September 4th, 1999, the day I found out for certain that I had Type 1 diabetes. The confusion at the time was real, the path forward uncertain. That day was like adding a Siamese twin to my back. One that has opinions and affects everything I did from that moment forward; food, exercise, mood, energy, activities and every decision made. For the next 10 years I learned how to incorporate that twin into every aspect of my life, including my daily routine, the adventures of travel, taking shots, wearing an insulin pump, studying, testing, exercising and most importantly, learning what to eat and how to eat what I want.
Then, a decade later, in 2009 an organization called Dogs4Diabetics made the journey a little less lonely by placing me with Trajan, a Medical-Alert Service Dog, trained to alert me to life-threatening lows (result of having too much insulin in your body). From 2009 to 2018, Trajan became my diabetic partner, helping me navigate all sorts of questions and decisions, constantly reminding me when I needed to eat, drink, rest or stop as a result of my diabetes.
A successful service dog journey will see the dog pass while the human lives on. For me, that occurred in 2018 when Trajan left us peacefully. I often get asked if his alerts ever worked. The answer is certainly, how many times he has saved my life is unknown, but it is really only that one time that matters. The fact I am here, writing this, healthy as ever proves Trajan’s mission a success.
To commemorate his passing in 2018 along with my 20 year diabetes anniversary, in conjunction with Dogs4Diabetics, I am launching “Trajan’s Fund.” A type of scholarship with a goal of raising $20,000 to help other diabetics get paired with a lifesaver like Trajan, a crucial partner in their own journey.
Diabetes in many ways has been a positive influence on my life. That influence, however, is coupled with a constant need for attention and a relentless health management plan. When often tasked with explaining to others what it is like to live with diabetes, the levity of the situation is hard to convey. Perhaps sharing a few numbers from my last 20 years will help:
1,400,000 – This is the estimated additional calories I have ingested over the last 20 years to manage those dangerous low blood sugars. Imagine an additional 1.4M calories in your life added to a condition that demands a very healthy body mass to avoid long term complications.
7,000 – This is the estimated number of shots I have given myself over the last 20 years. Contrary to the mantra “You get used to it”, putting a needle in your body sucks every time, but you do tolerate it no problem.
36,500 – This is the estimated times I’ve pricked my finger to test my blood glucose over the last 20 years.
0 – This is the number of times I have fainted or been hospitalized.
The last few are not to be overlooked. Many diabetics deal with dangerously low blood sugars that cause them to faint or require hospitalization. Avoiding those dangerous lows for me includes eating a balanced diet, testing constantly, always being prepared with complex carbohydrates, wearing a continuous glucose monitor and for the better part of a decade traveling everywhere with Trajan, a dog trained to predict these lows well before I ever could.
So I ask that we help Trajan’s legacy live on and use this moment to raise awareness and funds, so another person looking for a way to manage their own situation can get the greatest tool of all, a loving service dog who will work relentlessly to keep them safe.
Please help us in this journey and remember that any donation or any amount of money helps, as does spreading the word to anybody interested in this story, especially any dog or diabetic lover out there.
For more information about this incredible non-profit who provides these dogs FREE of charge, you can visit their website and follow them on social.
Dogs For Diabetics (dogs4diabetics, Dogs4Diabetics, D4D, Dogs for Diabetics, Inc.)