Is it cool if I call you Fred? Just kidding. Please excuse the familiarity, but I feel as if I know you like a dear and trusted friend. Let us celebrate you and rejoice in your memory on today, your birthday, and the date we now know as World Diabetes Day.
Sir Frederick Banting, please accept my deepest gratitude and appreciation for the selfless and diligent work you put forth in order to achieve your greatest accomplishment: the discovery of insulin.
What do you say to the man to whom you owe your life? "Thank you" just doesn't seem to cut it. Before your discovery of insulin, there was no hope for people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (and yes, we know there were others involved, like Dr. Charles Best, J.J.R. McLeod, and James Collip, but today is your day). Type 1 diabetes was an absolute death sentence before the discovery of insulin.
When I was admitted to the hospital the day of my diagnosis, I had already lost a great deal of weight. In effect, I was already wasting away, in the same way that children and adults did routinely prior to having a proper treatment for T1D. Having access to insulin, the greatly improved analogs that came after your discovery and usage of animal insulin, has made it possible for me to not just survive DKA and diagnosis, but to thrive and have the dream of a long, healthy life, full of joy and possibility. None of that could have been possible without you.
Sadly, there are still many children and adults around the world who do not have consistent access to the life support provided by insulin. This is difficult for me to acknowledge, as I imagine it would be for you as well. It breaks my heart. Whether it is because of poor circumstance; strife in war-torn regions or remote locations with little access to modern medicine, difficulties with insurance coverage (or lack thereof) resulting in exorbitant prices for the medication which you tried valiantly to make accessible to anyone who might find themselves in need, there are still people who are outside of its reach.
As my birthday present to you, I promise not to forget about those individuals. As long as I am able to advocate for myself, I will advocate for others. I won't stop speaking about diabetes, making people aware of the urgent needs of our community, from those of us blessed with access, to those living worlds away from what we recognize as standard diabetes care. I say this often, and I will say it again: NOBODY should be dying of diabetes today. IDF Life for a Child campaign is just one example of an organization that is actively working to make this change. I promise not to forget about those in my own local community who need support and advice and resources for their diabetes care, and I promise to live every day like my life has been saved from what would have been certain death, because it has.
We know insulin is not a cure. In due time, we hope a cure will come. In the meanwhile, insulin is the gift of life, life support, a lifeline. Whatever you want to call it, I would not have my life without my continued access to insulin, a fact that I cannot and will not forget. Thank you for this beautiful, amazing gift, and for opening the doors to a second chance at life.
In conclusion, happy birthday and thank you on this World Diabetes Day. Your work, and your memory, are a blessing.
With love and gratitude,