As we know, diabetes doesn’t just affect the person with diabetes — it affects the whole family. So we’re back with another edition of our Partner Follies series, a place where the partners of PWDs can share what it’s like for them to live with and love someone with diabetes.
Today, we’re thrilled to introduce you to Jackie Farrell, the wonderful and sweet wife of Bernard Farrell, long-time DOC blogger and one of our DiabetesMine Design Contest judges in 2011. We love Bernard,and after reading Jackie’s touching words about meeting him and learning about diabetes the hard way, we love her too!
A Guest Post by Jackie Farrell
I remember the first time I saw Bernard check his blood sugar and inject insulin. We were on what we like to call our “zeroth date.” His casual explanation gave me the impression that it was no big deal. I believe he said something to the effect of “I have to do this because I have type 1 diabetes.” That was all I needed to know for the time being.
We continued to date and get to know one another at a pretty rapid pace. I recall asking him countless questions, trying to understand exactly what my pancreas does that his doesn’t — trying to understand how he walks that narrow path between high and low. I recall after one such discussion Bernard saying, “It’s really nice that you care so much about this. I’m just a little concerned that you have a morbid fascination with it all.”
Time proved my affection to him and allayed his fears of my “morbid fascination.” I became adept at recognizing early signs that he was going low. This was helpful, as his awareness of them wasn’t great at that point. Unfortunately, it led to my worrying about him when we were apart. Bernard had to remind me that he’d gotten through the first 34 years of his life without me and was actually pretty good at taking care of himself. Thank you very much. He was right. But I still worried.
At that stage, Bernard was resistant to testing as often as I wanted him to because of the cost. My fear of lows continued to loom large and posed a sharp contrast to the joy of our relationship otherwise. At one point, we went hiking up a mountainside and he had a low that required us to stop until he could get his blood sugar back in gear. I was conscious of the limited daylight we had to get back down to the car. It seemed like forever for that blasted blood sugar to right itself. I was scared. Though I didn’t express it to him, I decided at that moment that this was our last mountain hike alone.
Besides my all-consuming fear of the lows, I was also worried about the long-term complications. Bernard himself believed he was destined for a short life span. God bless Joslin Clinic and the DOIT program! We participated in this outpatient education program which afforded us the opportunity to ask all the questions we wanted. There was really only one question that was weighing on my heart, so I summoned the gumption to ask it. “Doctor, am I crazy to imagine that we could have many happy years together and be sitting side by side in rocking chairs as old people one day?” Dr. Richard Jackson chose his words carefully, but the basic message was this: I was not crazy. This was entirely possible!
Love was in the air and we were marriage-bound. This became obvious to all who knew us, including my mother. Before I tell you this next bit, I have to tell you that my mother is a dear, sweet, loving, but very practical New England woman. My mother had two objections to my marrying Bernard. The first was that he had been married previously. A close second was the diabetes. “He’s not even healthy, Jackie. You don’t know what lies ahead for you.” To be fair, my mom was born in 1921 and seen many suffer the consequences of inadequate care of early medical treatment.
Shortly after our marriage, Bernard started to campaign, along with the ADA, for universal coverage of diabetes supplies in Massachusetts. He was all over that state House. Once the diabetes advocacy fire was lit in Bernard, there was no stopping it. And who would want to? Not me. Next thing I knew he was in Washington D.C. campaigning for research money, testifying before the FDA about Humalog, reviewing diabetes technology. Diabetes ceased to be such a negative in our lives and became a mission.
Over time wonderful new technologies in the form of faster insulin, an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor have delivered me so completely from the dread of low blood sugar that it actually surprises me when he has a bad low. The pump and Humalog combination was probably the most revolutionary step in that his control improved drastically and with it his general health. When the CGM arrived, that was just icing on the sugar-free cake!
So many years, three stepchildren, two houses, three adoptions, grandchildren and many hikes later, I’m happy to have shared this all with you. It’s a great reminder to me how far Bernard and I and the Big D have come together. I wouldn’t trade him for the world!
Neither would we, Jackie, diabetes and all!