Navigating love, time differences and getting diagnosed with diabetes
My fiancée Steve noticed something was wrong with my health before I did.
There was a 4-hour time zone difference between us, and we had established a routine over the last year of being friends and getting into a relationship. It was like clockwork. I was napping ALL the time. It was taking me two hours to walk home from work, rather than 35 minutes. I was falling asleep during our infamous ‘transatlantic date nights’. Life was just becoming a routine of sleep, work, sleep. Drinking endless amounts of water, juice or anything I could find to try and quench this unbearable thirst.
We visited Dublin together a few weeks prior where my first noticeable symptoms began, a painful rash across my chest. I just put it down to hormones and carried on! My energy levels in Dublin would not suggest at all that less than a month later. I’d be diagnosed with type one diabetes. But my health history until then, all pointed in that direction.
Fast forward to being in the hospital. I had been diagnosed and received my first shot of insulin before Canada had even woken up. To say he has been incredibly supportive is a big understatement. He has taken everything in his stride. Researched about the illness, written lists of foods that can help with blood sugar levels, headaches and nausea. He’s been there at my lowest and made me feel like I can do it all. Even when I felt like I couldn’t. From the beginning, it has always been ‘we’ not just me on my own dealing with this.
Learning about diabetes together with your love
Shortly after I got diagnosed, I made a list of all the things he would need to know if I was hypo or hyper and wrote explanations of where my kit was and what each item in it is.
This was really helpful for both of us as it enabled us to learn together and help each other. Each time we would see one another, he would prepare a snack selection and carry it for me in his bag completely unprompted. He still does this now, living together. Before we leave the flat, he checks if I have spare supplies and everything I need. He is connected to my Dexcom and can check my blood sugar levels at any time. He educates people about it while educating himself. Before the pandemic hit, he came to my appointments with me and would stand up for me if I wasn’t getting the correct care from HCPs. Some would say this is the behaviour you would expect from a partner. But the thing is, it’s not. While I never have to ask him to do any of these things, the fact that he does without question, is heartwarming and beautiful.
Creating a safe space with your partner
He listens, but also brings it up of his own accord. Steve will ask a question about diabetes, or will share my frustration and make a sarcastic joke completely in tune with my own thoughts and feelings. He has never shown any frustration or passiveness towards my health. It just helps so much knowing that I am in a safe space. That is something I value both in my relationship and my friendships: diabetes being talked about at any time, for any reason, without fear or judgement.
There’s also the fear of being a burden. Will the overnight highs and lows start to affect their quality of life, or will the routine of meal times, needing to change CGM or pump sites become an inconvenience or a bother? I think when you are with the right person, none of that matters. Of course the occasional worry will arise, but they are quick to reassure and affirm that it’s all ok and you are not an issue. It is not our fault. They are here for us!
There are many stories of people in relationships in love, where one of them is living with diabetes or another chronic illness, and there is little to no support which is heartbreaking. I am so grateful that I have a partner who is genuinely interested in and invested in my journey, and helping me live the best life possible.
Ultimately, this life changing experience has brought Steve and I closer together with a really unique bond. His incredible, unwavering support has shown me how beneficial and helpful it is to have a supportive partner when living with a chronic condition, even if they do not live close by.
Click here for part 2 of our Love and Diabetes story.