How I as a person with diabetes deal with the coronavirus

How I as a person with diabetes deal with the coronavirus

Over a year ago, it became clear that the coronavirus is more than just a simple flu. News headlines such as ‘mysterious lung disease’ and ‘deadly pneumonia’ frightened me. As the virus slowly began to take over the world and seemed to get more serious by the day, I found myself becoming more anxious. What does this mean for me, as a person in my late twenties who at the time was still smoking and had type 1 diabetes? This was not the best combination anyway, I know. But what if I also get the coronavirus in a condition like that?

Better to prevent than to cure

From one day to the next, I decided to ‘change my life’. I stopped smoking and did everything I could to get my body in top condition. If I were to get infected by the coronavirus, I had at least made sure that my body was in the best possible condition to fight it. Which would hopefully get me well again soon. But in the context of better to prevent than to cure, I decided that I would rather not experience the answer to the question ‘what if’ myself. And so I became a lot more cautious with a lot of things.

Staying at home? Please! No problem.

I was actually quite happy with the advice to work from home and stay inside as much as possible. Because of the uncertainty about the virus and the combination with type 1 diabetes, I didn’t want to take any risks. So staying at home was no problem. My social circle was smaller than ever and consisted of my parents and two good friends. That was it. I saw my colleagues and a number of friends online and meetings via Teams and catching up via Facetime and Skype suddenly became normal. I did my shopping online. And the only times I was outside were during a short walk in the park or a run. I stayed indoors as much as possible and kept the number of contact moments as low as possible.

When it became possible to do something more

In the summer I found it more difficult. The first wave was over. Normal life seemed to be getting back on track a bit, even though there were still a lot of measures. It became possible again to go to the office a few days a week. And I didn’t like that at all. Yes, I missed the social contact and wanted nothing more than to meet my new colleagues in real life. But not at the risk of being infected with the coronavirus. Despite the fact that it sometimes made me feel uncomfortable, I’ve always been very transparent about the fact that, as a person with type 1 diabetes, I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. Luckily, this was understood. And I never felt obliged to do anything I didn’t feel comfortable with.

In the end, I did go to the office a few times. I wanted to give it a chance and see for myself whether I would feel comfortable or not. Thankfully, everything was very well organised in the office. That made it feel safe and the risk of infection was fairly small. For the rest, I still avoided everything. Public transport was replaced by my bicycle and my father became my taxi service. My world was still very small.

Flying in times of Corona

And then your priorities change…

Towards the end of the summer, air traffic resumed and it became possible again to see my boyfriend, who lives in Spain. This presented me with a difficult choice, but one that was instinctively also very simple. All those months I had been super careful and had done everything to avoid coming into contact with the coronavirus. And now I get on a plane? To a high-risk area? I must be crazy.

And yet I did it. It was the only logical choice for me. But at the same time, I felt guilty. Guilty towards those around me, because I had been quite strict in complying with all the measures all this time and now it suddenly didn’t seem to matter any more. And I felt guilty towards myself, because I was taking a risk by travelling. It took me a while to come to terms with it. But eventually I came to the conclusion that it is my own life and that it is fine to make choices that might be a little difficult to explain. The only person I have to answer to is myself.

AirEuropa airplane at Ibiza airport

Still cautious

By now I have been on a plane quite a few times and I am a well experienced traveller in times of the coronavirus. But I am still very cautious and take above-average measures to minimise the risk of infection with the coronavirus. An example of this is that I always board the plane last and then choose an empty row. This sometimes leads to some discussion with the cabin crew, because: ‘Everyone wants a row to themselves’. Then I play the diabetes card with: ‘Not everyone has a medical condition’.

My social circle is still very small and consists of my parents, my boyfriend and occasionally some friends. With both the Netherlands and Spain in lockdown, apart from an aircraft, empty train carriage and the supermarket, I don’t really come across many risky places. I still believe in the motto ‘better to prevent than to cure’. And even though I’m in a physically ‘healthier’ condition at the moment compared to last year, as a person with type 1 diabetes I still see myself as part of the risk group. That’s why I still prefer to be on the safe side and take as little risk as possible.