What “In Sickness and in Health” Means with Type 1 Diabetes

I scroll through NIH-funded clinical diabetes trials from time to time. In the fine print of the standard government form of these studies, there is a criteria that asks if the study is “accepting healthy individuals.” Of course, the checkbox marked next to it says “NO.” It’s a weird reminder of my health status.

And yet, when I look at my wonderful life with my husband, that box reminds me of how grateful I am that he takes me as I am – including the overwhelming, neverending, sickness of me. Saying your wedding vows and promising to be there for one another in sickness and in health seems so easy in the abstract. Of course you’ll be there when your wife is older; of course you’ll stick by her side in the face of catastrophic events, accidents, or disease. Of course. But the abstract becomes very concrete when your loved one is living with a chronic disease.

When you make that vow, you’re promising to love someone through the dark, deep crevices of the unknown knowing you’ll be riding the wave the inevitable barrage of time. With diabetes, all of those promises count tenfold. There is no putting off tomorrow’s worries when you’re confronted with the worries of highs and lows and complications in the here and now.

It means my husband promises to always carry extra snacks when we go hiking, to be my go-to person when I hit middle of-the-night hypoglycemia, to prioritize healthy eating and exercise, to become a low-carb cooking aficionado, to be willing to face endless doctor’s visits, blood draws, prescription runs, and diabetes jargon, to be my advocate when I face discrimination, to confront years of the unknown, and to put up with my frustration when things just don’t feel quite right.

With glucose tabs hidden in his suit pocket, he promised to love me through the rest of my time on earth with a chronic, expensive, invisible, undeniably complicated and unpredictable disease. And for that, I am forever grateful, healthy or not.

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Christine Fallabel is the Mountain Region Director of State Government Affairs and Advocacy for The American Diabetes Association. She has been living with Type 1 diabetes for 18 years. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware, and her Master’s in Public Health from Temple University. In her spare time, she likes to do yoga, climb really tall mountains with her husband, and cook vegan food. She lives in Denver, Colorado.

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