After I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11, one of my friends asked me the question headlining this post. The conversation went something like this:
“What?! Julia Roberts? That’s cool. I love her, so I’ll be sure to watch it.”
Which then led to the following conversation with my mother:
“Hey mom, my friend told me Julia Roberts was in a movie about diabetes. Can we go rent it?”
“What? Why not?”
“Because I’ve seen it and you can’t watch it.”
“But you always let me watch Julia Roberts movies. Why can’t I watch it?”
“Because it’s a sad movie and you won’t like it. And because I’m your mother and I said so.”*
*Yes, my mom was that mom.
Fast forward to my early teen years and the following phone conversation with my mother:
“Victoria? Are you OK? Why are you crying?”
“Will you come get me?”
“What’s wrong? Are you not having a good time at your friend’s house? Why do I need to come get you? What happened?”
“I’m fine. Will you just come get me?”
Insert my friend’s mother into the conversation:
“Andrea, hi. This is so-and-so. I’m sorry, but the girls watched ‘Steel Magnolias’ and Victoria is really upset. I didn’t know she wasn’t allowed to watch it and assumed she’d already seen it. I didn’t even think about when they put it in the VCR.** I’m so sorry.”
**Yes, a VCR. It’s a recording device prior to DVD players that was about the size of a small Volkswagon Beetle. But to rewind or fast-forward took hours instead of a single remote click.
When my mother picked me up, she simply looked at me and said, “I told you not to watch it.”***
***Yes, my mom was also that mom.
Of course then she hugged me and held me as I cried. We had a lengthy conversation about diabetes, pregnancy and Hollywood where she consoled me and reminded me I would be fine, and God had a plan for my life. As a child, she often recited Jer. 29:11 and as an adult, often still does.
So that was my introduction to the infamous “Steel Magnolias” film. To this day, I’ve only seen the film in its entirety one time, and I don’t expect to watch it in its entirety ever again. I know it’s not true. I know I can have a child as can any other diabetic woman. ****
****Go back and click those links.
But when I was 11, childbirth was not a guarantee. My parents were told I wouldn’t have children. They told us I’d lose 10 years of my life regardless of what kind of management I had because that’s just what diabetes does to a person’s body. They told us if I had children, I’d lose another 10 years — and that’s not even considering the possibilities of complications along the way.
But now, in 2012, none of that is true. I have two friends who’ve had type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years. They are beautiful, healthy women. All of their organs work, they have no major complications and all of their limbs are fully intact. I have dozens of type 1 friends with babies — beautiful, beautiful babies. And I know dozens of teens who have every reason to believe they will live healthy, normal, productive lives with type 1 diabetes — not slow, inactive lives full of dialysis machines, hospitals and nursing homes at 55 years old.
So when I’m asked if I’ve seen “Steel Magnolias” I say yes. When that answer is followed by a sympathetic expression or another question asking if it’s true, I smile and say, “does it look true?”
I’m older than Juilia Roberts’ character in that film. I am active and healthy and beautiful. No doctor has ever told me not to have children, and technically, I could conceive tomorrow because my A1c is in perfect range to get knocked up. Of course, I’m waiting on that crazy little thing called love, but when it happens, and if it’s in God’s plan for me to be a biological mother, then it will happen. And if it’s not, I will look into adoption – something I’ve always wanted to do regardless of my ability to have children. But if biological children aren’t in the cards for me, it will NOT because of diabetes.
I know through my friend Holly that “Steel Magnolias” comes up a lot when you’re a pregnant type 1, but I wish I could erase that movie off of IMDB. OK, maybe not entirely because I do still love to say someone doesn’t know whether to scratch their watch or wind their butt (how can you not love Dolly Parton?).
But for its portrayal of diabetes, I hate that film.
It may have been true at one point, but it’s not anymore. It’s not true because of research, education and technology. Some things in life are a given, and others are not. My future is not a given, but my hope in Jesus is a given, and that hope reminds me daily that I am going to be just fine!