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March 27, 2008
A little over a week ago, I received an e-mail from my endocrinologist. It was a short missive in which he told me that he’d recently seen, as a patient, a man in his 30’s who’d just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. What my endocrinologist wanted to know—and what he assured me was completely my decision (and he emphasized that there was no pressure to do so)—was if I wanted to talk to this gentleman about Type 1, since just one year earlier I, too, had been diagnosed.
It took me no time at all to reply that Yes, indeed, I would be happy to help this guy out.
A few days later, I received an e-mail from the person newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. His diagnosis story was eerily similar to my own and, what’s more, his reaction to the news that he’d been saddled by fate with a chronic illness was also mostly a carbon copy of how I treated the news. There wasn’t the anger or the “why me” so much as there was an immediate need to learn as much as possible and do what was necessary to quickly get a handle on great self-management.
We wrote a few e-mails back and forth, and we exchanged instant-message IDs so we could chat online. We also made a date to meet face-to-face and talk more about whatever he needed to talk about, to let him ask whatever questions he wanted, and—what Kathryn and I felt was a pretty necessary component of the meeting—to allow his wife to talk to my wife. Because, eerily similar again, his wife’s response to the diagnosis mimicked what Kathryn remembered going through.
And that’s all I’ll write about the peer-to-peer diabetes mentoring for this week. I did speak with the gentleman about the possibility that I’d want to blog about my experiences in talking with him, and he seemed open to the idea. However, I’m not going to fill in specific details until I get permission from him (and I didn’t do so this week). I may also ask him at some point (and if he’s up for it) to write a guest blog entry. Or do the interview thing. I’ve been amazed at how far you go in just those few months from Point A (diagnosis) to Point B (settling into a diabetes routine). I want to write more about that, about how much I forgot I learned in a very short amount of time, and how utterly overwhelming those first few weeks with the diagnosis can be.
The mentoring was something I didn’t have when I was diagnosed, and it would have been a wonderful—absolutely wonderful—experience for my wife and me to hear from someone who’d recently been through the same thing. But it doesn’t seem to be a widely-available option yet; I don’t know if it’s the infrequency (relatively speaking) of mid-30’s Type 1 diagnoses, or if it’s that there’s not a great peers group as yet set up. I know that Tara Dairman wrote about the nascent Peers for Progress program last year, and it sounds like it will be a great program.
The idea that I could or should talk to someone who’d gone through the same thing hadn’t really entered my mind after my diagnosis. There were, understandably, too many other things to worry about. But I see now that it could have dispelled some of the fears of the unknown and alleviated some of the anxiety and worry about making the transition to living with Type 1 diabetes.
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