For nearly 20 years, I’ve been warned about the complications of type 1 diabetes. As a child, the scary statistics were recited by nurses, doctors, diabetes educators and even my family. I’m knowledgeable about diabetes because I’ve lived with it for years, and it requires constant attention. I could sit with you over lunch and explain the disease simply and effectively. As an advocate, I can tell you about diabetes complications like heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, amputations, poor circulation, heart disease and stroke. I can tell you conceiving can be tough and carrying a baby for a full, healthy 40 weeks is challenging. I can explain all of it in a matter of minutes. And for close to two decades, that’s all it’s been — an explanation of scary words I read in a book and heard from other people. Never once did I actually consider any of them could happen to me.
But that changed a little more than a week ago when I learned I have two minor complications from diabetes. In both cases, doctors said it’s because I’ve had diabetes for so long, not because of the level of management and care I’ve had. While I know the statistics in my mind and can recite them in my sleep, I never really thought they would affect me, much less before I turn 30 years old.
Last week, I was told by my eye doctor that I have the beginning stages of diabetic retinopathy, or diabetic blindness. It’s minor and early, but something to watch. For now, he is comfortable continuing with one eye exam a year. Monday, I learned the issues I’ve been having with my hands isn’t arthritis, it’s more-than-likely something called diabetic cheiroarthropathy. In laymen terms, that means I have limited joint movement and mobility solely because of nearly 20 years with diabetes. Other than an anti-inflammatory, there’s not much else to do for it. (I’m confident in the improvements I’ve seen from my dietary changes that I have no plans to take an anti-inflammatory at this point). I haven’t researched cheiroarthropathy extensively so I have lots of reading to do, but this makes far more sense than lupus, rheumatoid or osteoarthritis.
When I learned of the second complication in as many weeks, I felt crushed and defeated. In a moment’s time, I wanted to pity myself and cry tears of sadness. But I didn’t. Instead, I cried out to God. As soon as I got in the car to drive back to my friend’s house, a song by Phil Wickham started playing on Pandora. In the first verse of the song, I knew God was there with me. In that moment, He reminded me of what matters:
“Take these hands, I know they’re empty but with You they can be used for beauty.
In Your perfect plan, all I am is Yours …
I lift my hands up, God I surrender
All that I am for Your glory, Your honor, Your fame.”
This is not my body; it’s not my life. I’m here to serve Him by serving others. All that I have is His; all that I am is His. Nothing with these two diabetes surprises change any of that. I don’t need medication. I’m not limited by this, and fortunately, it does nothing to me physically. I can still live my life as I am now. I can still go on my planned mission trip in September. I can still ride 105 miles in Death Valley in October! Nothing has changed except the attention I pay to my eyes and joints.
Hearing the words, “it’s a complication from diabetes” was not something I was prepared to hear. And I think hearing it at my age is what mostly threw me for a loop, but I’ve soaked it in and prayed over it, and I am fine. I have tremendous faith in knowing I’m NOT in control. I love knowing I will be safe and protected when I can’t see what lies ahead. I want His will for my life more than I want anything for myself.