Wil Dubois

Today, we offer a special edition of our weekly Ask D’Mine Q&A in honor of the Fourth of July, which typically doesn't fall on a Saturday -- the last time that happened was in 2009! Our expert host Wil Dubois, a longtime type 1 himself, takes a break from answering reader questions to share some thoughts on freedom. 

Diabetes Advice on Freedom

Happy Independence Day, everyone. Today is the day we solemnly remember, reflect on, and commemorate the courage of the fathers of our nation, who risked life and limb for the ideals of independence and freedom.

Or it’s the day we have a family picnic in the park and watch a fireworks show afterwards.

I’ll likely do both, myself.

But this morning, as my mind drifted out to sea on waves of contemplation about the bravery of our forefathers, I was brutally yanked back to my picayune reality when my insulin pump tubing got caught on the bathroom doorknob. Ack! And instead of thinking about political and historical independence, my mind shifted to the subject of diabetes independence.

As a type 1 diabetic, I am insulin-dependent. That is a medical fact of life. How then, can I have any level of independence? The very title of my illness carves into stone the impossibility of independence, does it not?

I accept the fact that I will never be free of my dependence on insulin. Sorry. I still believe in Santa, and I’m open-minded about Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster, but I do not believe in the cure. Besides, even my sugar-normal readers are technically insulin-dependent too, but they’re able to make it themselves. Still, I know from first-hand experience that there’s really no comparison.

But does this dependence mean that there can be no independence? Are there fifty shades of freedom? Really, how much independence can we have within our limits? Besides, what, really, is independence in the first place?

Thomas Jefferson’s inalienable rights of mankind were, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." That was Jefferson’s definition of independence; we have it from the Declaration of Independence itself. From the insulin-dependent perspective, how well can we live up to Jefferson’s charter?

Well, first and foremost, we can actually live. That’s no small thing and we do well to remember that less than 100 years ago, that was not true. Now we live. Hell, now we thrive. And we have so many choices, so many freedoms to choose from, in how we go about that simple act of living. We have many flavors of insulin to choose from. We have the freedom to choose syringes, pens, pumps. We can even breathe insulin with the free air of our nation. Today, in this land, there is nothing about being insulin-dependent that prevents anyone with type 1 diabetes from the unalienable right to life.

What about liberty? Liberty is a tricky word. Definitions range from the theologic to the political, but they all boil down to one synonym: Freedom. Being free to choose to do something, being free to choose to say something, being free to choose to go somewhere—all unhampered by external forces.

Today, those of us with diabetes have the liberty to do nearly everything without our diabetes hampering us. And we do. People with diabetes have reached the summit of Mt. Everest, won multiple Olympic Gold medals, kicked butt in bicycle races, served in the military, raced NASCAR, starred in Miami Ink, written blood-sucking best-selling novels, and even set world speed records in airplanes.

We surf, skydive, and scuba dive. We run corporations, work in every imaginable career field from music and entertainment to high-tech, and even serve in some of the highest political offices in the land. There are no limits. We are free to choose. We have the liberty to be rich men, poor men, beggar men, thieves; doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs.

From great victories like the Olympics to small personal victories like attending your kid’s Little League game to cheer her on, even though dependent on insulin, we have the independence, the liberty, to do anything.

That’s two out of three inalienable rights. What about the third? The pursuit of happiness?

Jefferson was no fool. He knew you could not guarantee happiness. Happiness comes from within. Jefferson wanted only to ensure that barriers to finding it were not erected by the authorities. If your diabetes is blocking you from pursuing happiness, it’s time for you to craft your own declaration of independence.

After all, diabetes, if your mindset is right, is the most liberating of all diseases. What other disease can you think of where you have the level of control over your health destiny that we do? Day-to-day, we function independently of our doctors. We administer our own medicines. We have the freedom to choose how much insulin is appropriate at any moment. We have the liberty of checking our own blood sugar, and thus the status of our diabetes, at any moment of any day. It’s the most empowering of illnesses.

If that’s not independence, I don’t know what is.

And yet, despite all this promise, finding sorrow in the midst of all this liberty is all too common for people with diabetes. Yes. Diabetes is hard. Yes. Diabetes is challenging. Yes. Diabetes is unrelenting work. But hard, challenging, unrelenting work is not unique to diabetes. Life is hard, challenging, and unrelenting for everyone. But it can also be joyful, even in the challenges.

What better day than today to declare your independence from gloom? To throw off the shackles of oppressing depression? To stake out your inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness?


Happy Fourth of July


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Disclaimer: This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.