I’ve been thinking recently about where I am in life and how I got here. How it’s so different than where I expected to be, and, that diabetes is at the helm. So I thought I’d trace my trajectory and spend some time in reverie.
Early days – on the boardwalk in Brooklyn with the folks. Guess I was a little toughie from the start looking at that expression: Diabetes in store? Sure, I’ll show you! Of course, not first without some trying decades of denial, distress and dullheadedness.
18 – Life takes a dramatic turn: surrounded by grey cubbyhole lockers and a woman who has numbers on her arm lying in the next bed. The hospital is so understaffed I run to get her meds from the nurse when she’s in pain, she’s already seen enough pain, it dwarfs my own, almost. What will happen to me? Boxes of vials and syringes go back to college with me, yet little understanding.
25 – First job in NYC, party with friends, diabetes not a subject for mixed company–me and anyone else. No meters yet or knowledge how important tight blood sugar control is. Only thing I remember from that first doctor in the hospital was all the awful things that diabetes will do to me–too much, can’t think about it. Much more plagued by what I’m going to be when I grow up.
35 – Living and working in Japan. After years conflicted about being an advertising writer with all its b_llsh_t, I love that it takes me to Tokyo. Didn’t love that first day in the company clinic when handed a giant bottle of alcohol (only big thing in Japan) and bag of cotton puff balls, “What, no alcohol swabs?” I asked. That’s when I stopped using alcohol altogether. Other news: ate far too much rice, but who knew?
39 – Return from Japan. Early mid life crisis looking for my life partner, who’d guess I already knew him? Begin telling extended circle of friends that I have diabetes. Took a long time to get over that feeling of being “damaged goods.” Living in Asia six years helps you get over most things, or is it that I’m approaching 40?
47 – Lose my job a week before I’m having diabetic frozen shoulder surgery. Go to a diabetes educator for the first time…hmmm…could this be my new career I wonder? Now in full-blown mid-life crisis. O.K., so a little late.
48 – Marry my partner in life – and in diabetes! Overwhelming for someone going it alone for so long. And, to my surprise, I turn embarrassingly shockingly anxious if a “bad” number comes up on the meter in front of him. Don’t worry, I’m over it. For those in doubt that someone is waiting for you diabetes and all, read this.
49 – Daily walks around my local park for exercise and clarity, still pondering what do I want to be when I grow up? An unsuccessful, half-hearted job search causes me to really search what I want to do with the second half of my life. OK, I’m being generous here …maybe
50 – The husband suggests I write a book about having diabetes. Puleeze, who would read it? Then suggests, “Interview other people with diabetes and tell their story.” Brilliant idea and don’t you know it begins to form my network of fellow diabeteers and diabetes professionals.
51 – First visit with an endo in I don’t know how long. He says I’m doing great, finally (hmm…after 32 years?) A1Cs in the 5’s, due to daily power walking, eating less and vacuuming carbs out of my diet. Yet, complications from first dozen years of uncontrolled sugars still knock me for a loop when they come: partial hearing loss which brings with it unnerving tinnitus, slow-growing cataract–first time eye doctor doesn’t praise my incredibly disease-free eyes–on Synthroid for thyroid deficiency, but my neuropathy’s hardly there anymore, my diabetes teaching has launched a new career and I’m pretty sure if I maintain this health regimen and purpose of heart I’m going to be one of those long-lifers. If a crazy person doesn’t get me in the subway first.
52 – Decide career as a cde is not for me, my interest is more emotional than medical. Go back to school for six years to be a diabetes shrink, hmmm…I don’t think so. Instead I get trained to deliver A1C Champion presentations inspiring other patients to take better care of themselves, and hit the road.
54 – On a roll living the life of an overworked executive without the office, salary, secretary or bonus. Instead fitting doing the laundry, food shopping, cooking and housecleaning into my overly-busy, lovely life: My self-published book, The ABCs of Loving Yourself with Diabetes is out there. I’m currently writing a book debunking diabetes myths to be published fall 09, I’m thick as thieves with an extremely generous network of diabetes specialists–well, c’mon, they return my phone calls–and in my spare moments I’m wondering how I got here: from that boardwalk in Brooklyn through the years of ignoring my diabetes, feeling like “damaged goods,” letting it into my life to making it my life, oh yes, with jobs come and gone, boyfriends come and gone, self-worth high and low, tearful chats with friends when diabetes scared me, the last one outside the train station in Paris, and extended work stays in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney. How did I get to here, to the bench I sit on now also in Brooklyn with my husband drawing up mind maps and future plans amid my coaching others, chatting with my book agent and speaking at health fairs around the country. How have the puzzle pieces fallen together to answer the constant questioning, “Why am I here?” “What am I supposed to be doing?” “How can I help others?” My husband keeps reminding me it wasn’t pure luck that has brought me here as I have a tendency to say but work, determination and tenacity. I suppose it’s a bit of both.
By time you’re this age you learn life is a process. The husband also says you can’t connect the dots until you’re in front of them. Like the fact that in my twenties I left advertising to pursue my heart’s desire and wrote and illustrated inspirational greeting cards. Twenty-five years later the progression of those writings and drawings became my The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetesbook. Like the fact that I spent three years participating in personal development seminars including working for the company and now I draw on much of what I learned and teach it to others. As the expression goes, “luck is when opportunity meets preparedness.”
Diabetes, like life, is a process too. You pull the strings that speed and slow the process. Keep seeking, keep reaching, keep looking, keep learning, keep doing and chances are one day your life will surprise you. Life can be good with diabetes, don’t stop searching for how. Signing off now, another myth to draft, another expert to call, another day to marvel at the fact that my blog just got picked up by a web site that’s all diabetes news, all the time, and woo hoo, there’s little ol’ meway down at the bottom.