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Beta Cell #006: Jim Natal

24 minutes

Jim Natal was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 30 years old in 1978. 38 years later, he still struggles with maintaining the balance between controlling his diabetes and leading a fulfilling life without worrying about every high or low blood sugar. In his first book of poetry, In the Bee Trees, he shares the story of his diagnosis:


Learning To Live With It

Barbara taught me to give injections

to an orange, thick pop of penetration

through the skin, short smooth glide

into soft tissue under. Slowly, with control,

push down on the plunger, and quick

backward dart toss, remove the syringe.

I practiced in her office, still dazed from

diagnosis, seeing through pinpoint pupils,

eyes after a strobe flash. Stretched like surgical

tubing colorless with tension, I was renamed

after a disease, time now measured in gleaming

needle pricks, insulin units, blood sugar levels.

My wife sobbed in the car parked beneath

the medical building, rusty pipes wrapped and

painted white, strung along the oppressive ceiling.

She cried because we didn’t have much money.

For the money, not for me. In that time of change

there were changes yet to come.

Barbara said I would learn to manage it by myself.

She said I had no choice.

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