Should diabetes be a factor in hiring? Absolutely.

Nominee for Supreme Court Justice, Sonia SotomayorUnknown

Most people with diabetes are afraid to disclose that news when it comes to getting hired.  Many employers personally discriminate against people with diabetes and many jobs restrict hiring people who use insulin. However I think, unless the position is one directly responsible for people’s safety, that any smart employer should be discriminating — for us, just as President Obama did today.

 

Today the President announced his supreme court judge pick, Sonia Sotomayor. I saw the announcement as ABC broke into its regularly scheduled morning news broadcast. I listened as they listed why she is a historic pick: The first Hispanic and the third woman — yet, no mention that she has lived with type 1 diabetes since the age of eight. Now, that’s historic. The first type 1 diabetic nominated to the Supreme Court bench.

 

I didn’t know at first if I was pleased that there was no mention of her diabetes or not. After all, I wouldn’t want anyone thinking she couldn’t do the job. But, really, living with type 1 diabetes, should be seen as a huge asset. Judge Sotomayor, along with growing up in a housing project in the South Bronx with only her mom from the age of nine, managed to graduate top of her class at Princeton, get her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School and become editor of the Yale Law Journal, be nominated by President George H. Bush to a seat on the U. S. District Court in NY, be the youngest judge and the first Hispanic federal judge in New York State, and manage a chronic illness for more than four decades.

 

President Obama said Sotomayor has, “Intellectual firepower and the common touch.” Due to managing diabetes, she also has: Mastery over the constant acquisition and implementation of new information, extraordinary time-sensitive management skills, in-tact emotional balance and resiliency, 24/7 decision-making skills no matter how tired she is, and the ability, in the face of an uncertain future, to remain hopeful and empathetic.  These are the qualities most type 1s I know have developed living with diabetes.

 

So, actually, I’m thinking this makes us more, not less, for a potential employer. More capable, more flexible, more determined, more responsible, more committed, more courageous, more remarkable. Simply, more. 

CVS Caremark no longer ensures a cold pack with insulin

How sneaky is this? I recently received a letter from my former direct mail pharmacy, CVS Caremark-I seem to still be in their database. Thankfully, I am no longer in their plan.

The letter lets me know that they’re making some changes in how they pack and ship insulin vials. I quote from their letter:

“Our new process will check the National Weather Service forecast for your area for the time period that we expect your order to be delivered. Based on the temperature range during that time, we will determine the best shipping method to use to protect your insulin. The chart below explains the different shipping methods based on the weather forecast.” Their chart indicates: 

86 degrees or higher gets next day delivery with a cold gel pack

78 degrees to 85 degrees, gets second day delivery with a cold gel pack

32 to 78 degrees gets regular delivery without a cold gel pack

Now, what if we have a temperature snap, hot or cold, which happens frequently today? More critical, and likely, what if your insulin sits in a postal place overnight in a hot room with no air conditioning? Or a cold room and it freezes? While Caremark is checking the weather, are they checking the storage areas where insulin will sit before it is delivered? Hmmmm….no mention of that, I think not.

The best part of the letter for me was this: “Even though insulin manufacturers say that it is okay to store insulin for limited time periods at temperatures up to 85 degrees, CVS Caremark is taking extra care to make sure that your insulin is protected by shipping insulin with a cold gel pack if the temperature in your area is forecasted to be 78 degrees or higher.”

In other words, aren’t we great?  CVS Caremark is saying. Here we’re going above and beyond what’s called for to protect your insulin. Guess what? Before I received this letter, my insulin ALWAYS arrived with a cold gel pack regardless of the weather. 

I get it. The economy is contracting and here’s another way to save bucks. But when companies begin fooling around with our medicine it’s unconscienable.  

It wouldn’t hurt to send Caremark a letter, especially if you received this one, letting them know how much you do not appreciate what they are trying to pass off as extra care. Now I think lack of “care” is what  “marks” Caremark.

Win big, help millions

Got an idea for an innovative new diabetes device or web application up your sleeve?  Amy Tenderich, noted blogger of DiabetesMine, is running the DiabetesMine Design Challengewith a Grand Prize of $10,000 for ANYONE with a good idea to help manage diabetes: patients, parents, startup companies, design & medical students, developers, engineers, etc. The challenge is sponsored by theCalifornia HealthCare Foundation.

The contest runs through May 1st and winners will be announced May 18th. in addition to the Grand Prize are smaller cash prizes, consults with design experts and a mini-workshop with health and wellness experts at Ideo, the global design firm. 

Check for submission and judging criteria and contest details and then let your innovation flow.

 

Slices of diabetes-life in 4 short stories

Through my friend who lives here in Sydney I had two contacts to make while here. One was with the General Manager (GM) of Diabetes Australia, no slouch there, although he was working in his wife’s candle shop when we met and absent shoes. Well, we are in Sydney mate. Diabetes Australia is the equivalent of the American Diabetes Association. Turns out after a nice chat he suggested I send him my new book when published this July, The 50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life: And the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It, and he’ll get it to his media person to possibly distribute in Oz (that’s  Aussie-speak for Australia.)

The other meeting was with two mums of children with type 1. One is the mother of a five year old boy who had to be yanked out of public school because the principal didn’t want to deal with his diabetes and supply a nurse. Now the family are paying private school fees and she told me the law is very grey here as to what services a child is entitled to in regards to a school nurse. Actually the GM of Diabetes Australia said he’d be happy to advocate for her as last year Diabetes Australia took a case to court and won getting a type 1 ambulance driver’s job back. 

The other woman I met is the mother of an eight year old girl diagnosed almost a year ago. Since, she has become very involved in JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) here and inspired many others. It is interesting to sit a world away and share the same stories and feelings. And I knew beside sharing my knowledge and experience that just having these two women see someone who’s in as good shape as I am after living with type 1 37 years that they would gain something invaluable. The eight year old’s mum sent me this response after our breakfast by the beach:

Hi Riva, 
 
It was lovely to meet you and I take loads of comfort in meeting folk like you who play to win with diabetes. Sometimes I may sound too blasé about diabetes; it is a tough 24/7 disease but I refuse to let it take me and Emily (her daughter) down so I hang on to every positive role model that I can and I know that one day she too will be sitting with someone else over breakfast and be sharing her positive story on diabetes; so a huge thank you. 

Later that day I also met Emily’s dad who is an accountant by trade and has been working nose-to-the-grindstone on an algorithm whereby people who use a pump can better optimize how much to dose and how often to test their blood sugar. My husband came to this meeting as well and being a “systems” guy shared that when dealing with diabetes there are many complex systems to take into account in addition to meds, like food, exercise, stress and emotional resilience. 

Emily’s dad nodded his head, and perhaps gripped his graphs and charts a little tighter. I suspected that they were what was helping him feel he can have perfect control over something he can’t, diabetes, and feel he can protect his child. 

One day I’m pretty sure Emily will be the one to let her dad know that life is O.K and that she is O.K. even living with diabetes, and maybe even recognize that in some way she is “all the more” for what she goes through managing this disease.

Your contribution & heading West

I said I would and I did. Today I wrote a check to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation (DRI) for $500. DRI is the premiere Institute looking for a cure for diabetes, and half of my donation comes from the sale of my book, The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes-– in other words, from you. Thank you. 

The other news is that I will be on a working vacation over the next five weeks, ’til January 18th. I will continue to post, although at this moment still have to figure out exactly how to do that from New Zealand and Japan! Just to say, posts may be a bit more irregular, you can’t always predict when a herd of sheep may be passing or a friendly native insists you join him at the pub or the local sento. 

Here’s to a very happy holiday and that we all swing into the new year in good health and good cheer. 

Give diabetes a hand

images

 

A friend sent me news of The Global Diabetes Handprint initiative, a fund raising event sponsored by OneTouch® Brand Blood Glucose Monitoring Systems in collaboration with the Diabetes Hands Foundation. They’re raising awareness of diabetes and funding two not-for-profit organizations if you’ll give them a hand.  

Draw a word on your hand, take a photo and submit it to their site, or if you prefer not to walk around all day with streaky fingers, you can create a word on a virtual hand on their site

Either way choose a word that expresses what diabetes means to you. OneTouch will donate $5 (up to a maximum of $250,000) toward Taking Control of Your Diabetes or Diabetes Education and Camping Association, your choice.

This initiative is open to anyone of any age with or without diabetes and ends March 31st. So get off your duff and give diabetes education a hand.

 

Diabetes Awareness Month

imagesSpreading the word one syringe at a time

Today begins another month-long attempt to make the world more aware of diabetes. I have no idea if Diabetes Awareness Month is successful in this goal or not. There’s still an awful growing epidemic out there. But I do know there’s a few hundred more people in Europe who know about diabetes.

My husband gives week-long business leadership workshops. At the end of his workshop everyone brings something that symbolizes leadership to them. The group of 20 or so executives share their stories of their leadership symbol over their last evening’s dinner. 

My husband brings a syringe as his leadership symbol and talks about the leadership qualities he sees in me managing my diabetes. You can imagine the curiosity of these management executives when he pulls out a syringe. But the story doesn’t end with my counting carbs, walking an hour every day and frequent blood sugar checks. No, it actually begins there, because then he segues into a story our friend, Joe, a diabetes family therapist, told us. 

Joe recalled a scene from a play he’d seen on Broadway some years after he’d gotten type 1 diabetes at the age of 8. James Earl Jones played a man servant to a young white boy in South Africa. They meet again after the boy has grown and James Earl Jones asks the boy, “Do you remember I used to take you down to the beach to fly your kite?” and the boy says, “Yes.” “Do you know why I did that?,” Jones asks. “No,” says the boy, to which Jones says, “Because I wanted to teach you no matter what happens in life to always look up.” 

Joe tells this story to the families he works with who feel as though a truck has run them over having just discovered their child has diabetes. They clearly believe that they will never have a reason to look up again. But Joe tells them they will. They will learn to work with what has happened and re-create a life that will provide many reasons to look up for all of them. By time my husband has finished sharing this story, half his 20 executives are in tears. Several come up to him afterward and ask how I’m doing, but more importantly, they realize inspiring others to be their best is a key attribute of leadership.

I don’t care if you tell anyone anything about diabetes this month. But tell yourself you have reasons to look up, and then do it. Your living example will show others that diabetes is not the end of the world, it is the beginning of a new life where we can learn once again to value who we are, cherish what and who we love, find greater meaning and purpose in life and inspire those around us to look up.

 

Life not despite diabetes, but because of it

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.24.26 PMIs this what 55 looks like?

It was my birthday this week, September 2 to be exact. My husband told me when we got married 7 years ago that, although I was amazing then, when I was 55 I’d be utterly amazing. I’m thinking he was pretty accurate.

Here’s what 55 looks like so far: This week I flew to Bangor Maine to deliver a diabetes presentation to a roomful of patients at the local diabetes clinic and I gave the diabetes educator there my book,The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes. She couldn’t stop telling me how much she loved it. 

Later that day a young man drove me in the hotel van downtown to have a walk and some dinner riverside. He was wearing a medic alert bracelet and it turned out it was for diabetes. When I asked how long, he said since July. When I told him I’ve had it 36 years he couldn’t ask enough questions and I couldn’t enjoy more sharing my golden wisdom. 

When I got home I had two emails from Australian diabetes organizations wanting to meet me when I’m in Sydney this December and would I agree to be a lunchtime speaker? Well, one has to eat. 

Today I had a conversation with Fran Carpentier, senior editor of Parade magazine. She’s lived with type 1 diabetes for 39 years and is quite an advocate. I’ve long had her on my list of people I want to interview but it would have been a cold contact. As it turned out one of my dear friends bumped into her last week at her hairdressers, mentioned me, and Fran said, “I’d love to talk to riva, I know very well who she is.” I thought my friend was joking and I told her so, she wasn’t.

I’ve hit the 3/4 mark on the book I’m writing this year debunking diabetes myths due out next spring, and for one, my van driver in Bangor promises to buy a copy. 

I adore my husband, my friends, my family and my life. Not a day goes by I wonder what to do with myself, although to be honest some days I think I wish I did. Three days into 55, things are looking pretty amazing. Wonder what a whole year will look like? Better hold onto that psychic husband.

Can I introduce you as, “If you don’t take insulin you’ll die?”

Speaker in CT_2“Thank you for your gift to JDRF and the 2 million people, most around my age, who have type 1 diabetes.”

My husband is a management consultant who lives in Brooklyn and works in Europe. It’s a heck of a commute but somehow we make it work.

Last week he facilitated his first week-long management course in Connecticut, a mere two hours away — Eastern Standard Time and no jet lag. But greater than that, in the world of ‘wonders never cease,’ his course participants, as is the company’s tradition, elected a charity to make a donation to at the end of the course and they chose (all on their own, no coaching from my hubby) Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

Now, what was even more remarkable  was not only do I have type 1 diabetes, but one of the other four course leaders has a 17 year old daughter with type 1 diabetes.

Typically a guest speaker is invited the last night of their course to talk about the chosen charity, so it was not a stretch for my husband to call me and ask if I’d come up and fill the role. Knapsack packed, I hopped a train from Grand Central Station and was soon standing in front of twenty executives from ING and five executive management instructors to compress thirty-six years of living with diabetes, and the establishment and achievements of JDRF, into fifteen minutes. Oddly enough this is fun for me; while I may get white knuckles just before showtime, after I’ve gotten my first laugh, which I intend by the way, my knuckles open up and I feel my audience resting in the palm of my hand.

It was easy to draw parallels between the topic of their course, leadership, and the leadership of the impassioned parents of children with diabetes who collectively wrote letters and called senators and created JDRF, now a world class cure-focused research organization. It was easy to liken managing systems in a corporation with managing our systems in diabetes: food, exercise, medicine, stress, illness.

Toward my close, I talked about my own personal passion in my work, helping people develop the emotional resilience to get up each and every day and manage this condition again, and again and again, and how still after 36 years of living with diabetes I have no assurance that Tuesday will go the way Monday did, or Sunday did, or Saturday did. As I spoke those words in particular my voice cracked, tears came and I choked, I choked right there in front of 25 executives. My husband told me later it was a great moment of authenticity and they “got it.”

I’ve spied here and there over the past year of giving presentations, that no matter how much knowledge I possess or how well I speak, diabetes comes with an emotional suitcase, and while I thought I’d only brought a knapsack to Connecticut, that emotional suitcase had accompanied me unnoticed. But it’s also O.K. because it was in opening that suitcase in that room that evening that allowed for a shift in my audience from head to heart.

When the host asked me pre-speech how I wanted to be introduced, before I answered he said, “Is it true if you don’t take insulin you’ll die?” I would have never have thought of that in the moment, but I said, “Yes, actually it is.” He asked, “Can I use that in the introduction?” To which I responded, “Sure, why not?” “O.K., great,”he said laughing, “I’ll bring them down and you bring them up.” A version of good cop/bad cop perhaps, and a brilliant game plan hatched in 60 seconds.

But his question, is it true if you don’t take insulin you’ll die, unknowingly made me feel a little vulnerable and a little heroic, which truthfully I rarely allow myself to feel. So maybe that’s where my tears came from 12 minutes later. In any event, the next day 20 executives went home to neighboring parts of Connecticut, Des Moines, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Atlanta and one to Amsterdam with a little better understanding of what type 1 diabetes is, how invisible this illness is and what all us invisible people are doing all day long managing round-the-clock blood sugars. And I’m pleased to say these executives who overpaid for mugs and hats and theatre tickets to raise money for JDRF raised $2,600 and the company matches half so all tolled almost $4,000. Not bad for a night’s work and a free dinner.

Diabetes videos on ABC TV

In recognition of Diabetes Month ABC TV is showing up to 45 second videos sent from people using insulin. What strikes me is the typical sad to somber arc of so many people’s stories. How about sad to glad?

Sure, upon diagnosis we’re reeling, grieving, feeling loss, shock, confused, pissed-off. And, learning to live with diabetes is a process over time, as you get better educated and build your diabetes-muscle through education and repetition.

But there is also another view of living with diabetes if you look from the other side. Diabetes can be an asset. I’m not saying I’d go out and chose it, but if you’ve got it, use it.

Diabetes can motivate you to eat better and get on that exercise bike you now hang your clothes on. I will go so far as to say if you take care of it, diabetes can actually make you healthier – you’ll lose some weight, attend to your blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Also, realizing the fragility of life, diabetes is a wake-up call to get going on your dream. My fellow A1c Champions are an overwhelmingly joyful bunch as they go around the country helping others manage their diabetes. And, emotionally, while many fall into denial, depression and a victim stance, taking good care of your diabetes can develop an inner strength and confidence, a sense of mastery, an appreciation for your stamina, and pride. Well c’mon, you just knew that’s what I was going to say, didn’t you? Hear for yourself.