Tag Archives: diabetes advocating

Travel and Diabetes Ramblings with a Stranger

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One of my favorite places in the world is the airport.  I knew early on the significance of such a place having moved from another continent to this one as a young child.  The airport is like a revolving door of possibilities and opportunities literally flying in and out all day in the most organized fashion we can manage.  Each trip to and from an airport includes new sights and faces.  Each trip holds a little mystery and anticipation.  In an airport we’re forced to be patient.  We’re forced to have faith in others, namely the pilot of the plane.  We’re forced to sit still and be one with our thoughts and observations.

It’s so healthy.

It’s true that frequent travelers tend to dash about, mindlessly hooked to their device of choice, but I think even they must feel much of the same.

The other day as I checked my blood sugar on the plane I noticed how uncomfortable it made the older man next to me.  So I started talking.  I explained what I was doing and why.  I shared the results, “141, I’ll take it!”  The man looked out the window and let out a deep breathe.  He said, “So many people have diabetes.  It’s going to ruin our country.”

“If we let it”, I said.

“Well, I’m glad you seem to be taking care of yourself but what about everyone else?  Why can’t people just eat better and exercise?”

I went into clarifying some myths and misconceptions about diabetes while the man listened intently.  Then I said, “I wish we could bring everyone out on a trip somewhere and educate them all about diabetes and health here in the airport.”

The man laughed out loud and furrowed his brow at me.  “Oh?  Why at an airport?”

“I don’t know, just seems like a good place for all sorts of educational metaphors to really click.”

“Oh? Tell me more.” he said.

“Ok…well, just as with travelling, living life with diabetes is full of possibilities and opportunities.  In fact, every morning we get to face a new day with blood sugars that haven’t happened yet and strive to make the best of them.  Each day we have the power to choose what we are going to do with our health, you know, what we’ll eat, whether we’ll exercise or not, and how we’ll approach challenges.  We can get organized with our lifestyle habits and diabetes management routine for better, more consistent results.  We can choose to take inspiration and support from everything around us, from the people we encounter to the day’s weather.  We can learn to accept the risks of living with diabetes and not let them slow us down just as we choose to get on a plane so we can go somewhere even if we’re scared to do so.  We can learn to handle anticipation so we can move past unsightly blood sugar results.  We can learn how being patient doesn’t mean we have to wait forever and that eventually, we’ll get where we’re going.  We can learn how to trust others and ourselves to do the best we all can.  I just feel like the airport is a peaceful and safe place for learning, I don’t know.”

The man stared blankly at me for a moment and then scratched his head.  Then he laughed again and said, “And on the plane, we go over how to bring up diabetes with strangers by testing blood sugar in front of them.  Then they can ask questions, be educated, and hopefully feel compassion and understanding and spread that around.”

“See?  It would totally work!”

In between chuckles the man said, “It did, today.”

Living in Diabetes Land

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When I first started blogging, I interviewed someone I barely knew of but whose work in diabetes advocacy really impressed me-Manny Hernandez of The Diabetes Hands Foundation.

I asked him if he ever got tired of working in the field of diabetes social media and awareness because it seemed to me that it would be tiring or depressing.  His answer alluded to nothing of the sort.  It seemed he was happy to be so involved in all things diabetes and helping others.

This was when I blogged once a week or so because my twins were these cute, needy little infants.

The other day I was asked what one of my passions was and I struggled to answer because I wanted to say “diabetes?”  I guess what I meant is helping people with diabetes.

You can’t get me to do anything I don’t want to do.  I’m pretty darn stubborn and moody.  So lately when I spend each day writing a blog or article about diabetes, emailing people with diabetes, health coaching people with diabetes, reading about diabetes, researching on diabetes, reading diabetes blogs, interacting with people on facebook about diabetes, volunteering for diabetes advocacy, and then managing my own diabetes…well, there just isn’t another way for me to describe what it’s like than to say I live in “diabetes land”.  I know I’ve used that term before but I mean it.  And while it seemed intimidating before, now it’s just natural.

What’s funny is that while I don’t typically read too much about diabetes complications for the fear and anxiety it causes me, I don’t seem to shy away from anything else diabetes related.  I love to learn about it, read other’s experiences with it, support those who have it, and think about ways to improve my own diabetes.  I could never run out of information to delve into.  Diabetes is so complicated and fascinating and because of the variances within the human body, manifests uniquely for each person.

It’s strange because only recently have I realized others are not like this.  I respect those who are so adamant about diabetes not defining their lives that they don’t talk much about it.  I think that’s awesome and I sometimes wish I were like that.  I totally understand not wanting to confront diabetes because of fear.  And I get focusing more on daily life than on one’s chronic illness.

I guess I was always meant to be a diabetes advocate.  I have an unquenchable passion for making one’s life great alongside diabetes and for the rights of people to health and happiness despite this condition.  I don’t know if this is an asset to my own health…I like to think so.  I just have to remember to take care of me, too.

Does your passion distract you from your own diabetes?  If so, how can you redirect some of your everyday energy back into managing your diabetes?

Here’s what I do:

I set up a diabetes station, lean on others, and read some good books about diabetes.

Advocacy On the Go

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Lately, I’ve made it a point to talk to whoever is next to me when I’m on a plane.  It’s almost like an exercise for me since I’m quite a bit reserved and introverted.  But I tried it recently and was so blown away by the experience.

Just the other day, I met a woman whose family endured the holocaust.  I talked to a little boy travelling alone who was my youngest brother’s age.  He talked about baseball like there was no tomorrow.  He was a gentleman too and helped me with my luggage!  And I met someone who has a twin and provided me with insight on how I might be sensitive to my twins while raising them.  And to every person I provided a lot of diabetes advocacy information.  I felt like a travelling diabetes advocate.  In fact, I guess we could all be in our own small way, right?

We know people are largely ignorant about diabetes so if we extend a little bit of accurate info everywhere we go we can do our part to help discourage all those myths and misconceptions out there.

What I was really excited to learn is that everyone I encountered was really eager to learn more about diabetes.  Even the 13 year old asked me, “Tell me about diabetes, I don’t know anything about it but I hear the word on the news all the time.”  They know it’s a big deal and many themselves are concerned about their own health.  Also, people are smarter than we give them credit for.

I found a great way to get diabetes in the conversation, too.  Just check blood sugar while sitting next to someone.  I only did it because I needed to but it sure worked to spark an interest in the subject.  And of course, instead of lick the blood off my finger I used a wipe.  Except for in the case of the 13 year old.  I did my usual routine and he thought it was pretty cool that I just “recycled the blood back in”.  Kids say the darnest things.

For the Love of Advocacy

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I have always been very nervous about public speaking.  In elementary school I was evaluated for mental retardation because I found it so hard to speak in front of teachers and classmates.  In middle school I used my diabetes as an excuse to not have to give my speech in class “My blood sugar is high, I just can’t do it today.”  In high school, I got really goofy with my public speaking as a way to curb my fear.  I used humor and I always began by saying how nervous I was so people wouldn’t whisper to each other “she seems nervous right?”  It seemed best if they just knew and then rooted for me to not bomb my presentation.

I did several public talks about my diabetes and other topics as a teenager at camps and church youth groups.  I have done presentations for work, twice presenting in Spanish to dozens of male contractors, an intimidating crowd for me.  Each time I was sick to my stomach, trembling, and 100% in love with the idea of speaking in public.  I really enjoy it but it has made me wonder why I like torturing myself.

I think I love it because I am SO moved by public speakers.  So incredibly moved and inspired.  And if there is the slightest chance that I could do a little of that for someone else by sharing my story or struggle or anything, then the nervousness is more than worth it.

I’m hoping to participate in the A1c Champion’s program.  I’m also going to be presenting in public this year in various local workshops about nutrition and other wellness topics to people who want to hear what I have to say.  I hope to be relaxed through it all but maybe also accept that perhaps part of my nervousness is just extreme excitement over doing something I really, really want to do that just might possibly help someone.

So mostly, I think I want to do it for the love of advocacy.  Since I was little, speaking up to help someone has always been one of my favorite things.

The Sushi Pushers

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My husband gets sushi at the same place every time.  The guys at the sushi bar know him and enjoy chatting in their native language with my husband each time he stops by.  Sometimes we stop by together and they always wonder why I don’t get sushi, too.  I have always brushed it off saying I just don’t want any when the truth is that I love sushi, but I avoid rice because it makes blood sugar management a little too complicated for me.

The other day I went to this place alone and was thinking of getting my husband some sushi.  I got him the usual when I got asked the usual question in Spanish, “Why aren’t you getting any for yourself?”  I said, “No, I just don’t want any, thanks…” Then they offered me a free sample to eat on the spot from a little bowl.  For something like this I’d typically give insulin and wait a few minutes before eating.  So I didn’t take the sample.  They asked again, “Really!  Try it!  It’s got shrimp and avocado and onions!”  I have witnessed them doing this to all the customers that stopped by and rarely did anyone refuse a sample.  That all sounded delicious to me but those little sushi rolls still had rice so finally, thinking about how I’m supposed to be a diabetes advocate, I explained to the guys the real reason.  “I have type 1 diabetes and must give insulin before eating anything and I don’t want to do that right now.”

Silence.

“But you’re young and you look healthy.”  “Well, I am young and healthy.”  Then I explained what type 1 diabetes was and they asked me about how I give insulin.  I explained that I give insulin shots as needed to bring down my sugar and to cover the carbs in any food I eat.  One guy said, “I didn’t know healthy people could get diabetes…”, shaking his head slowly.  Another nodded enthusiastically and said, “Good for you, you seem very happy for a person with something so serious.”

I thanked them for listening, they assured me they would no longer push me to sample sushi, and we said “adios”.

There really are countless opportunities to advocate for our condition.  We should take these opportunities, even if someone has been rude, because if not us, then who?

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