So much of growth comes from the little things adding up to new behaviors or outcome. Last night just a moment occurred for me. Nothing huge in it's own right but on balance, a pretty big shift in the scheme of things.
We were at my best friends house for Christmas dinner last night. A nice tradition that's developed over the years. It's been crazy snowy, icy, wintery weather here this last week, and yesterday was really the first day we'd ventured out in a serious way. We're just not equipped for this kind of weather here in the northwest, so the fact that we actually made it to my friends house at all (she lives at the top of a very steep, very high hill) was something amazing in it's own right. We were determined not to miss our annual dinner and gift exchange!
Because we've all been snowed in for days on end, my friend and her daughter had plenty of time to make plenty of cookies. Many more than the usual plates and trays full we've had in years past. When we arrived I was greeted with plate after plate of beautifully decorated, colorful, hand made cookies, brownies and lemon bars! They all looked so divine.
We sat down to a wonderful, traditional Christmas meal soon after we arrived. It was fun and delicious as always. Lot's of laughter and holiday cheer. As the meal came to an end and we moved to the living room to open some presents, everyone stopped first to fill a plate of sweet desserts to enjoy along the way. I stood there looking at the plates of beautiful cookies and treats, locked in an internal debate. Should I take an extra shot and indulge? Though I've done this successfully before, for some unknown reason it hasn't worked well lately. A number of times this season, I've tried to cover and indulge but have failed miserably, crashing hard as my various boluses layered on top of each other. What followed were some very slow recoveries requiring lot's of eating and waiting and eating and waiting as my blood sugars slowly rose to a normal place. It's not been fun at all. Which led to the internal debate inside my head standing in front of the cookies last night. "Is the momentary deliciousness of a cookie or two worth the risk of another roller coaster ride later in the night" I asked myself over and over again.
And then something remarkable happened. My friend, who I have increasingly shared my day to day diabetes struggles with, came up beside me. I must of have said something like "I don't know what to do" at the moment she approached, because she responded immediately with something that made all the difference. Kindly, softly, she said, "why don't I make a small plate of cookies for you and you can take it home to have tomorrow". She knew that it was easier for me to adjust to cover foods outside my usual routine in the daytime vs. the night. She also knew intuitively, that what I needed at the moment was a nudge toward the right decision. There was no judgement, no pressure to "be like everyone else" or on the other hand, to not have a treat if I really wanted one. Somehow she understood what I needed was a little encouragement to resist just then as well as the promise of a treat when it made better sense. Her kind presence, support and willingness to see my dilemma from my vantage point allowed me to regain some equilibrium and make the small yet prudent choice at that moment. My friend offered me a helping hand just when I needed it most!
This small experience reminded me that living well with this disease is not a solitary act. It's been up to me to share my journey with a few people who care to witness it with open eyes. And it's been up to those kind people to act on my behalf at the times when I get stuck or weary or disheartened. At those times when I've needed a helping hand, a quiet nudge or word of encouragement, I've been able to move forward because of their strength and support. Though most of the time I'm on my own with all the decisions and challenges diabetes presents, I'm not without support or guidance. What's surprising to me is that the more I've shared, the more people have been willing to offer a helping hand along the way.
And that has made all the difference, one small event or moment at a time!
Enough said? There it is. I wonder, have I said about everything there is to say about my experience with diabetes? Is there anything left to be said about the subject, at least by me?
Well of course there is, even if it's repeating a point that's been said before. Even if I have to say it over and over again, as long as saying it helps in some way.
I read this essay about the evolution of blogs the other day. The author was lamenting about the ever increasing monetization of blogs (among other things) and how it's changed the landscape, the charming, wacky, almost naive aspect of blogging in it's earlier days. And though I see his point and in some cases agree, in terms of this kind of blog, this place of release and exploration of an experience associated with a chronic illness, in this category of blogs, I just don't agree.
I keep writing this blog even though I'm not sure I have anything much new to say about my experience with diabetes. I'm not writing to charm an audience or to resolve a solvable problem. Diabetes simply continues on in it's way, with the qualities and aspects that make it what it is. Over the years, by finding language to describe the nuances and tiny little details of my own experience with it, I've found a deep and persistent comfort along the way. I treat myself more gently now because of writing this blog. I feel less angry and sad because of writing this blog. I feel less isolated and alone because of this blog.
And though I sometimes feel pressure to come up with something new and clever to say, I'm starting to understand that this really isn't the point for me. Because diabetes is a thing with edges, it has a scope that has it's limits. The point actually, isto revisit the struggles and accomplishments, edges and lessons this disease has to offer. In the process of the revisiting, strength and solace and wisdom and voice are revealed to me, over and over again. It's there that the healing and growth occur. It's there that I have come to feel better than before.
There are days when I feel just battered by diabetes. Both physically and emotionally. These last couple of weeks have been tough, dealing with routine changes from holidays, "celebratory" meals outside my usual diet, challenging medical procedures as well as the standard ups and downs of life with diabetes. I've had a couple of highs and lows that were off the chart, particularly hard on my body as well as my spirit. This morning as I lay in bed before I started my day, I realized how emotionally worn out I am by all this physical challenge. I'm tired to my heart of having to constantly deal with this disease. I know that this feeling will pass as my day takes on momentum and I get on with my regular life, but for now, at this very moment, I need to acknowledge how I'm feeling. A little shaky and a bit emotionally bruised from all the "dealing".
I get tired of having to always be my own diabetes advocate when it comes to dealing with the rest of the medical world. I'm shocked at how universally inconsistent these trained medical professionals are when it comes to diabetes. Which is annoying most of the time and downright scary when it comes to dealing with medical issues other than diabetes. Without going into the gory details of a recent procedure I had to undergo, suffice it to say that I spent a good deal of time and energy down field blocking with the medical institutions I encountered, all while at the same time doing what every other non-diabetic has to do before this kind of test. I called beforehand to several people, receptionists, nurses and in-take personnel, just to be sure that they knew that I had type1 diabetes and that I would be arriving in the morning having not eaten for 24 hours. I called to ask my doctor and the doctor who would be doing the procedure for the protocol if I went low the night before having not eaten all day (which I did). I called to figure out how much to reduce my basal rate to deal with the lows, not once but twice because I continued to float downward over the course of the evening. At 11:00pm the night before the procedure we even discussed whether or not I should go to the hospital to get a glucose drip if my blood sugars didn't rise soon. It was a lot of work to say the least.
In the end, everything worked out. It worked out because I consulted with lot's of people and asked questions and insisted on engagement. I was nervous going in so I called on my medical resources for advice. We scenario planned. On the actual day, we did some more tweaking because it turned out that what I suspected would happen, did, in spite of the fact that everyone else predicted otherwise. At the end of the day it worked out because of persistence and focus on my part to make it so. Work on top of going through a very unpleasant procedure. One that thousands of people have to go through, yes. I just had to do it with a job on top of it. Diabetes advocate. Diabetes educator. Diabetes patient. Diabetes pest. Diabetic me.
I get that I have to do this because I have diabetes. I accept that. But I also need to say that it tires me out, this job of advocacy. It leaves me weary. Yes, indeed it does.
For obvious reasons, given the recent election of Barack Obama as our next President, as well as other reasons related to diabetes too. But I'll get to those in a moment. I have to say first, that when Mr. Obama's campaign began, I was quite surprised by his choice of the word hope for the focus of his messaging. Don't get me wrong, I loved it, but I admit that I was also worried that it'd be perceived as soft or naive in such tough and cynical times. Hope. Really?
And then something happened. The word and idea caught people's attention and spoke to their hearts. It's almost as if people said, why not hope? Audacious, yes. Or maybe just amazingly insightful. People have always wanted and needed hope. And for so many reasons, this particular call for it, at this particular time, inspired so many of us to believe that a true change was possible. Hope was exactly the point. And ultimately, hope (and a ton of hard work and effort) lead to a profound, new reality.
My best friend called me the other night, all excited about a news segment she'd just seen on msnbc about some exciting research for type1 diabetes. The piece used words like "promising breakthrough" and "possible cure", interspersed of course with lot's of disclaimers and caveats. I tried to share in her excitement but found myself tempering my enthusiasm in spite of myself. Given the reality of how many times I've seen and heard this kind of thing before, I've learned to keep any real hope about at cure at arms length. Though I found myself saying yes, yes, it does sound promising, inside I was thinking, "Well maybe. I'll believe it when I see it."
The truth of the matter is that I've pretty much given up hoping for a cure for diabetes. It doesn't really help me with the day to day of dealing with the disease. Diabetes is here and boy is it real. Hoping for a future without it has always felt somewhat futile and disappointing. It's been a nice thought that's never come to be.
And then I got to thinking about this election. In this case, hope turned led to the reality of change. Though I know that politics are one thing and science another, hope, and the unrelenting belief in progress that it embodies is the same. Hope endures. Hope inspires. And at the end of the day hope can be the fuel for profound change.
So with that in mind, I watched the clip my friend had mentioned another time. And though I'm still not getting my hopes up too high, I find myself feeling a little more hopeful. Even though it might not be this particular research that gets us to a cure, maybe it will be the next one. Maybe it will be one that comes from research now that we have a new President who actually believes in the promise of stem cell research as a possible cure to diabetes and will likely use his executive powers to reverse the former administrations ban soon after he takes office. In 2007 Mr. Obama said, "I am frustrated...that we are preventing the advancement of important science that could potentially impact millions of suffering Americans...My hope, and the hope of so many in this country, is to provide our researchers with the means to explore the uses of embryonic stem cells so that we can begin to turn the tide on the devastating diseases affecting our nation and our world."
Hope. There it is again, the word and idea. There it is again.