It was the Spring of 1999 and I was 15 years old. I was sitting in my College Prep Biology class paying attention to something other than the teacher. I was poking at my thigh which was starting to show a few broken capillaries. My friend Michael, who sat to my right that entire year noticed what I was doing and said, “Don’t worry about that”, as he made a face to signify that it meant nothing, the face one makes when saying “nah”.
“But, what if this is happening because I don’t take care of my diabetes enough?-I know I don’t take care of myself enough.”, I said. “Well, then you need to take care of yourself better, you have to at least try. I know diabetes must suck but, at least you have a better shot than if you had terminal cancer or advanced AIDS right?”, Mike replied. “I suppose…” I said, not feeling too reassured. Then Mike said, “Besides, one day, the right guy won’t be bothered by a few broken capillaries, I promise.”
I sat quietly the rest of class feeling relieved. As a 15 year old, my worries involved my health but, I spent a lot of time preoccupied with how my diabetes might affect the way I look and I’ve always feared people (ok, males) would be driven away. Mike was right, later on, the right guy wasn’t bothered by a few broken capillaries, not even by a lot.
Almost exactly three years after Mike and I had that conversation I found myself standing in a packed cathedral, the same one I’d eventually marry in. With the bagpipes wailing in the background I thought about Mike’s words to me that day in Biology class. He was right. I had to take care of myself. I had to do my best. I did have a better shot than someone with terminal cancer. He put up a strong fight, but, in less than a year from diagnosis, my friend Mike died of a rare form of Leukemia.
Every time I think about giving up or giving in, even for just a day, I remember Mike, and his firm words to me. And how his early death proved that I would have a better shot than he. So of course, to me anyway, there is no question about it-I’ve always got a reason to take care of myself better. I’ve at least got to try.
If only to honor those that don’t even get the chance.