What character does diabetes play in your life?

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Daniela Rojas above at Dia Vida Diabetes Youth Camp, Costa Rica

It is my great honor and pleasure to know Daniela Rojas. Daniela was born and raised in Costa Rica, is a psychologist, has had type 1 diabetes since the age of 9 and is helping people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes develop greater emotional strength to manage their diabetes.

I wrote about a diabetes camp Daniela ran, the first of its kind anywhere, on LinkedIn. At this 3-day adventure camp she used my book, The ABCs of Loving Yourself with Diabetes, (the translated Spanish version) as a tool for 70 kids to share their feelings, fears, concerns that a life with type 1 diabetes brings.

Two weeks ago Daniela pioneered again a resource for helping people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition, again using my book. She designed and ran a workshop titled, “Diabetes as a character in your life.” She had 30 participants, men and women, think about the character that diabetes plays in their lives, and read an essay in my book that touched them relating it to how they can put that character in its proper place.

The inspirational essays in the book helped people to express their concerns and bond with one another, and themselves, taking back their lives, with confidence and hope, from the “character” to whom they had given it.

 

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It’s funny to me that a young woman in Costa Rica is doing this important, essential work while it’s almost impossible to get any funding for the psycho-social aspect of diabetes or even have an institution that would allow interventions such as this for local people with diabetes.

Daniela is creating her own beautiful story. She is touching the lives of so many who are bereft of emotional support and knowing they will come through this. I’m only grateful I can play a small part.

One of the pages from The ABCs of Loving Yourself with Diabetes

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2 thoughts on “What character does diabetes play in your life?

  1. Thanks for your blog… below is my newest blog story about being diabetic that I posted on my website (zsadventures.home.blog) :
    “Being a diabetic has not always made life easy, but it certainty has made life interesting. I have had to deal with the ever changing insurance policy restrictions, medical supply hurdles, and medical treatment improvements from needles to pumps and finger pricks to continuous glucose monitoring. There is also a need to share this medical history with employers, supervisors, colleagues and friends so that, if blood sugar levels sink dangerously low and I appear incoherent or intoxicated, they will know to get me to drink some sugary juice that I carry in my purse and keep in my desk. Airport security is more extensive than entering an event since they always have me hold the insulin pump and then wipe my hands for bomb residue. You would be surprised at the number of lay experts who know someone who is a diabetic. More than once they have told me that if I just didn’t eat foods with sugar I would no longer be diabetic. I was even told that I needed to use a treadmill for 30 minutes a day in order to wake up my pancreas to start producing insulin once more. While I do find some advice that people give is coming from a place of caring, I am more inclined to listen to my endocrinologist.

    I have had to overcome plenty of obstacles since a virus disabled my pancreas and resulted in my body not being able to process sugars, hence, diabetes at the age of 7. When first diagnosed, I spent a week in the hospital to learn: how to give myself shots; how to count carbohydrates in the foods I was going to eat; and how to figure out the amount of long term and short term insulin to mix into each shot that would account for the intake of those carbohydrates. Count your carbs wrong and take too much insulin and you go a little wacky and possibly die. No problem there intimidating a seven year old. The next week I moved to Aruba where treatment was quite different. In Aruba I was given an insulin pen that I just dialed in the exact number of units my carb math indicated that I needed to take for each meal. Much easier that than a needle marked in 5 unit increments. A few years later I was introduced to a one shot a day product which didn’t work well for an athletic youngster who burned sugars at widely various rates throughout the day. When I moved back to the states for high school, doctors put me on the newest treatment, the insulin pump. This looked like a “pager” and contained a vial of insulin that injected very small amounts of insulin through a small plastic tube 24/7. I only had to change twice weekly the small needle inserted in my stomach that the tube hooked into. Easy-peasy. I used to wear sweatshirts or baggy shirts to hide the pump and tubing that made me feel “part human and part machine”. For diabetics the insulin pump is a real game changer that will add healthier years to our lives. As a young adult now, I am still adjusting to buying clothes that will work with my pump and injection site. I am still self-conscious when wearing a bathing suit since you can see this floppy plastic tubing stuck in my stomach or thigh. I have been asked more than once if it is a feeding tube. LOL.

    While working for Department of Child Safety in Northern Arizona, I had to testify about some guardianship issues. During the cross examination, the parent’s attorney asked me what expertise I had with dealing with childhood diabetes. I stated that I have been diabetic since I was 7 years old, but was in no means a medical expert. He would ask other routine questions, then came back to my being diabetic and stating that because I am diabetic, I am unfit to be on the case and should not even be a caseworker …. period. I paused a second to wait for the state attorney to object, but as he seemed more interested in cleaning his ear with a paperclip, I stood up and declared, “Objection your honor. Badgering the witness.” The judge chuckled and politely reminded me that only lawyers can object. After the hearing I went to the parent’s lawyer, who I had worked with on multiple cases over the years, and asked why he was so insistent that being diabetic meant I should not be a case worker. He just smiled and said, “You are good at everything else, that was the only thing I could pick on.”

    While I have often felt self-conscious that testimony reminded me that I have no choice but to move with the cheese as there will always be someone trying to use your insecurities against you.

    Moral: 1) You are worth it. 2) When the going gets tough, learn to move with the cheese.

    • wonderful, insightful and interesting. The only thing I would disagree with is when you said at the end “I have no choice but to move with the cheese” because we all have a choice about what we decide to do. You have made very responsible choices for the most part and I appreciate you shared your wisdom and experience here. I think we all make the best decisions we can given what we are capable of in the moment. Our life lesson is to keep growing and becoming more capable outwardly and inwardly.

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