I found this the other day, I wrote it as a submission for a medical conference, although I was not accepted to the conference I am still really proud of how I was able to articulate my story….
At 24 I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an incredible blow to a previously immortal millennial. I have a distinct memory of the first time a tech took my blood sugar, a sense of foreboding that I was witnessing a process with which I was about to be intimately familiar, I dismissed it as me being overly dramatic and went back to answering email on my phone — little did I know how spot on I was and how my entire life was about to change.
Being diagnosed as an adult, I had a whole life before diabetes, where I ate pizza, played sports, travelled the world, all without having to worry about being my own pancreas. This freedom was not something I am willing to give up. I grew up an engineer, by nature and by nurture — where everything was up for debate, where building your own solution was always an option. So when the diagnosis haze began to lift my favorite question came to mind — how am I going to fix this… that’s what I’ve been asking myself ever since.
I looked to existing solutions first — a continuous glucose monitor and an insulin pump. To a person with a working pancreas these tools might seem like a no-brainer, but as a fiercely independent person, accepting dependence on an external device was an immense mental hurdle. This is where the mindset shift happened, these devices were going to keep me alive… the Arc Reactor kept Tony Stark alive, and Iron Man is cool… I confirmed this logic with my sister, who agreed that choosing to go on a pump made me cool like Iron Man and not sickly and weird, like I feared it would. These tools proved incredibly useful, but still left me short of my goal. I searched for others that had solved it, but rather than solutions, I found others like myself struggling along to find an answer, a protocol to replace a pancreas. I embraced Iron Man as my alter ego and became my own beta — testing out my own systems, those designed by others, and many hybrid methods. I am still searching, trying to enjoy the thrill of the chase, holding onto my faith that there is a solution.
I’ve shared my story with you, and now I’m going to tell you why it matters — because I know there are other diabetics who, with a simple mindset shift could go from patient to patient engineer, their own Iron Man, and we need all the Iron Men we can get. We need to stop looking solely to doctors and research teams for the answers and take the initiative to hypothesize and test in our own world. There are estimated 1.25 million type 1 diabetics in the US alone. Think about the possibilities if each diabetic was also a part of the team looking for the solution… with this shift, I believe that we will achieve the goal of finding a protocol to replace a pancreas, and much more.