In college my major was Biology & Medicine. For various courses I would focus my research on diabetes since it was appropriate coursework and extra interesting for me. These were the days before the internet, and before Google searches. Looking up medical information was a tedious task in the Science Library. Sophomore year, researching for one particular paper I found an algorithm to determine the life expectancy for a patient with my type of diabetes. I plugged in my own numbers and discovered I was expected to die at age 55. I was 19 … and stunned. No one had ever mentioned how much my life would be shortened. When I was 13 my doctor told me to just be a kid. Yes, I knew diabetes was a nuisance, shots and all, and I knew there were possible complications, but I didn’t think they applied to me. This new information was a number, calculated for me. I ran over to my friend Rex’s dorm, told him my findings, and sobbed. I don’t remember our conversation, no doubt Rex came up with something funny to say … but the new reality started sinking in.

At age 19 however, 55 was a long way off. I decided to still pretend my disease was no big deal, for a while. I’d tell myself, I’ll take better care of it after college. Later, later. Back then, there were no finger pricks to test blood sugar five times a day (a mainstay of current diabetes management). Instead the only home test was urine testing — I had a little kit with test tubes, eye dropper, tablets, and a color chart to compare results with. Urine testing was time consuming and basically useless. My results were always either ‘NEGATIVE’ meaning my blood sugar was way too low, or ‘4+’ meaning my blood sugar was way too high. I barely ever bothered to test, so it was pretty easy to ignore diabetes most of the time.

I’ll get this disease figured out later.
Rex, let’s go get donuts!

In college – we both had hair.

3 Replies to “Nineteen”

  1. “Taking care of oneself” in college is or at least was, in those days, not even a concept as far as I can remember. So I can well understand that since nobody, including your doctor, told you otherwise it would have felt like an okay thing to do even with diabetes. It is staggering to assess how vastly different our lives are now…

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