Pick any chronic disease. Google it. Now insert the word “Dear” in front of it.
You will find that many people are writing impassioned letters to their diseases. “Dear lung cancer… ”Dear rheumatoid arthritis…” “Dear myasthenia gravis…” For each of them, the disease is a character with a will of its own. They want to rebuke, implore, challenge or make nice to it. Illness is much more than an impersonal biochemical state or process, more than a bunch of cells clanking along and doing damage or responding to medications; it has a kind of persona.
Think of this blog as a biography of one man’s chronic condition. I’ve been watching, managing and failing to manage, rebuking, imploring and trying to make peace with my Type 1 diabetes since the Kennedy Administration. But I’ve only recently begun to take stock of the impact of this disease –this willful, stubborn character– on the rest of my story, pondered how it has shaped my psyche and affected other characters, including the people I loved.
Mulling all of that over has yielded some surprising lessons. I have even found ways to use chronic disease as a tool to make myself feel better about my present moments, and as a lens that brings the rest of the world into sharper focus. The same process has also uncovered a number of intriguing mysteries, especially about the connection between the body and the mind.
I am trying to do justice to both the lessons and the mysteries in these chronicles.