Musings Abroad – my Life in Spain: What is a Diaversary?

Type 1 Diabetes
An insulin pump is one of several methods used to help manage Type 1 Diabetes (Photo by Anna Groeling).

It’s common to celebrate dates such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries, as they’re events often associated with strong positive memories.

It may seem harsh, however, to celebrate the day that a person has been diagnosed with a chronic illness. During my thirteen years with Type 1 Diabetes, I’ve gotten a variety of responses from people when I talk about my “Diaversary”.

How did I get Type 1 Diabetes? At one point my body’s cells attacked my pancreas, having decided that it was a foreign and dangerous object. That 7-year-old kid, who had almost too much energy, soon became fatigued and sluggish. I found it difficult to do the simplest things-even walking around the neighborhood for a short duration was too much. The pancreas creates insulin, a hormone that’s vital for maintaining the body’s energy. At that time, as a kid, I was unable to comprehend or process these extreme changes.

Some people with Type 1 Diabetes are diagnosed immediately, while for others like me, it may take a couple months to be diagnosed. The Diabetic Online Community (DOC) uses the slang word Diaversary to describe the official day that of the diagnosis.

This word has different meanings for people within the community. Some people don’t recognize the day they were diagnosed, while others reflect about their experiences. Yet it’s also common for many Type 1 Diabetics to embrace and celebrate the day.

It’s important to remember that a Diaversary does not celebrate Diabetes. Instead it’s a day to recognize the accomplishments of living with a life-changing illness and not allowing it to control you. It’s a reminder to live life to the fullest. In fact, you can even buy cards online wishing for a “Happy Diaversary”.

On my 13th anniversary, which was just recently, I took the time to reflect. Technology has changed much since my diagnosis. My insulin pump, a huge improvement from my life with old syringes and multiple injections, has given me a healthier life.  Yes, Type 1 Diabetes is still challenging and the technology doesn’t always work, but I’m very thankful to have access to these improvements.

I continue to learn from my condition every day and through this, it shapes my perspective. Type 1 Diabetes teaches me empathy-to understand that not everything should be taken for face value. It makes me value my health, as well as the well-being of those around me.

My condition’s unpredictable nature has also taught me to persevere. Three days after my 13th Diaversary I left my home in the United States to live in Spain. Living abroad and learning another language has always been a goal of mine and reaching that point was my celebration as a Type 1 Diabetic. I chose to control my condition, so that it wouldn’t take away my goals.

When people ask why I would celebrate or even recognize a Diaversary, I explain how it allows me to reflect and understand my experiences and strengths as a person. It also celebrates my family and their support. Type 1 Diabetes affects every aspect of a person’s life and a cure is yet to be found. Having an optimistic attitude about it, however, makes everything so much easier.


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