimmune disorder caused from a virus. I have done a lot of reading but I still find it a continual learning process.

I just want to say...I am glad there are postive people who meet this challenge and have support from loved ones to help you through the highs and lows when you can't.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 February 2008

While reading this article, I felt like I was the one writing about how we hide this disease and take care of it ourselves. I have found a man who shares my diabetes with me, it took a while for me to open up even after he told me he had type 2. Part of learning and grown emotionally is to know its ok to take a day off. In sharing this with me he has become very close to me and this has bonded us. I am so happy for you....enjoy it, love him, and never forget to say thank you, even when he tells you you don't have to!

Posted by Anonymous on 20 May 2008

I am 37 and have had type 1 diabetes for 27 years. I cried reading your article cos it home to me. I have been in a relationship now for 12 months, it took me a while to tell him about my diabetes too. The last man i dated left me because of my disease, saying he was worried I would die young. I have had eye problems in the last year, 2 months into my relationship the eye specialist told me i would be blind in 5 years. My partner asked if he could come with me to the apt but i said no. He rang my mum to get the details and turned up their unexpectedly. He came into the room and heard what the doctor had to say about me possibly going blind. That night I tried to break off the relationship as it was not fair for him to deal with my problems at such an early time in a relationship. He stayed. He supported me throughout my 2 eye operations and ongoing laser but I still dont tell him how depressed I am about all of this. Some days i have suicidal thoughts. Even though he has been by my side I still feel he does not understand my disease or understand how i feel. I get very angry when my sugar drops and we argue which makes me feel even worse. I hate myself cos of my disease. I still to this day climb over his body at night when I am low and I feel sometimes he doesnt car but i deal with it myself. In his defence there have been times when my sugar has dropped at his house and I have not had any sugar and he has had to ride to the petrol station at 11pm to get me some jellybeans and juice, I love him for that. But I still get very very depressed about my life and dont let him see this side to me. Thank u for your article, at least someone out there understands how i feel.

Posted by Anonymous on 31 May 2008

I am 53 and have type 1 diabetes for yrs! Well right out of High School that was in 1974 LOL! I understand what the person is saying about the eye's, thy said I would go blind too. so I had 2 shot's to both eye's then laser its no fun! and now I still have prob seeing to this day! so I do understand what your going thru-------I wish more people would be their for us and understand!I have Retin----of the eye!

Posted by Anonymous on 22 November 2008

Thank you for the hope I guess you have spread. I am 22, have had type 1 diabetes since I was 17.... When I first found out I had it my girlfriend left me while I was still in the hospital. I know I was young still am but we had been going together for a couple of years It was a good get well present... Not. My parents married at 18 and 19 they have an awesome relationship at 22 I think they feel that I am behind. I live on my own and sometimes it does get lonely being the only one but with my sugar I think everyone is wierded out by it... Days could be easier if I was more then a one man team around the house... but I still have hope.

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