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Christian Berg

For most of my life, I was a closet diabetic, keeping my condition private and only sharing it with my closest friends and my family.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1980. I was five, and I was a lot like Pinocchio, wanting only to be a normal kid. In those days, the standard of care for Type 1 Diabetes was to adhere to a strict diet in response to insulin absorption. There was no rapid-acting, synthetic human insulin. For a child, this was like being in food prison. The temptation to deviate from the prescribed dietary restrictions was ever-present. I am here today, sharing my story with you, by the grace of God and because of tireless love and support from my family.

Over the course of my childhood, people around me would try to encourage me by saying things like, “we’ll have a cure any day now.” Well, that hasn’t happened, and we’re all still waiting for the cure. I’ve been on a journey through life, shlepping my medical supplies with me and constantly assessing how my immediate actions will affect my blood glucose and my overall health. If my life was an offroad trail, it would have the following warning: expert terrain ahead.

My Aunt Greta was also a Type 1 Diabetic, diagnosed in 1964 at the age of 13. She was my mom’s baby sister. She taught me how to take care of myself by monitoring my glucose levels, giving myself insulin injections, and minding what I eat. In 1983, when I was seven, we learned that Aunt Greta had complete kidney failure. That diagnosis was followed closely by diabetic retinopathy. Aunt Greta passed away in 1992 at the age of 41 from diabetes-related complications. My mom lost her baby sister when I was 16 years old.

As a closet diabetic, the emotional turmoil that diseases like Type 1 Diabetes place on those afflicted, their families, and their friends is something that I ignored. I recently learned that my mom used to lock herself in her room sobbing because of overwhelming concern for me, her diabetic child with poor blood glucose control. In her mind, my journey had the same trajectory as her baby sister, my Aunt Greta.

In 1994, I was privileged to come under the care of Dr. Richard Brand, who is himself a Type 1 Diabetic. Dr. Brand taught me that a long, healthy life is possible with Type 1 Diabetes by proving it with his own life’s story. He showed me that though my journey may be more challenging than that of my peers, I could indeed master it. In 1996, when Humolog, the first rapid-acting insulin was approved, he helped me master the balance between insulin use, food consumption, and physical activities. I’m almost 50 years old now, and I live an active, healthy, complication-free life.

My Type 1 Diabetes story includes sadness from the untimely loss of my diabetic aunt, but it is also a story of triumph and hope. I am a healthy adult, who has lived with Type 1 Diabetes for almost half a century. With the help of my family, my caregivers, and significant breakthroughs in biotechnology and medical devices, the challenges that riddled the road ahead of me in 1980 have diminished.

I offer this story in loving memory of (Aunt) Greta Swenson, PhD, 1951 – 1992. I hope that my life’s example provides inspiration and encouragement for other diabetics and their families.

Thriving with T1D
since 1980

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