Welcome back to our periodic Partner Follies series here at the 'Mine, in which we feature guest posts by spouses, romantic partners and loved ones about their POVs on diabetes.
Today, we're proud to share a post written by Justin Skory in New England, whose twenty-something girlfriend Brittany Murphy has been living with type 1 for nearly two decades. They've been dating for more than a year now, and Justin says their relationship has been an eye-opening experience relating to T1D. So much so, that he's now embarking on a 100-mile bike ride all in the name of diabetes... and love, of course!
Please welcome Justin here at the 'Mine, as he shares their story.
On Meeting the Perfect Girl (and T1D), by Justin Skory
My girlfriend Brittany was diagnosed with the type 1 diabetes at the age of 6. Flash forward 19 years and she strolled into my life looking more beautiful than anyone I have ever seen.
We’ve been together for about a year and a half now, and I am 26 and she’s 25. I am currently a quality director and engineer at All-Weather Floor Mat manufacturing facility and Brittany is a morning traffic reporter and general assignment reporter for Western Mass News in Springfield, MA (which presents a great deal of obstacles in itself having to be in to work at 3 am every day!).
During our first month or two of dating she did not inform me she was diabetic. However, I don’t blame her. I was completely ignorant to what it meant to be diabetic. To use a phrase I recently heard at a JDRF summit, when I found out that she was a diabetic, I truly believed she must have just been one of those “skinny diabetics.”
Growing up, I had heard the word and even had a few relatives with diabetes, but I never took the time to learn anything about it. All of my information was mainstream stereotypes from comedians, movies, and television. I believed them all.
So when she told me, needless to say, I was completely caught off-guard. Here she was, this gorgeous blonde who was waking up at 5 am everyday just to go to CrossFit before work. She was meal prepping and was serious about fitness. I was confused. In my mind, she was breaking all of these stereotypes I thought I knew. She was living a “normal” life. Those people in her life that she has not disclosed the information to would have no idea that she was diabetic and that’s just the way she likes it.
Learning about diabetes is overwhelming.
The immense amount of new information you are trying to process in such a short amount of time is a great deal to process. I went from thinking she was carrying around a beeper to helping set up her glucose meter and loading her pump with insulin. We spent countless times practicing with the emergency glucagon with her peering over my shoulder as I tried to make sure there was no excess air. Being big and clumsy myself, our biggest obstacle now remains me inadvertently pulling her site off of her body.
The more time we spent together the more comfortable I became with it all.
I can recall the first time we spent the night at one another’s house. Her pump started vibrating in the middle of the night and I thought a bomb was going off. It was scary! I had never encountered this before and was worried something was wrong.
As a person who is in a relationship with someone who has diabetes, I try to be as supportive as possible. What they really need is for the people in their lives to take cues from them. I try to let her tell me as much or as little as she wants, but let her know I am always willing to listen. I ask her what she would like me to do if I sense trouble. I keep sugar, glucose tablets, juice or other snacks in my car. I get up in the middle of the night when it’s freezing and make that walk to the kitchen to get her a snack. That's the kind of support and acceptance she really needs.
I do the easy part; Brittany is doing all the heavy lifting.
Having been together about 18 months now, I see the struggles that she deals with but am only now starting to truly appreciate the physical and emotional strain this disease has on her on a daily basis.
Diabetes is stressful -- it’s stressful not being able to wave a magic wand and make her feel better. But you have to be supportive, not just of the disease but of everything going on in the person's life.
As much as I can learn about diabetes and as much as she tells me, I will never truly understand what it means to live with this disease. I remain optimistic, especially during times when we talk about our future. Times when she is a little too real for my liking, suggesting she might not be around forever. To use her motto: we live one day at a time. While I want to enjoy all of our time together, I would be lying if I said I didn’t want her around forever.
So I encourage you (partners, loved one and family members) to all get involved -- whether it is through ADA, JDRF, or even your local support group. Participate in walks and rides and go beyond your comfort level.
This June I will be participating in the Tour de Cure ride through the American Diabetes Association under the team name Biking for Britt. And we're starting a hashtag, #BikingForBritt, on Twitter. Rides range from 7-100 miles and I've chosen to embark upon the 100-mile ride despite having never ridden more than 24 miles during any one ride. This was a personal choice and despite the struggles I know I will encounter, they are nothing compared to what Brittany goes through on a daily basis. Throughout my training Britt has remained my biggest supporter despite other friends and family suggesting that I could not finish the whole 100 miles! I know she will be there motivating me when I hit that wall during the ride and if she needs to, she will help me break through it.
I ask you all to give back, whether it is joining my team, starting your own teams, or anything else you can think of. These are the people we love, and we love having them around.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Justin. What an incredible guy you are, and we hope to have the chance to meet you and Brittany in person someday!