My 23rd “diaversary” (anniversary commemorating the date that I was diagnosed with diabetes) is tomorrow. Yes, that also happens to be Christmas Eve.
I was four years old when I was diagnosed with diabetes…so I don’t remember life without it. I’m not the type of person who gets overly emotional when sharing her diagnosis story because it’s just a foggy memory to me. So what is the significance of my diaversary to me?
On the one hand, my diaversary is the day that my life changed forever, that I had something taken away from me, that I lost a “normal” childhood.
But on the other hand, it’s representative of the day that I was given something that gave me strength, independence, and courage unlike anything else in my life has ever given me.
I choose to focus on that latter part.
I don’t want to mourn the day that I was diagnosed with a chronic condition, I want to celebrate…and the fact that it coincides with Christmas Eve, a day that’s very special to me and so many others, is sort of beautifully poetic.
So rather than dwell on 23 years’ worth of insulin injections, fingerstick pokes, doctor appointments, and carb counting, I’m going to think about how all of those things have molded me into the person I am today: A person who has refused to let diabetes get in her way of the things she wants in life.
Most years since I’ve been a diabetes blogger, I’ve tried to write some sort of blog post in which I reflect on the things that I’m grateful for.
My Thanksgiving gratitude list hasn’t really changed year after year…I’ll always be thankful for my family and friends, the roof over my head, and the food on my plate.
But what’s changed this year is that there are some new additions to the list:
My job. Given the record unemployment numbers this year, I feel especially grateful that I have a job that keeps me safe at home.
Access to insulin. I’ve always taken my insulin accessibility for granted. I don’t struggle to afford my 90-day supply (though it would certainly make my life easier if it was cheaper) and I am fortunate enough to have a solid supply on hand at all times. I know that other people with diabetes can’t say the same: an awful reality, but one that opens my eyes to something I should never take for granted.
Video chat programs. I used Skype in college to keep in touch with my high school friends and hadn’t really given it a second thought since then…until this year, of course. Between Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype, I’m so glad that this technology exists and helps me stay connected to my friends and family members.
Essential employees. There are a number of people who I consider heroes, and those who are essential employees are among them. It’s not just nurses, doctors, or first responders – it’s also the individuals who must risk exposure on a daily basis in order to support themselves and their families. I hope they know that their sacrifices don’t go unnoticed, and that they’re beyond appreciated for what they do to help the general public in so many ways.
Diabetes itself. Yes, I am thankful for diabetes. Here’s why: I could spend all my time resenting it for (occasionally) making my life miserable. A long time ago, though, I chose to embrace diabetes for what it is. In turn, I’ve learned to be grateful for diabetes because of all it has brought and taught me…friendship, independence, discipline, and so much more. After nearly 23 years with it, how could I not find gratitude in life with diabetes? And in a year of what’s felt like perpetual change (both for me personally and for the world), I’m thankful that diabetes remains a constant that actually helps keep me grounded by being a part of my routine. I’m always going to want and fight for a cure, but for now, I actively accept my diabetes and find the positives in my life with it.
It’s true that my Thanksgiving celebrations tomorrow will be a little different than what I’m used to, but I know that one thing that will stay the same is my gratitude for it, my diabetes, and all that life has to offer.
Is anyone else remotely stunned, like I am, about the fact that the month of April is almost over?
Time certainly doesn’t seem to be passing in a normal way these days…and let’s face it, “normal” isn’t easily defined at the moment.
Rather than dwell on what’s normal and abnormal, though, I’ve had this challenge to focus on, and it’s helped immensely. In keeping with the “time is flying by” theme, I’ve already completed three weeks of it! I’m thankful that this is keeping me grounded and making me feel slightly more useful lately, and that’s what inspired this weekend’s acts of kindness…gratitude.
Friday, 4/24 – Act of Kindness #19: My dad is an essential employee. Ever since this whole thing started, he’s gone above and beyond to not only fulfill the duties of his job, but also to take care of me and my mother. He has made every trip to the grocery store for us for weeks now in order to keep us safe at home. He also runs any errands for us that would otherwise require us to go into a store. So I wanted to acknowledge him and express my gratitude for his extra efforts by writing him a card. While that can’t amount to everything he’s done for us lately by any stretch of the imagination, it was the best way I knew how to say thank you, and I think that the small gesture meant a lot to him.
Saturday, 4/25 – Act of Kindness #20: I’ve thought about essential employees a lot lately…they don’t have the luxury of working from home like I do. Medical workers, delivery drivers, grocery store clerks, and everyone in between deserve to be recognized for the hard work they’re doing (and not just during this time – they don’t receive enough thanks under normal circumstances).
That’s why I decided to recycle a cardboard box into a thank you sign for the front yard. As essential employees drive to and from work, I hope that they notice it and realize that there are so many people who appreciate them and want them to know that what they’re doing is meaningful.
Sunday, 4/26 – Act of Kindness #21: I admit that I’m definitely running out of acts of kindness ideas…so thank goodness for Google. I spent time yesterday afternoon researching more ways I can help, well, anyone while I’m stuck at home.
I got a handful of great ideas from my detective work, but the one that resonated with me yesterday is an opportunity to show gratitude for essential workers – how fitting! The volunteer effort involves making virtual cards and/or greetings for essential employees. It’s a safe way to send messages of thanks to these hardworking individuals. I volunteered and I’m waiting for notification as to how I will be conveying my words of encouragement and appreciation, but in the meantime, I figured I’d share the link to the project here so that others will hopefully see it and will want to participate, too.
There is less than a week left to my challenge…and I’ve saved some special acts of kindness for the end. Stay tuned!
Yesterday, my dear friend Emma (who I did the Ask Me About My Type 1 Podcast with) posted a daily gratitude challenge on her Instagram account. She explained that the leadership training program that she runs teaches participants to develop small habits that change your life. One is to write daily “gratitudes” that help highlight all of your reasons “why”.
I interpret my “why” as the things that keep me going – the positives that help me shine a bit brighter, and the parts of my life that I just don’t appreciate or recognize as much as I should.
So I decided to take time to list five of my “gratitudes” in today’s blog post, and like Emma, I challenge you to do the same.
Gratitude #1: My people (and pets). Goodness knows that I could and should tell the people in my life that I love them more often than I do. My people – my family, friends, coworkers – are incredible sources of strength and support in my life. They make me laugh, they are there to console me when I’m upset, and they are always generally around to offer wisdom and a listening ear when I need it. And I cannot forget my pets…Clarence the Shetland Sheepdog and Tyrion “Tater Tot” the betta fish bring me joy on a daily basis.
Gratitude #2: A roof over my head (and all things that come with that). I am so lucky to have a home to live in, a warm bed to sleep in, a kitchen to dine in, a family room to relax in…these are things that I absolutely take for granted during normal circumstances, and I can’t help but feel fortunate to have them given these strange times.
Gratitude #3: The ability to work remotely. These are trying times for working Americans…many people are without jobs right now, and I can only imagine how many families this directly and indirectly impacts. I’m appreciative of the fact that I am able to do my job (and do it well) remotely, and in that same vein, I’m glad that my department employs video chat during meetings – it truly does help me feel that much more connected to my coworkers!
Gratitude #4: The wide array of entertainment options available to me. I have so many universes, plots, and characters to explore right now through various books, television shows, movies, video games…and I finally have time to really delve into them in the coming weeks. I’m particularly looking forward to reading more – I used to positively devour books (I read the last book in the Harry Potter series in about 12 hours). My new nighttime routine is to get cozy and read for at least a half hour before going to bed. I find it to be the perfect escape. Plus, I can continue to pursue my hobbies – knitting, playing the mandolin, crafting in general, etc. – with all of this spare time I’m suddenly finding on my hands.
Gratitude #5: God. I don’t think I’ve ever discussed my religion openly online before, but I am a Catholic and I try to practice my faith in little ways on a daily basis. One thing that I do nightly is pray. When I pray, I have conversations with God, and it has brought me so much comfort in the last several weeks. And even if I wasn’t religious, I’m sure I’d still find it beneficial to meditate or reflect at the end of each day…to mull over the things that went well, and maybe some of the things that didn’t, and focus on the positives of the bigger picture.
Bonus Gratitude #6: It’s kind of (okay, definitely) weird to say that I’m grateful for diabetes…but it’s not the thing itself I’m thankful for. Hell no. Rather, it’s the other things – the people, the wisdom, the self-sufficiency, the experiences – that my diabetes has brought into my life that I’d like to express gratitude for.
Now you know some of my many “gratitudes”…why don’t you let me know yours? Tell me what you’re grateful for by dropping a comment here, or by tagging me on Instagram or Twitter. Let’s see how many people we can get to participate.
This post originally appeared on my blog at ASweetLife.org on November 26, 2013. It’s hard to believe that I wrote it nearly five years ago, but with Thanksgiving occurring tomorrow, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit it since it captures my feelings about diabetes this time of year. Of course, life has changed quite a bit in the last five years, so I’ve made a couple amendments (below, italicized) to the original…
Each year around Thanksgiving, I think about the things that I am thankful for in life. Some obvious answers come to mind: my parents. My brother, my boyfriend, my dog. The fact that I am able to attend an amazing college. The roof over my head and the food on my plate. The list could go on and on. I’m sure most of my answers are unsurprising.
But is it weird that I’m thankful for diabetes, too?
Don’t get me wrong here. Oftentimes, I resent that I have to deal with the burden that is diabetes on a daily basis. I cry about it, I get angry about it, I curse about it. I wish that it didn’t impact me or my loved ones the way that it does. I’m all too aware, however, that I cannot change the role diabetes plays in my life. All I can do is accept it. When I did that and truly thought about what acceptance means, I began to think of why I might feel blessed in some bizarre way to have diabetes.
For starters, my diabetes has brought me closer to my family. My mom and I are able to relate to each other on a different level because of it. My dad and my brother show concern and unrelenting support for us that might not be the same if Mom and I did not have diabetes.
Sometimes, I think about how even though my diabetes seems to have a mind of its own, it adds a certain degree of control regarding some aspects of my daily life. It helps me get into a routine that is pretty static. It relies on what I choose to feed myself; in this way, it motivates me to make the right choices when it comes to my diet.
And it has brought some amazing opportunities my way. Without diabetes, I would not have become president of the UMass Amherst chapter of the College Diabetes Network. I would not have discovered the Children with Diabetes: Friends for Life conference that I attended in Disney this past summer, where I made some awesome friends who keep in touch with me. And I certainly would not have begun blogging for ASweetLife.org. This experience itself has allowed me to get in touch with my feelings regarding diabetes to a greater extent. I have been able to explore my interests as an individual who loves to write. I have the pleasure of speaking with a wider variety of people within the diabetic community and hearing individual stories that I might not have ever heard.
I never would have guessed that a mere five years after writing this post, I’d be writing content for my very own diabetes blog. The creation of Hugging the Cactus is a huge diabetes-related accomplishment itself, but I’m reflecting on other diabetes changes I’ve experienced and how I’m thankful for them…so many come to mind. My OmniPod insulin pump, my improved A1c levels, new friendships formed…I’ve come a long way, and I’m grateful for every single positive experience that diabetes has brought into my life.
That’s why I’m seeing diabetes as something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I long for the day where diabetes is cured and I no longer have to think about it. But for now, I want to make the best out of something that could be perceived as the worst.
With all that said…enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday! No matter how you choose to celebrate it, remember that you are loved, you matter, and there’s people in your life who are endlessly thankful for your love and light.
This blog post is a response to a prompt provided by my friends at the College Diabetes Network, who are celebrating College Diabetes Week from November 12-16. Even though I’m no longer in college, I like to participate in CDW activities as much as possible to show my support for the CDN!
In my last Memory Monday, I touched on how CDN changed my life. But I didn’t go into great detail on how, exactly.
CDN was my first leadership opportunity as a young adult. In college, I became President of the UMass Amherst chapter of the CDN. That role came with tons of responsibilities: organizing meetings, recruiting new members, creating a constitution, getting approval from the student government, keeping track of chapter finances, electing an executive board…it was exhausting! But I was passionate about it and wanted to see it succeed, so I threw myself into the work of running a chapter. I took my role as a leader seriously, but also wanted to make sure that the group benefited everyone who decided to join it. I did my best to listen to member feedback and apply it accordingly to group meetings and activities, which I think shows that I’m a receptive leader.
And my involvement as a chapter leader is what brought me so many friendships. That’s because I was able to attend the inaugural CDN student retreat during my final year of college. That’s where I met student leaders just like me from colleges across the country. We commiserated on the hardships of running chapters as well as the challenges of having diabetes in college, and straight-up bonded for the few days we spent together. I felt that the retreat helped me come out of my shell a bit, and only molded me into a more confident leader with more resources than before that could help me run my chapter most effectively.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m eternally grateful for all the wonderful people and opportunities that CDN has brought into my life.
For the first two weeks of Diabetes Awareness Month, I’m responding to prompts provided by Beyond Type 1 on Twitter (and I’ll post a couple longer responses here). Today’s prompt encourages us to give a shout out to a healthcare provider who has made a difference in our lives. I’m not disclosing the name of my endo for privacy purposes, but that doesn’t diminish the amount of gratitude I have for her.
Thank you for always listening to me during our appointments.
Thank you for making me feel heard and never laughing at the problems I brought up that I thought were stupid or embarrassing.
Thank you for never making me feel bad about my A1c.
Thank you for reminding me that my A1c is just a number, and I’m worth more than what that value represents.
Thank you for motivating me to take better care of myself after every appointment I have with you.
Thank you for being patient with me.
Thank you for inspiring me to try new technology, and not judging me when I used to express my fears about abandoning the known for the unknown.
Thank you for asking me questions, in an effort to make sure you fully understood my thoughts and feelings about my health.