None of Us Is Alone

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I was going to write about dealing with goals tonight. I was about two paragraphs in when I realized I had absolutely no desire to write about that. None. I guess I picked it because it seemed like a good “diabetes management” topic, but frankly I’ve had too enjoyable a day with friends and family to get excited about anything so dry as “goal-setting.”

And then it hit me: friends and family! I’m visiting my mother in Colorado. My wife and I flew here from our home in Philadelphia, and for the past few days we’ve been visiting with her, and my sister, and today my godparents and their family. The day before that, I went to my old high school with my wife, and we took a picture of me standing in front of the entrance. It was a nice bit of nostalgia, and for some reason standing there made me think about the day I came back to high school and told my friends that over that summer I had been diagnosed with diabetes. That memory and these days filled with people who have loved and supported me all my life have given me the perfect topic for today. I want to thank all of the people in my life who have SHARED my journey with diabetes.

None of us take this journey alone. We might be the only ones checking our blood sugar, taking our insulin, struggling with our complications, but we’re not alone in our journeys. No human being is truly alone. We are always part of one another’s lives. We are social beings who live our lives in an interconnected web. And that means that diabetes, even though it happens to us as individuals, is something shared. We face it not as islands, but as part of a network, and that network faces it, too.

I remember that day when I first returned to school. I was diagnosed during the summer between ninth and tenth grade. It was a time when a lot of other stuff was going on, and that summer was certainly one of the worst of my life. Diabetes may not have even been the worst thing that happened that summer, and that should paint a picture of just how miserable I was that year. Luckily, everything improved during tenth grade, but I was stuck with diabetes.

In any event, I remember coming back to school. I remember friends, classmates, people I barely knew, asking me about this new thing I had to live with. I showed them my insulin, I told them about my meal plan (this was in the days before fast-acting, so all of my meals had to be on a strict schedule and contain consistent amounts of carbs, protein, etc.), and I told them all the rest. I don’t remember any of their specific responses, but I do remember this: I felt supported and loved. Some of them were friends who would get to know this disease thoroughly as they got used to seeing me taking shots, checking my blood, and doing all of those daily things we Diabetians do. Others were classmates who were just curious and wouldn’t see much of this journey with me.

Probably the person most affected by my diagnosis beside myself was my mother. She was masterful in helping me adjust to this disease. I’ve always felt that being diagnosed at 15 was a blessing. It happened at an age where I could be in charge of my own management from the beginning. And my mother, bless her, allowed me to take that responsibility on. I remember talking to her years later, and she confided to me just how hard it was for her to do that. You see, in the beginning, she knew more about the disease than I did. My mother is brilliant, and learns more completely and more thoroughly than anyone I’ve ever known. She knew more about diabetes in one afternoon than most would learn in two weeks. But she knew that this had to be MY responsibility if I was going to be successful, and she offered just the right level of coaching, support, and willingness to let me learn how to manage diabetes for myself.

The person who faces diabetes with me on a daily basis now is my beautiful wife, Carmen. We’ve been married for almost four years now, together for seven. She’s been with me through a few scary moments, including a hypoglycemic episode that landed me in the hospital. There have also been a few others that she caught in time but scared her as I had lapsed into that “fogged-in” zone that goes with severely low blood sugar. Through each step she has been full of kindness, encouragement, and love.

There are so many more people who I ought to thank. My godfather, my sister, my doctors, the volunteers who worked at the summer camp I attended, my friends, my coworkers. The list could go on forever. But the point is this: We are not alone in facing diabetes. We might be the only one who HAS the d-mn thing, but we’re not alone in facing it. So thank you to every single person who has walked with me on this journey, who has offered kind words, who has faced challenges with me, and who has supported me through it.

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