Living with a chronic disease – Erika Arff
Living with a chronic disease
Erika Arff dispells the myths around diabetes, the chronic disease she’s lived with since eight years old.
I have this chronic disease. At age 8, my immune system decided to attack itself, killing important cells in my pancreas that produce a critical hormone called insulin. And my disease is stereotyped and stigmatized around the topics of my body weight, food and exercise, and lifestyle choices. But what people don’t know, is that the disease “Diabetes” is actually a broad spectrum of multiple types of this disease and are all caused and treated differently.
Type 1 diabetes, which I have, is when your body mistakenly attacks and kills the beta cells of the pancreas, resulting in a stop in insulin production. Only 10% of all diabetes diagnoses are Type 1 and it requires insulin to survive day to day, but it isn’t a cure.
To me, it is such a complex and yet dynamic disease. It causes such a chaotic imbalance of feelings in my mind. There are days when I feel like the bravest, strongest warrior out there in the streets. I feel liberated by my disease, that I can do anything while dealing with a chronic disease (and do it better than the norm). But there are also days where I am overwhelmed with the reality that Type 1 Diabetes is a life threatening, chronic disease and at any point in time, my health can take a turn for the worse.
Some days, when people ask me about my diabetes, I am the strong diabetic who won’t take no for an answer. I will tell them that this disease does not control me, and does not limit me. I will share the moments of my life that are so spectacular they won’t believe I accomplished those things while living with a chronic disease at the same time. They are in awe and they are inspired. I mask the drain that it puts on my body because in these moments, I feel like I need to change the way they see my disease.
Other days, when people ask me about my diabetes, I want to scream and yell and explain just how much it affects my life. I want them to know how it feels when your blood sugar is too low or high and you have things to do. I want to explain to them how guilty it can make me feel to be sick every month because my immune system sometimes can’t handle all that I’m asking of it. I want to tell them that with a few unconscious calculations, I can essentially put myself into a coma and die. And how scary that is.
My diabetes does not limit me, but I’m not going to sit here and say it doesn’t change the way I go about life. Everything takes extra planning, extra care and extra time. It is physically and emotionally draining and it is a full time job (and then some!). But, it has built me. It has challenged me, and it has driven me to be the person I am today. I am proud to call myself a Type 1 Diabetic because I know how hard we fight to keep our bodies alive each and every day.