Beta Cell #006: Jim Natal

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.