COLUMN: Who needs Superman when we’ve got Banting and Best

Ahhh insulin, we’ve had quite the ride, haven’t we?

by Katie Bartel

Ahhh insulin, we’ve had quite the ride, haven’t we?

In the beginning, I thought for sure you were my enemy, and just like the scared, little kid I was, I avoided you at all costs – health included.

Instead of me being your recipient, my mom’s plants were injected full of you. But after the plants had all been massacred, and I had been sentenced to Children’s Hospital, and was forced to accept your wisdom, our relationship gradually evolved into something that is now quite beautiful.

Some might even call it BFF-like.

And so today, dear insulin, I give you homage.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. I’ll be honest. Despite having this disease for more than 24 years, I had no clue that Nov. 14 was World Diabetes Day until just last month. It probably had something to do with the fact that I never really cared, and quite frankly I’m still kind of dubious about the whole “day” thing.

All day last Monday, the Twitter feed, blogs, even my own email were buzzing with people expressing happiness about this day. I don’t know how many times I saw “Happy World Diabetes Day” posted.

Really? Are we happy about diabetes? Really?

Diabetes, despite its many attempts, hasn’t ruined me. I’m alive. I’m healthy. I’m happy. But I’m not happy about this disease. So no, I did not say “Happy World Diabetes Day” last Monday, but I did say thanks to those super duper, totally awesome Canadian superheroes for the invention of insulin.

I do every day.

In 1921, 90 years ago, Dr. Frederick Banting and med student Charles Best discovered that insulin taken from the pancreas of cows could save the lives of humans. They went against the odds, fought to do the research when others doubted its importance, and even when they were given a tiny, decaying lab to work out of at the University of Toronto, didn’t back down.

Their discovery was like a miracle for us diabetics.

Before Banting and Best, before Humulin-R and NPH, Humalog and Lantus, Novorapid and Levimir (all insulins I have taken over the years), we diabetics were crammed into a hospital room and starved – like Third-World-country, hair-falling-out, belly-extended-starved – to enable us just a few more years on Earth.

Betting those weren’t exactly the most enjoyable years.

My life, while not always easy, has been nothing like that. I can eat chocolate, I can run marathons, I can have a love-hate relationship with the Grouse Grind. I can go to work every day. I can dream. I can live.

Thanks to Dr. Frederick Banting and Charles Best.

Insulin is not a cure, not even close, but it has given me, and thousands of others like me, life. So, for my parents, my siblings, my husband, my friends, myself, I give thanks to Banting and Best from the bottom of my healthy heart.

And apparently I wasn’t the only one giving homage to Canada’s superheroes on World Diabetes Day, which also happened to be Banting’s birthday. Have you seen Canada’s new polymer $100 bill that was unveiled? Front and centre, an old-school insulin vial.

Good job, Canada.

 

Katie Bartel is a reporter with the Chilliwack Progress.

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