Momentous events – by Helen May

Helen-May-letterbox-150x150As a sign of true love, I have been clearing out my bookshelf to make space for my boyfriend’s Terry Pratchett collection. Although I am a prolific reading, I am a convert to kindle and, over the years, I have transferred most of my fiction to the local charity shops. Therefore, the majority of my remaining books have very fond memories or lots of pictures: they are mostly holiday related.

Before most of my holidays, I buy a travel book which starts off as research and ends up as a souvenir. Although a lot of my research is online, as I am not one for filling my shelves with knick-knacks, the travel books remain.

My other holiday reminder has been photos. In the days of old (also known as “days of film”), I would re-live my trip as I sorted through films of printed pictures and arranged them into albums and have the internal debate whether to keep the negatives (which were lost years ago). Nowadays, I edit them on my computer and upload the best ones to social media to share with friends. Therefore, I decided it was time to bring my albums up to the twenty-first century and scan them into my computer.

I can be pretty organised and the idea of storing twenty years of photos on a flat format, did not appeal. I decided to follow the structure I have been using for all my electronic photos – arrange them per year and then a folder per month for each trip or event.

I say “I can be organised” but this does not mean I am always organised: only some of my albums contained dates or details about the trips so I had to dig deep to remember where and when the photos were taken. In most cases, I was able to work out the location from one or two of the pictures. Then it was down to my memory to work out when I walked around the Cretan coast or played basketball dressed as a clown or attended a friend’s wedding.

Some events were easy: I recognised my Mum’s “significant birthday” and remembered her date of birthday. Others were a little more challenging: I remembered going to Iceland for a friend’s 40th birthday so I knew which month it was but I don’t remember how old she is so it was harder to work out the year. I was able to arrange trips sequentially but I was not sure how many trips I had each year.  I could remember my travels when I lived in Australia and my CV helped me work out the dates. In a few cases, my traveling companions help me date the trips. But I was still left with undated photos from between 10 and 15 years ago.

As I thought more about my travels, more features came to mind: driving through South Africa sucking Fizz-pops (very sugary lollies), fretting about when I was going to eat in Prague, insisting I kept dextrose with me as I watched the wild gorillas, struggling to inject as I rolled around the English Channel in a Force 8 gale. Putting an overlay of diabetes management, I could zoom in on the dates: South Africa was a couple of months before I was diagnosed with Type 1; Prague was my first trip after being diagnosed when I was injecting mixed insulin twice a day, gorilla trekking in Uganda was my first adventure holiday with diabetes; and sailing was my first activity holiday.

I try to think of diabetes as just being part of who I am: nothing terrible; nothing scary; nothing special. But sorting through my photos made me realise my diagnosis was a momentous event in my life, just like moving to live in Australia or celebrating my 40th birthday or the first time I visited Africa. And each time I change the treatment: from mixed insulin to basal-bolus to a pump: is a mini-event in my diabetes journey. I shouldn’t be surprised: I’ve heard having diabetes described like having a child: their birthday is one significant event in a child’s life, going to school is another, their first girlfriend/boyfriend is another, … And a parent would have photos of all these events that could be easily dated.

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