Lisa was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in her twenties and experienced a life-changing heart attack two decades later, in 2013. Here she recalls the difficulty of her sister’s lack of support after her heart attack — and celebrates the power of a loyal advocate.
I have lived with type 1 diabetes since I was 25. I have worked full-time supporting my two kids while dealing with no healthcare for myself. At times I had to guess my blood sugars and take less effective insulin without a doctor’s advice. [My sister] knew this. We lived in the same small town, raised our kids together. She knew the struggles I had.
Hurt by Family, Helped by a Friend
I had the heart attack at age 46. After [that], a friend asked me why my little sister was telling people that I was okay and just needed to get back to work and quit being lazy. My friend knew about how many times I flat-lined, the coma, the pneumonia, and the breathing problems. He was a caretaker for a sister who’d had a heart attack and knew how hard it is.
I felt so hurt because it was my sister. I barely made it and couldn’t believe she was saying these things. Plus, she was doing this publicly in a small town and everyone thought I was just fine because they were just hearing from her.
I felt horrible that [she] was being so mean, but it meant a lot that [my friend] stood up for me and always gave me pep talks and asked about me. You really find out who your friends are when others don’t understand your illnesses.
Lessons & Advice
I didn’t want to have to stop working at 46 years old. I never planned on having to limit my activities and now my socializing. And NO heart attack is the same. A heart attack affects each person differently. I was dieting, stopped smoking, [was] exercising and still had a heart attack! Don’t judge. Ask questions. Just be there to listen!
[If you live with a condition], try to ignore the hurtful things people might say and believe. Do what is best for you! Friends you didn’t realize you had will be there to support and stand up for you. Stay strong!
Kansas City, MO
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1992; had a heart attack in 2013
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