Beauty and the ‘Betes: A Diabetes Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there lived a completely unremarkable young girl.

One day, she fell ill. And on that day, as she lay on the couch with a sore throat and a fever, watching inappropriate daytime television, she was visited by a Mysterious Ogre, who gave her a gift.

The gift, the Ogre explained, was a small, invisible pet that the girl would carry with her for the rest of her life.

This pet would demand constant care, and could be tamed only with a magical serum smelling strangely of band-aids. The serum could not be swallowed or inhaled or ingested in any other way; instead, the girl would have to use different method to deliver the serum to the new pet in her body many times a day, every day — she’d have to use needles.

If she gave the pet too much serum, she would become sick, or faint, or die. If she gave the pet too little serum, she would become sick, or faint, or die. The pet would need different amounts of the serum each and every day, and it was up to the girl to determine the precise amount. No matter what, she would never get it right.

"Gather 'round, children, and listen to a story of self-pity."

To check on the pet’s well-being, she would have to draw blood from her own fingers each day, and drop the blood into a special machine. For each drop, the special machine would give the girl a cryptic message, and she could use that message to help feed and care for her pet.

“Will the pet care for me back?” the girl asked the Ogre. “Will it keep me company?”

“Nah,” he replied.

“Can anyone babysit the pet for me?” the girl asked.Β  “What if I want to go to a sleepover alone, or take a special vacation?”

“Others can support you,” he replied, “But no one else can ever take over. This pet is only yours.”

He explained that, as the pet grew older, it would become more temperamental, and could spread to other parts of her body, nibbling at her kidneys, her nerves, her skin — even her heart.

Our young heroine began to freak the hell out, and the Ogre raised a finger.

“I promise you this,” he said. “One day very soon, you will be relieved of this pet’s care. I can’t tell you when, or how, but I do know it will happen in your lifetime, likely within the next 10 years.”

Shaken, the girl accepted her fate as the owner of The Most Terrible Pet On Earth. And she moved forward with the support of friends and family. Sometimes, the pet would rear its ugly little head, misbehaving in horrifying and inexplicable ways. Other times, the little monster would sleep soundly for months at a stretch.

Weeks passed. Then months. Years and decades.

One day, the girl felt the pet had simply become too much. She was tired of figuring out how much serum to give it and when. She wanted to be like her other friends, the ones who only had normal pets like cats and dogs and pygmy goats. She wanted to find that Ogre, hand him the leash of the terrible beast he’d given to her so many years ago, and run away.

So, she visited a magical invisible world, accessible only through glowing screens. She looked around, and was surprised to find another person who owned a pet that was just as terrible as her own. Then she found another. And another. Soon, she’d surrounded herself with people just like herself — and all of their terrible pets.

Together, they formed a colony on an electronic island, lit by the glow of computer screens, connected by wires and populated by tiny blue birds. They all knew that each member of the colony was still responsible for the care of his or her individual pet, but somehow, the care became a little easier. They shared tips on feeding and caring for each other’s pets, and stayed up late trading stories of heartache and happiness.

Through it all, they often recalled those words the Ogre whispered to each one of them during his first visit: “One day very soon, you will be relieved of this pet’s care.”

Today, the girl, her pet, and all the other people and their pets still live on the island. They welcome new people and their evil pets every day, and grow stronger by the week. It’s a strange community indeed, but together, they thrive. Together, they wait to live happily ever after.

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64 comments on “Beauty and the ‘Betes: A Diabetes Fairy Tale

  1. Lorraine says:

    Beautiful. This is wonderfully written. It brought a great smile to my face.

  2. Emily B says:

    love this. “No matter what, she would never get it right.” def. brought tears to my eyes.

  3. Scully says:

    Its a hard pill to swallow. The struggling to walk the fine line of a tight rope. It sure is nice to know we aren’t alone. What a fantastic story, you have talent!

  4. Love it! Now if only I’d read that story when I was a little D – it has such a happy ending πŸ™‚

    Raising a glass of beer to you!

  5. Jen says:

    This is brilliant!
    Extremely well written.
    I laughed.
    I cried.

    Thanks again for such a great post!!!

  6. Okay, just beautiful–especially loved the last paragraph. Both me and my terrible pet are grinning (through tears) right now…

  7. Olivejooice says:

    I LOVED THIS!! That’s all I have to say, because I just loved it πŸ™‚

  8. Jacquie says:

    Thanks, everyone! I’m going to build a real-life island for all of us to live on one day!

  9. ThreeSows says:

    Wonderful story, beautifully written. Thank you πŸ™‚

  10. George says:

    This made me laugh and cry. The “freaked the hell out” made me laugh out loud!

    I LOVE THIS so much. I want to print it and show it to everyone that I know.

    thanks for this.

  11. 1littleprick says:

    I love this! It is so well written. Thanks for such a wonderful post.

  12. Erin says:

    This story feels eerily familiar… πŸ™‚

    Such a great post. Thank you for sharing!

  13. Made me smile, and brought tears. And I love that you ended in such a positive way.

    A wonderful piece of writing. Thank you.

  14. Jasmine says:

    Such a good metaphor and so well-written and explained! I’m glad to have found this island and I appreciate my space on it.

  15. Hannah says:

    If I count out the number of carbs in each, can I bring cupcakes to our island? πŸ™‚

  16. Alicia says:

    Love it, love it, love it. And a perfect story to tell to my small one when she’s ready.

  17. Lauren says:

    LOVE this! So cute, and so true. Thank you for sharing!!

  18. Holly says:

    Get this girl a Pulitzer, stat! Love it, Jacquie! =)

  19. Kerri. says:

    I thought this was brillant!!

  20. Kerri. says:

    I also thought “brilliant” was spelled without that last pesky “i,” but I was wrong. BRILLIANT is what your post is. NOT A GOOD SPELLER is what I am.

  21. In reading this tonight, aside from laughing and smiling and feeling so incredibly enthused about how brilliant it is, I went upstairs and told my wife: “This has got to be the best, most creative blog post, I’ve ever read.” She was equally thrilled to read it. Thank you for such an awesomely creative one to make the day so much brighter. Sign me up for the island when it’s ready!

  22. Okay – when you build the real life island for us Jacquie – make sure we have some good kegs of good tasting beer – none of that Lite stuff with Lime!!!

    Off to take care of my pet (darn thing needs feeding again).

  23. Cara says:

    You are amazing. This is amazing. I love it.

  24. Ellen says:

    Perhaps the most interesting and wonderful diabetes blog post ever – thank you immensely for your creative brilliance and your shining presence on the island.

  25. Layne says:

    Great story! I’m envisioning that someday when I have to explain the big D to the kiddo I’m growing, I’ll be reading him/her this story!

    Thanks for making something so hard, so raw and so complicated. . . just so very clear! You rule!

  26. Irene says:

    Beautiful! a wonderful story for any age.
    Thank you…

  27. Crystal says:

    Amazing! I love this. Love!!! Thank you for writing this. Glad to be on an island with you. πŸ™‚

  28. k2 says:

    FANTASTICAL!!!

  29. Sarah says:

    I love this story! Very well written, indeed!

  30. saucyredhead says:

    Wow! Thanks for writing this. You’ve put it all into words so well!

  31. Heidi says:

    This is an awesome story,reminds me of the “Princess & the Pancreas” story of Diabetes Health a few years ago.

  32. nikki says:

    Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

  33. DLOeditor says:

    JACQUIE! I think you totally should work on getting this made into a children’s book. The illustrations could be amazing and what a joy it would be to have as a little DT1! I’m eager to see it on the shelves! Best of luck.

  34. Bennet says:

    I cant spell Brilliant without a dictionary either but this was worth looking it up for.

  35. Jill says:

    Beautiful. Just beautiful. Thank you.

  36. Jill says:

    My 14 year old son was given the terrible gift 12 years ago and last month was given another one…Celiac’s. I wish I could take them both away from him. 😦

  37. This is a magical post. A classic that will be read many, many times.

    Thank you!

  38. […] Jacquie over at Typical Type 1Β wrote a post this week that really struck a chord with me. It’s a modern day fairy tale of sorts about diabetes and all about a bunch of people I am proud to consider friendsΒ & confidantes – the DOC. Even if you don’t have diabetes (ESPECIALLY if you don’t have diabetes) this is a MUST READ. What are you waiting for?! Read it here. […]

  39. Scott S says:

    Very well-written. This should be published in a book and given to all recently-diagnosed patients and their doctors as well!

  40. How am I only JUST seeing this. I cried. Well written, and so dead on.

    Amazing. You have a gift.

  41. Patti Evans says:

    amazing, brilliant!

  42. snackrifices says:

    I smell a children’s book! This would be amazing for newly diagnosed kids. Please find an illustrator!

  43. holly says:

    Great!!! This perfectly described how diabetes is!

  44. […] things as possible. I feel like I spend enough money on the things I need for my little pet without having to buy it any extra […]

  45. Toni says:

    Can I come be on your island?

  46. Fantabulous. Just catching this from Kerri’s Friday Six.

  47. Lindsay says:

    Fantastic post! I loved it! Thanks for sharing!

  48. Casey says:

    Awesome.

  49. Kim Bourassa says:

    This was beautiful! Very well written and even though it’s my child that has Type 1 diabetes I have had all those feelings. Thank you! Kim πŸ™‚

  50. Wow, this is a keeper. What a gem, thank you so much for superb piece of writing. I’ll be sure to share it around. (And thanks Kerri for helping me find it.)

  51. Karen says:

    Wow.. I LOVE this! Thank you!!!!

  52. Windy says:

    Incredible!!!!!! I loved it! Thanks!

  53. Kyla says:

    this was a wonderful story. πŸ™‚ Thank you for writing it. πŸ™‚

  54. What a wonderful story! I absolutely loved it!! Thanks so much for writing it. Sharing does make living with Type 1 easier.

    I feel very lucky to have a non-judgemental, loyal, partner in my diabetes management. His name is Bradley and he is my medical alert dog. I am writing a blog detailing my adventures in diabetes management with his nose that knows. πŸ˜‰

    http://www.bradleyandme.wordpress.com

    Kathleen

  55. Abbey says:

    I like this story.

  56. Brooke says:

    I don’t know how I missed this a couple weeks ago- but very well written and one of my favorite posts! I’m happy to share the stories of my pet with you too!

  57. Sysy Morales says:

    Aw! This was really great! Nice job!!!

  58. The encourager says:

    As the parent of an Ogre owner, loved it, May I ask, how about you all start a campaign to rename Type 1 Diabetes condition with a unique name, so people will register the intensity of this over normal Diabetes where this Ogre can wander off if the owner nurtures it. Then perhaps the ignorant, non Ogre owners will understand the implications more poignantly and have more empathy, as, to the ignorant population both are of the same brush
    To my daughter you go girl( I know she will be reading this site)
    To the author thanks for your inspiration look forward to more inspirations, oh and the condition THATOGRE in your honour

  59. Katy says:

    I love this story and am so glad I re-read this classic of diabetes lit tonight. It’s so beautifully written. And I was happy to catch this line: “Other times, the little monster would sleep soundly for months at a stretch.” I want that.

    Now I’ll go read more about Magpie.

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