The Cactus Corner

It seems like everywhere I go these days, there’s a cactus. (Or more often than not, cacti.) They appear in practically every form: I’ve spotted t-shirts, erasers, mugs, earrings, pool floats, and even stringed lights bearing the barbed plant’s likeness. The popularity spike of the cactus collided, by total coincidence, with the debut of my blog.

I’ve rapidly amassed a small collection of cactus items in the past year and a half, with no signs of slowing down. It’s certainly made it easier to represent my brand at all times, without even really trying. And it’s caused my family and friends to associate cacti with me – it always makes me smile when someone spots a cactus in their travels and lets me know that it made them think of me.

But even better, the cactus has spurned creativity in some of my friends who have been especially supportive of my blog and its mission since its incarnation.

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I have some incredibly talented friends.

Hence, The Cactus Corner – a little stretch of shelf space devoted to some of the cacti creations that my friends have made for me in honor of my life with diabetes as documented through this blog. There’s a cheerful, polka-dot-potted cactus that my friend hand-stitched in one section, and a painting of a blooming cactus set against a lovely pink background. Also pictured is a painfully cute pin that I’ve attached to my meter case – a portable cactus that I carry everywhere with me, along with all my diabetes supplies, as a reminder of my blog and of the diabetes obstacles I’ve overcome over the years.

The Cactus Corner is small and humble, but it represents so much to me. It is tangible evidence of the friendships I’ve been blessed with in life. It’s also symbolic of how I’ve chosen to embrace diabetes – pricks and all – for what it is.

So as my Cactus Corner continues to grow and thrive, I will, too.

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The DOC: The 24/7 Support System I Never Knew that I Needed

I’ve lauded the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) time and time again for connecting me with individuals globally who are also affected by type one diabetes. And I don’t foresee an end to my desire to express gratitude for this amazing community, because over and over, members of it continue to blow me away with their words of encouragement and gestures of friendship.

My latest wave of gratefulness was spurred when I arrived home from work on Monday to a cheerful, Tiffany-blue envelope waiting patiently for me to open it. It was a delightful little package from my friend Sarah, who I “met” via Instagram over the summer. Besides diabetes, we share common interests in fitness, wellness, our pet dogs, and bright colors, among other things.

Sarah went out of her way to mail me a few goodies (shown in the picture), including a cute T1D key chain and an adorable cactus card with a message of support written inside. I was incredibly, pleasantly surprised by all of it. It wasn’t about the material items for me (though they are totally my style, and I can’t wait to make use of them). It was more so how she took the time to put it all together for me, cleverly incorporating some of the things that introduced us to one another in the first place, that really blew me away.

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Sweet trinkets from a sweet friend!

It got me thinking about the larger diabetes community I’ve met and harvested friendships with in the last several years. And as hard as it is for me to properly describe the level of richness, knowledge, and support that those friendships have given to me, it’s beyond easy for me to say that I am infinitely thankful for all of them, and I hope that in return, I am able to offer at least a fraction of the same to others.

With all that said, it’s even more mind-blowing to me that I resisted this community for such a long time. For the first 14 years or so that I lived with diabetes, I rejected the notion that I needed peer support to help me manage the emotional and physical aspects of diabetes. I turned down offers to go to diabetes camp. I didn’t interact with the only two other diabetics in my school’s district because I feared social isolation. In some situations, I even pretended that I didn’t have diabetes, because my yearning to be normal like everyone else overpowered my need to make my health a priority.

That’s why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that things started to turn around when I met other T1Ds my age. That marked the point where I could have open, honest conversations with others who were going through similar life events at the same time as me, without the judgments or criticisms I may have had to endure if I had those same conversations with family or doctors. While I know that I need to give myself and my personal growth some credit for improving how I manage my diabetes, I would be remiss if I did not also attribute some of that credit to the members of the DOC who have made meaningful contributions to my life and my outlook on it.

It’s funny that something special in the mail made me contemplate all of this, but Sarah’s thoughtful package to me is a tangible representation of how connections within the DOC have changed me for the better.

Thank you, Sarah, and another big thank you to those of you in the DOC that I have met, as well as those I have yet to meet.

Memory Monday: That Time I was Bullied for Having T1D

One Monday per month, I’ll take a trip down memory lane and reflect on how much my diabetes thoughts, feelings, and experiences have unfolded over the years. Today, I remember…

…when my alleged “best friend” picked on me for having diabetes. It sucked.

Let me recount this tale by saying first that this was many years ago – I think it was in third or fourth grade. Since my grade school days, I’ve made much smarter choices when it comes to my social circles.

But back then, I didn’t really know any better. I just wanted to be friendly with everyone.

I digress…

Back in elementary school, we were awarded fitness “medals” for being able to complete a series of exercises in physical education. These medals were really just flimsy little patches that you could sew on to a backpack, but nevertheless, I wanted one very badly. But no matter how hard I tried in gym, I just couldn’t complete as many reps as it took to earn a medal. I was always just shy of the threshold, much to my frustration.

I’ll never forget when my “best friend” told me that there was a very obvious reason as to why I couldn’t, and would never, earn a medal:

It’s because she has diabetes, she can’t do anything right with that!

In that moment in time, I was too dumbstruck by the stupidity of that comment to tell her that she was wrong. I was also incredibly hurt by her words, and they haunted me for many years after they were so callously said to my face.

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My Lilly medal means more to me now than a stupid grade-school medal ever could.

Now, as an adult reflecting on it, I wish I had told her that diabetes could never stop me from doing anything. I wish I told her that she was in the wrong for saying what she said, and I wish that she could see all that I’ve accomplished over the years in spite of my diabetes.

But most of all? I wish I could thank her for that comment – because as mean as it was, it gave me something to think about on the days when I just want to quit because of diabetes. Her words serve as a reminder to me that I can and will succeed at anything I set my mind to, diabetes and all.

I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends (Diabetes Edition)

Let me introduce you to Nelly Needle:

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A cactus filled with needles that don’t prick is my kind of cactus.

This adorable cactus-in-a-cup was handmade for me by one of my dear college friends, Emma. She made it for me for my birthday and I nearly cried tears of gratitude when she gave it to me. I felt the same way when another college friend, Kira, sent me a box for my birthday that contained a thoughtfully-chosen book and a cute little cactus pin that now adorns my meter case.

Emma and Kira, as well as our other friends from college, probably don’t realize how nervous I was to explain my diabetes to them when we first met. All my friends from back home had known about my diabetes growing up; as a result, it’d been a very long time since I had to open up about it to brand new people. I worried that they wouldn’t accept it or would treat me differently after learning about it.

I’m happy to say that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within the first few days of my freshman year of college, I found the group of people that I wanted and needed to have in my life. They were not only accepting of my diabetes, but genuinely curious about it. They peppered me with questions that I was pleased to answer and marveled at my ease with injecting myself in the middle of the dining commons. To this day, they still express interest and desire to learn about diabetes, which means more to me than words can express.

The cacti I’ve amassed over the last few months, courtesy of my friends, serve as daily reminders that I 1) have some really incredible and supportive friends and 2) should always remember to embrace diabetes for what it is, needles and all.