While blogs are hugely popular for sharing our day-to-day trials of living with diabetes, there’s also been a new crop of self-published books about the Big D making their way online in virtual stores, including Amazon. A recent title is Tales in the Insulin Vial, by Steve Beriault, a 58-year-old type 1 living in Canada.
Steve’s book is more of a collection of stories than a straightforward memoir. Some of those stories capture a true moment in a life with diabetes, while others are fictional but inspired by diabetes. Although there are a few interruptions in the timeline, Steve shares his life starting with his diagnosis at age 2, through his adulthood and the diagnosis of his youngest son, Nick, and then on to his current life with complications. He holds nothing back when it comes to his baring all — outing everything from his experiences with blindness, dialysis, kidney transplantation, amputation and a failed pancreas transplant. As if this weren’t exposé enough, Steve takes us back to the “bad old days” with diabetes; considering how difficult it is to manage diabetes in the 21st century, it’s always shocking to read how people managed to make do with one injection a day and no blood sugar monitoring!
Steve writes that he had much success with his diabetes as a young man, taking part in a cycling adventure across Canada in the inspiring and motivating chapter “Voyageurs.” Although many people, including doctors and the Canadian Diabetes Association, argued that Steve shouldn’t do the ride, he managed to bike 5,000 miles (and then later kayak 1,000 miles on an old fur trading route) with only a single injection of insulin a day and some Billy Bee honey to treat his lows. Heading out on a journey that extensive without all the technology we have today is hard to imagine, but Steve says, “I accepted my vulnerabilities and weaknesses as part of the challenge and adventure.”
Later in life, he’s faced severe complications and is now a double amputee, which he describes in the chapter “Steel Legs and Kidney Transplant.” Steve writes that he believes he wouldn’t have suffered as many complications if he hadn’t been diagnosed in a “technology limbo” period, lamenting that he would have fared much better “if I had had better control during my early developing years and into adulthood.” It is indeed a harsh reality that many people who were diagnosed in the infancy of diabetes technology are suffering from that lack of help today.
Steve’s advice for readers: “Be diligent and do your homework concerning research on diabetes and its complications. Be vigilant and be your own advocate. If you are not sure about the medical advice you have received, find a third party. You do not have to accept the common view of things.”
Even with all the trials he’s endured, Steve is still committed to his health, ringing in with a 6.9% A1c while on multiple daily injections of Lantus and Humalog. But don’t think he’ll be promoting his treatment any time soon: “I’ll like it when I don’t have to do it anymore!”
Steve is also committed to finding a cure. He launched the Steel Legs Walk and in five years, he has raised more than $106,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. But having lived with diabetes over five decades and seen all kinds of advancements in diabetes technology, Steve still warns against believing in any guarantees:
“If people with diabetes wish to delude themselves into thinking that somehow they control the disease called diabetes with the techno medical wizardry that is sold to us by multi-billion dollar corporations, I beg to differ. Without insulin you die. With insulin you live a convoluted lifestyle that may help ‘some’ live longer and better, but not all and not normally. The only hope we have, to provide the freedom we all desire, is finding a cure.”