Graphic courtesy mathworld.wolfram.com
Reading this recent coverage of a study that found an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and type 2 diabetes incidence (that is, more coffee = less diabetes), I was swept up by a familiar sense of irony.

It is, after all, a remarkable irony that I, of all people, would end up with diabetes. I drink more coffee than anyone. But it's not just that. I have been a life-long distance runner - I ran competitively from the age of 8 to the age of 20, and then got into ultra running and marathons. I've always eaten lots of vegetables and fruits. I've always adhered to a regular schedule and I've always managed to get plenty of sleep. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, a healthy schedule... I'm the last person anyone would expect to wind up with diabetes.

Of course, mine is not type 2 ("lifestyle diabetes"), but rather type 1: pancreatic failure. Through the dumb luck of genetic mutation, I ended up with a set of symptoms that most commonly affects people who live very unhealthy lifestyles. There's your poetic irony: the health nut winds up with the same problems that people get from abusing their bodies for decades.

For this reason, I like to call my condition "Ryabetes." It's not "real diabetes," it's a byproduct of the fact that if anyone is to be some kind of statistical outlier, I will.

It's tempting to draw a perverse lesson from this: It doesn't matter how healthy you think you are, something bad is going to happen to you, so you might as well just enjoy yourself. I could have lived a lot more recklessly during my youth; perhaps if I had known this was going to happen, I might indeed have done so.

The real lesson to learn, though, is that life is a series of chaotically random events that human beings try to control, but seldom can. But for the genius of insulin injections, I wouldn't even be alive to type this message. People are always searching for meaning where there isn't any meaning. When they do, they miss the more important truth that what is truly meaningful are the things that keep human beings alive and interacting with each other. Life is important. Irony just makes the story more interesting.

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