Twelve years ago today, I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. In those 12 years I've been able to do a lot, experience a lot, find my passion in life, and achieve a major goal... become an FAA Licensed Private Pilot. In those 12 years I have checked my blood sugar approximately 35,040 times, changed my infusion set 2,190 times, and have been to the endocrinologist countless times. It isn't about that though. Look, I'm not going to lie... Type One Diabetes sucks. I have to go through life knowing I can't be an airline pilot without going through major red tape and then still risk having a medical certificate jerked from me at anytime. Somedays I don't want to change my infusion set or fill my pump, we're all human and aren't perfect. My fingers have spots on them from checking my blood sugar so many times. Inevitably, my lifespan has been shortened some fro T1D, it is what it is and it could ALWAYS be worse.
In June of 2007 my mom and I went to St. Louis, MO for a JDRF conference. Keep in mind if I wasn't diagnosed with T1D, I never would have gone. On the way home, some random things happened and we were delayed in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport for 9 hours. I don't know exactly what happened; however, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to be an airline pilot. Looking back on it all I have more or less liked aviation my entire life. I used to always sit in the window seat and ask the pilots for plastic wings. One time, (pre 9/11) I vaguely remember going into the flightdeck of what I believe was a Boeing 757 and watching it slice through the clouds, it was mesmerizing. In 2004 at a Children With Diabetes Conference, Michael Hunter (an air show pilot with T1D), asked me what I wanted to do when I was older. I responded: I want to do what you do.
Diabetes for me isn't just about the numbers. It's about what can come from diabetes if you look beyond the numbers and the general inconvenience diabetes is. At 18 I can say I've traveled a lot, flown a lot, became an Eagle Scout, became a Private Pilot, and met a ton of awesome people. The people have made it the most enjoyable for me. Diabetes for me has been one giant instance of serendipity mixed with a lot of paying it forward from some incredible people.
The past twelve years have been an adventure that I'm not sure I would change for anything. Two things are for certain, T1D never will stop me. Secondly, someday I will be Pilot in Command of an airliner. Today to celebrate 12 years of living wit T1D, I went flying as Pilot in Command of a Cessna 172. I love taking off not only for the fact of breaking the bonds of Earth, but for proving people wrong. Diabetics aren't a danger to aviation at all. I was told I'd never be a pilot and now look, I am one. Look the bottom line is, diabetes is what you make out of it. If you want to let it consume your life and make you miserable, then let it. If you want to use it to make you push harder and never take no for an answer, then do that. However, whatever you do, don't give up and don't let diabetes win. AirTran Airways summed it up best in their slogan... Go. There's Nothing Stopping You.
Until next time,