Early this week, we brought you the story of a D-Momma who wrote a book about her son’s type 1 diagnosis as an infant, and how she sees the diabetes world now, 20 years on. (Note: today’s the last day to enter that book giveaway!).
We’re excited today to introduce you to another type 1 who was diagnosed at just 14 months in the late 80s, and who wrote a book of her own a few years ago, called “Freckled Fingertips: Short Stories of a Life Long Disease” (published in 2012). Carli Visser is a 28-year-old tech marketing professional who lives in Seattle, WA, with her husband, Case, and their two Boston Terriers. She’s part of the Diabetes Online Community (DOC), too, at @FrckldFngrtps on Twitter.
As we’re currently experiencing the hottest months of the year here in the States, Carli was motivated to share her summer struggles with diabetes — how that gets in the way, and yet doesn’t. Take it away, Carli…
A Guest Post by Carli Visser
Now is about the time of year that the itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini starts creeping out of closets and I start looking around for my muumuu. Each year I am less impressed by how much tinier those bikinis are getting. Maybe someday I will get over being self-conscious, but with all these bumps and bruises it is hard to imagine myself parading around in anything less than layers.
I am an old-school syringe and vial type 1 diabetic. I have been diabetic for almost 30 years and my skin shows it. As much as I love the summer sun, I cannot remember a summertime in my life that I’ve been excited to show off my “insulin bumps.” Whether you’re a pumper or old fashioned like me, you know that we all share marks, scars and swelled tissue someplace on our bodies. Unsightly as these insulin bumps are, I must admit it forces some sense of creativity in attire during these summer months.
Most of my bumps form around my midsection, the easiest to reach and fastest absorption spot of all. Because of this I found myself exuberant upon the re-introduction of the tankini in the mid 90s. A tank top that gets away with calling itself a bikini? Genius! (Editor’s Note: hear, hear!) And those skirts with built in bottoms really did the trick for my lumpy thigh bumping and bruising. You’ve never met a 10-year-old so excited to jump into an old lady suit!
Fashion aside, I have found the scars on the inside run far deeper than those bumpy legs. It feels strange to be strange, and to display the outward appearance of swelled skin and bruised bumps forces me to reveal that I am different. The outer appearance of diabetes has always been a reminder that I should swim slower, check my blood sugar more often and stop to eat even when all I want is to dive into the deep end of the pool. It sucks when kids can’t just be kids.
The good news is that I haven’t just hidden behind my muumuu through nearly 30 years of diabetes. I spent some of the best summers of my life making friends and comparing insulin bumps with fellow diabetics at camp. There is power in unity, and unite we did. It is amazing what a week in the sunshine with fellow diabetics can do to a person’s soul. At camp I knew I was the same as all the different kids. I didn’t have to explain to anyone that it was time to check. In fact we lined up single file waiting our turn to check our blood sugar and compare numbers. We danced and played and learned about one another’s struggles. No matter what background we came from we were all sharing the bitter pain of dealing daily with this disease. Because of our time together I believe we were all stronger.
Beyond camp, I love the summer sun so much that I became a lifeguard and worked a few summers at the community pool. Though I had to ingest far more carbs than my fellow guards to get through a swim, I didn’t let that stop me from taking on the challenges of the training, and spending my summers doing what I loved (in a one-piece!). Did I get low swimming laps and taking my in-water exams? Of course I did. I got low and pissed off. Sometimes I’d beat myself up over not having eaten more before jumping in. Or I’d just be stubborn and not want to get out, even when I knew it was time for a juice. But I made it out of the water and I have found that you have to forge through the pain and frustration of a daily disease and allow yourself to celebrate the triumphs.
There is good in my life that runs far deeper than these insulin bumps. I celebrate my health, though flawed, I still have the opportunity to go to the gym and mold my body into whichever shape I prefer. My mind is sound and my education is solid. I have built a happy home with my amazing husband and our Boston Terriers, Rockefeller and Monroe. I have a successful career and all that a girl could ask for — aside from a functional pancreas, of course.
Through the literal highs and lows, I can tell you that if all diabetes offers is to make you a stronger person, celebrate that.
What I cannot say is how to deal with those damn itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikinis!
Thanks for sharing your perspective, Carli. We all get body-conscious sometimes and it’s great to know we are not alone in so many ways.