November, Polio, and Diabetes: A Lesson on Keeping the Faith

My grandfather was cured of polio as a child.

One summer day in high school, my friend pulled me aside at a barbecue and innocently asked, “Why does Papa have one skinny leg?”

“Polio,” was the only answer I could give.

His leg is atrophied from the polio, but the bounce in his step overrides the slight lag in his stride.  Life is good.  Family, friends, pasta, and red wine.  What more could an Italian grandpa need?

According to my relatives, Papa was blessed while riding on a parade float during the Feast of the Three Saints.  The polio disappeared after that.  I always thought that Jonas Salk played a hand in his cure, but perhaps I just really like the aspect of vagueness.  That’s where the faith is found, after all.

I will accept nothing less than a diabetes cure in my lifetime.  Plain and simple.  That faith will always be here.  When I am cured, I will hold onto that faith until every individual worldwide who is touched by diabetes receives the same renewed membership at quality of life.

Type 1 diabetes has dwelled in my body for almost 25 years.  It has undeniably left its mark.  Freckled fingertips.  Dexcom rashes.  Bruises galore.  As one friend recently joked, “You might want to leave those details out of your Tinder profile!”  Very true.

Diabetes has permanently affected my life, and yours.  I would be naïve to think that after 25 years, a cure will eradicate all of those diabetes handprints.  It won’t.  Some of the damage is already done.  But curing diabetes is also not all about me.  If I am going to be on this earth as a diabetic, if I have endured this crap for 25 years, if I know darn well how unrelenting some days are- then I cannot sit back and be okay with this in the 21st century.

We have the scientific brilliance to cure this disease.  We have the technology to cure diabetes.  And we most certainly have the motivation by which to accelerate research.  Look no further than any diabetes blog or heartfelt Facebook post by a D parent whose child just wants to eat cupcakes like the rest of the class, with no needles involved in the process.  Curing diabetes will involve faith, fundraising, advocating, and destigmatizing.  The #doc is well-suited to do this job.

It is 2015.  It’s about darn time for a cure.  I am excited about the pending technological options which will tide us over in the interim, but ultimately we need a cure.  If not for us in the here and now, then for all of the generations which will come after us.  It is our moral obligation to change this status quo.

November- diabetes awareness month- is about keeping the faith.  If my grandfather and his family had not believed that his polio would be cured- by whatever means- he may not have lived long enough to walk around the world free of leg braces, or to marry his high school sweetheart, or to still be madly in love so many years later.  He needed a cure, too.  He kept the faith, and he got the cure.

Keep the faith.  Advocate long and hard this month, and always.  #weneedacure

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November: 166,650.

WDD 166,650

Diabetes Awareness Month is finally here!  I’ve stocked up on blue apparel and drafted, re-drafted, deleted, expanded, and re-visited my Facebook status updates, tweets, and so on for World Diabetes Day on November 14.  Being new to the diabetes blogosphere/social media arena, I feel the importance of November, and specifically November 14, more so than I may have in the past.  This is our day and our month. I’m clearly biased here, but I do not believe that diabetes gets its fair share of attention in society and in the media. Take a gander at my diabetes rant if you want my heated feelings on the matter.

I am truly happy for other organizations and causes that garner lots of fanfare during their designated months and days. Seeing the State House lit up in pink for breast cancer awareness month in October as a simple gesture of solidarity for the cause always puts a smile on my face.  My siblings’ delight in dumping ice water all over me for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a fond memory for our family, and it is also a reminder of those very brave individuals who battle an insidious disease every day.

As human beings, we all suffer. Lots of us have health conditions; others, financial troubles; some, relationship issues; many, a mix of a multitude of things.  Connecting as human beings to support one another in our moments of pain and in our moments of triumph against such pain is all part of the human connection.  It is time to make that connection happen for diabetes, and the diabetic online community is certainly capable of moving mountains to do this.

There are various creative diabetes awareness efforts going on right now. I am all for anything that supports diabetes in a positive way, and I truly enjoy participating in various efforts when time permits me to do so.  However, we are also a bit fragmented as a group- not because we want to be, but because the options are too vast and our passions for advocacy too wide and multifaceted.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  It speaks volumes about us as an intuitive, determined community.  We are always salivating over new and improved ideas for advocacy.

Rather than making things more complicated and diluting the already-expansive efforts to raise awareness, I’m going to put a simplified twist on an old diabetes advocacy message. We have all seen those posters outlining how many injections, pump site changes, finger pricks, etc. that a diabetic has endured over his or her lifetime.  Those posters always knock the wind out of me- no matter how old the person holding up the sign may be.  There is a universal truth to these visual aids: One shot is one too many. If we cure diabetes, there will never be another “first shot” of insulin for so many out there whose islet cells may one day rebel.  Sadly, as we all know, the shots are sometimes the “easiest” part when it comes to diabetes.  Again, #1ShotIs1TooMany.

We can live in a world without diabetes.  It is a matter of hard work, advocacy, financing, and research.  As the doc, we already know the ropes when it comes to informing others about our daily lives with diabetes.  But those who do not live it firsthand- who do not wake up at 3:14 am to change failed pump sites, who do not feel the burn of injecting into scar tissue, who do not wipe their child’s tears during a bad low blood sugar- have perhaps not been exposed to the reality of diabetes.

My tactic is simple: “Shock and awe” is good, occasionally. From a marketing perspective, tease your social media followers a bit.  Engage them by throwing out the line and seeing if they will bite.  I plan on posting my picture with the blue diabetes awareness circle etched in using the World Diabetes Day app.  In Paint or a similar program, I will then write in blue the number of needle pokes I have endured over 23 years as a type 1 diabetic.

As an anxious person, there have been times in my life where I would perform blood glucose tests upwards of 25 times per day, so my number of pokes is quite large, and it is most likely an underestimate. To figure out my number, I scribbled crazy mathematical break-downs to include “hundreds of shots in this timeframe, then switching to the pump during this year, then testing more or less, etc.”  The final number- 166,650– is my very best educated guesstimate.  What are your numbers? We are all so much more than the daily pokes and prods, but they have also permanently marked us as strong individuals. Let’s celebrate this concept with others, and let’s vow to find a cure so that the next newly-diagnosed person is not sentenced to years of replicating our needle tallies.

When people chomp at the worm on the end of the hook, I will clue them in as to what diabetes is all about. I will explain how it is not caused by cupcakes, how much it pains me to see the worry on my friends’ faces on the bad days, and the other ins and outs of taming a sadistic autoimmune beast every day.  Then I will tell them about the good stuff: the #doc, #dsma, the doctors and nurses who have refused to give up, the fact that it is not too late to work towards a cure.

When it comes to advocacy this month, do what works for you; support the message that resonates with your own diabetes struggle. If you hear a diabetes joke at the local ice cream shop, politely inform the misguided comedian that his material is outdated based on modern science.  Foster a conversation about diabetes with someone who may be misinterpreting what it means.  Wear blue.  And wear your heart on your sleeve while doing so.

#BlueFridays

blue fridays1blue fridays 2

My coworkers and I are hamming it up for Blue Fridays.  And no, that isn’t Sean Connery, but Manny could definitely pass for him!  Hands off, ladies!

My friends spotted Manny in blue this morning and excitedly told me to take his picture.

“What’s this all about?” he asked.

I explained how we wear blue to support diabetes awareness on Fridays, and how November is our month. Everyone within ear’s reach of the conversation thought that it was a great idea.  It is nice to see their enthusiasm for a good cause, and I am blessed to work with such supportive coworkers who I consider close friends at this point.

I am hoping to organize a “Wear Blue for Diabetes Awareness” day at work during November. If possible, I would like to email a list of a few pertinent diabetes facts out to the office so that people may understand the differences between the various types of diabetes and the need for more research. Finally, I want to personally pledge to donate $1.00 towards diabetes-related projects for each person who wears blue on the designated “blue day.”  It may not be much, but it is better than nothing.  And if people stop and really think about what it means to live in a world with diabetes, then the purpose of wearing blue and uniting to support diabetics has been accomplished in its own small way here and now.

Any creative ideas of which projects to consider? I have my own personal favorites, but I would like to learn more about any and all good diabetes research/treatment/advocacy going on, and I will take all suggestions into consideration.

Hope you all have a fantastic, healthy weekend!  Stay classy, DOC!

Wordless Wednesdays.

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Alright, if you haven’t noticed by now, I always need to add a “few” words, but this is my attempt at copying the “Wordless Wednesdays” posts that I’ve seen on some other blogs out there: 

Gearing up for Diabetes Awareness Month in November.  I have a feeling the DOC is going to make some noise next month, and rightfully so…