P2P Diabetes

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.

  • David Spero RN

    Congratulations to your doctor for recommending this and to you for jumping on it. Peer mentoring is the great unused resource in chronic illness care. When I speak to health care providers, I always advocate for putting patients together for support, but few take me up on it.

    Thanks for spreading the word on this. I would encourage DSM readers to consider making themselves available for mentoring, and ask their doctors to connect them with other patients. It doesn’t have to be a mentorship thing. It can just be a support group of 1.

  • Laura

    That’s a really nice idea — I’ve just been diagnosed with type 1 at 26, and not knowing or having contact with anyone with the disease has made it more of a challenge. It would have been really awesome to have something like that, and its very good of you to be a diabetes mentor. Thank god for all the helpful diabetics on the internet, otherwise I’d feel like I was totally in the dark!

  • maggie

    I think it’s terrific that you had the opportunity to help this newly diagnosed diabetic! I became a type 1 at age 42 if it wasn’t for my dad who has had diabetes since the age of 40 (he’s now 83)I would of been more overwhelmed than I was. Three years later and now on a pump I’m good with the whole thing. I still don’t want the disease but I have my dad and now others via the internet to comiserate with!

  • sharon

    I too have become a type 1 diabetic. At the age of 42 I had extreme vision problems and VERY tired. No excessive thirst or excessive urination. I though “I need glasses”. Then in the same second I gasped “could this be diabetes?” My mother was a type II diagnosed at about age 60, She live to be 83. Pills did nothing for me. I started insulin in Janurary 1993. A roller-coaster ride to survive. I too went over events prior to beoming a diabetic.
    Feb. 1989 Major surgery, left me with much pain and scar tissue
    Dec. 1990 Employer permanent lay-off of 300.
    Oct. 1991 Horrible marriage ending.
    Dec. 1991 Moved 130 miles from my home.
    Engaged to marry. (that didn’t work out)
    I really think the surgery triggered the diabetes. Two of my brothers had sugeries and became type II diabetic RIGHT AFTER the surgery. Maybe we can combine our thoughts and help solve this puzzling disease.

  • lorraine

    How lucky that man is to have you. I wish that sorta of mentoring was available in my area but I know it isn’t. It would be invaluable to talk to some one who is in the same position as I am. I have never blogged but I might have to start just to know how others are doing in my age group and my medication. Good Luck

  • Denise

    I too would have loved this type of help being dx type 1 at 49…after a very bad digestive track infection that required surgical intervention, which seems a pretty common trigger.

  • Mike

    After a very stressful negotiation rgarding the sale of a professional practice I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. A1C was up to 8.3. Controlled very well with Metformin and diet for the first 2 years. A1C went down to 6.0, and then started to rise. Metformin was doubled and Januvia was added but A1C went back up to 8.2. Diagnosis was changed to Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (Type 1). I am now under control with 7u Solostar (Insulin) 1X a day. Age – 72.