Chronically ill mud-wrestling: to the victor goes the cure!

Since the moment I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes twenty years ago, I have been hearing that a cure is right around the corner.

Really soon! Maybe this year! Right around the corner! In your lifetime for sure!

People wanted me to give money to find a cure, say something inspirational about a cure. What would you do if you were cured? What would you eat again? What would you do that you never believed possible? I grew a little starry-eyed at so much attention. A cure? For me? Oh shucks, you shouldn’t have!

A cure! Dramatizations sprang to mind, those Viagra commercials of people jumping up and down, running through the streets, pumping their fists to the sky—this is how I have envisioned the release of a Diabetes cure, and my own requisite contribution to the celebration. I’ve been brushing up on the jazz hands, FYI. I pictured myself collapsing in a sugary heap, saturated with all the forbidden foods of my youth.

And then, I kept hearing about this cure.  Over and over. Minus the actualization of said claim and the tickertape parade. And as a fifteen year old, topped up to full with angst and insulin, I was pissed. How was I to have my “overcoming adversity” made-for-TV special if these so-called scientists wouldn’t get off their asses and cure the disease that was such a literal pain in my own ass? Besides the fact that other sickos kept muscling in on my turf. How in holy hell could I get a cure pronto if these other disease-ridden people wouldn’t cease and desist? The non-profit, disease-curing world began to feel overly crowded, like a dimly lit bar on Tequila Tuesday when the mud-wrestling pit is unveiled to the masses. Elbows to the kidneys ensued, and more than a little dirt in the eyes. It felt like I had to fight and kick and scream with my diseased brethren and ensure our voices were heard above the other groups to get that elusive cure.

My endocrinologist, fulfilling his alternate role as anger management dude, talked me down off the wall (and thankfully prevented me from assaulting any other chronically ill citizens). He spoke of his first year in med school, when a colleague produced the first rough-hewn insulin pump (a big ‘ole syringe strapped to a board and powered with a small mechanical motor—no joke). There is no limit to innovation. Patience is probably a good thing in this arena too, he insisted, unless of course you want a funky complication like green ears.

There is a danger to living with too much hope. Just as there is a danger to living with too little. One has you constantly gazing elsewhere, blind to the world churning on around you. The other has you blind to everything except your immediate world and the minutiae of illness.

When someone tells me a cure is right around the corner, I don’t have the urge to celebrate or, alternately, the urge to flip them off. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re not. But the fact that people care enough to give two hoots is wicked cool.

Maybe one day there will be a cure. I’ll be practicing my jazz hands . . . just in case.