Jessica Apple is co-founder and editor-in-chief of ASweetLife.org. She has published essays in the New York Times Magazine, The Financial Times Magazine, The Faster Times, Tablet Magazine, NYTimes.com, and elsewhere. Her short stories have appeared in a number of literary journals including The Southern Review and The Belleview Literary Review. Jessica lives in Tel Aviv with her husband and three sons.
1. How old were you when you were diagnosed with diabetes and how long have you lived with diabetes? I was officially diagnosed with LADA in 2008 when I was 35 and pregnant with my third son. Prior to that I’d been diagnosed with gestational diabetes twice- in 2000 and in 2002.
2. Your husband has diabetes, can you tell me what it’s like to share this illness with your spouse? We keep each other company. Dealing with any illness and especially a chronic one can make a person feel very alone. I wouldn’t say we’re “lucky” to be able to share this, but we offer each other companionship on a level we never guessed we would. We aren’t just sympathetic to the other’s highs and lows and fears. We actually know them.
3. What is the biggest challenge and how has it made your marriage stronger? The biggest challenge is the same as it is for most people with diabetes – managing blood sugar. I don’t know that the illness has made our marriage stronger, but working on ASweetLife.org has definitely made us closer. I guess diabetes gets credit for that, indirectly!
4. You are the mother to 3 sons, were you concerned at all about the risk of having a child with diabetes? I am now, and I pray every day that my sons will have long, happy, healthy lives. My diagnosis wasn’t clear until I was pregnant with our third son, so I didn’t realize we might both be passing on a predisposition for diabetes.
5. You are the founder of A Sweet Life, what was the initial inspiration about starting this website? And as someone who also writes about diabetes, do you ever feel like you are in diabetes up to your ears? (or maybe it’s just me). Yes, I often feel like I need a break from diabetes and from reading and writing about diabetes. At the same time, I really love working on ASweetLife. Overall, I feel lucky and happy to be doing what I’m doing.
The idea for ASweetLife came to me shortly after my diagnosis. I’d been resting in bed and thinking about the memoir I was writing about my mother’s illness. My mother was very sick for most of my childhood. She had an illness that wasn’t treatable. Revisiting the dark places of my childhood would have been hard for me under normal circumstances. But I was pregnant and emotional and had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I needed to get out of the sad place I was in.
I got out of bed and told Mike I wanted to create a book with him about living well with diabetes. I wanted to fight it and conquer it, and not let it destroy my family. Just writing a book, however, seemed too isolating. I couldn’t get diabetes out of our home, but I could reach out and interact with the millions of people around the world living with diabetes. And so ASweetLife.org came to be.
6. I wrote a book about diabetes for women, as a woman married to a diabetic, do you think there are gender differences to living with this illness or do you think it’s the same for guys and gals? Diabetes made my pregnancies somewhat complicated, and that’s not something men have to worry about! I think the overall frustrations are the same, though.
5. What has been the greatest piece of advice you’ve received about living with diabetes? From my husband, Mike, who gave up sugar completely on the day he was diagnosed: “You can’t eat whatever you want.” I know it’s contrary what most type 1’s believe, and I know it makes people with diabetes angry to be told they shouldn’t eat certain things. I don’t intend to offend anyone with this statement. The truth for me and for Mike, too, is that the best way to avoid the highs and lows is to avoid eating the food that requires big boluses. That’s not to say I’m perfect when it comes to low-carb. Pizza gets me almost every time.