It’s Independence Day today -- the holiday that commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence waaaay back in 1776. It’s a national holiday and a national party. There will be speeches, parades, and fireworks. The History Chanel will probably run some sort of programming to put it all in perspective and remind us what a bold moment it was in human history.
But the day also got us here at DiabetesMine thinking on the deeper meaning of independence, and how much independence it’s possible to have when you are insulin-dependent, specifically.
Let’s start by blowing the dust off our dictionary and looking up the word independence.
- the state or quality of being independent
- freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others
With type 1 diabetes we can never break free from the control of our medicines, gear, or doctors. Not unless we want the freedom of the grave. We are strongly influenced by others: Those who set the (now outrageous) price of life-sustaining insulin, the health policies of our government, the formularies of our insurance plans. So sure, these entities and many others may at times rob us of any sense of independence, like tyrannical rulers holding people captive rather than allowing us to make our own decisions or live our lives the way we choose.
So is independence with insulin-dependent diabetes an illusion? Are we forever in bondage to our chronic condition?
It’s a sobering and depressing thought. Not one worthy of a parade, much less fireworks.
But, being optimists (granted -- the jaded sort), we refuse to accept the notion of living as captives in what was created as a free country of the people, for the people.
13 Freedoms of People with Diabetes
Therefore, in the spirit of the holiday and those original 13 colonies, here's a list of diabetes-themed ways we do have independence, even while our lives depend on access to insulin:
One: We have the freedom to choose what to eat. Sure, there are consequences to choosing high-carb foods and drinks, but nothing on the table is completely banned. At least, it shouldn't be. We can choose, despite what some harder-core folk believe. That’s independence.
Two: We have the freedom choose our therapy, at least in broad terms. We may want Novolog insulin while our insurance will only cover Humalog, but most of us have the freedom to choose syringe, pen, or pump. That’s independence (assuming one can afford it).
Three: We have the freedom to hide our condition from the world, if we choose to. Unlike, say, oxygen dependence or wheelchair dependence, there are no outward signs that reveal that we have type 1 diabetes. That’s independence.
Four: We have the freedom to manage our diabetes with as much or as little help from our medical teams as we like. The fact that diabetes is
Five: Likewise, we have the freedom to choose how much help we want from our family and friends. Many of us find diabetes easier with the help and support of others. But if you desire complete independence from all others, it’s possible to run the diabetes show by yourself. That’s near-total independence.
Six: We have the freedom to engage with others of our kind who understand what we experience, what we fear, what we crave. Or you can choose not to. That’s independence.
Seven: We have the freedom to fit our diabetes into our days pretty much wherever we want. There must be a thousand ways to time our medications and blood sugar monitoring. Choosing how to arrange your day? That’s independence.
Eight: We have the freedom to walk, run, or swim. We may have to adjust our insulin, but we are free to move about the country. And the world. That’s independence.
Ten: We have the freedom to choose our professions, despite our diabetes. There are very few career paths blocked to us in the traditional sense, even if we may feel constrained by the need to purchase health insurance to afford our diabetes meds and supplies. Choosing your way in life for the most part? That’s independence.
Eleven: We have the freedom of self-reliance. Diabetes, with its unrelenting 24-7-365 nature, forces us to be self-reliant, even if we crave the help of others. Being able to fend for yourself? That’s independence.
Twelve: We have the freedom of strength. If there’s one thing about diabetes, it’s that it makes us strong. Strength is a form of freedom. And being strong is, in fact, independence.
Thirteen: Lastly, diabetes makes us brave. So who better to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave, than we semi-independent insulin-dependent patriots?
So there you have it. At least thirteen freedoms… independences… from our insulin-dependent diabetes.
Independence from Insulin?
And there's something else -- recent research unveiled in June 2019 shows that medical innovation is providing for independence from insulin, in that some people with type 1 diabetes have been off insulin for a full 10 years as a result of islet transplants! That's incredible! Thanks to the Diabetes Research Institute in Florida, and all those in the scientific community who are working to improve lives and potentially "cure" diabetes, at least for many years at a time.
Of course, we recognize that the challenges of life with diabetes are unique to each of us (i.e. Your Opinion May Vary) -- especially as it relates to access and affordability, which often make the concept of "freedom" seem unattainable. But philosophically speaking, we're trying to look to the positive here as much as possible.
You might be thinking that we're never going to be completely free from the need to tend to our diabetes. And that we'll always be strongly influenced by national health policies and the confines of our insurance plans. Nor can most of us thrive without the support and aid of our loved ones. At least, not until science drafts our own Declaration of Independence.
In the form of a cure.
But until then, even though we are insulin-dependent, we are not robbed of all liberties. We take today to celebrate the wiggle room we have.