As I say farewell to 27 and welcome a new year of life, I can’t help but reflect on how different the world was this time last year.
The pandemic was in full(er) force. The new normal was just establishing itself. Each day was scary and uncertain as hopes for a vaccine any time soon were somewhat bleak.
Fast-forward to the present: As the weather gets warmer, social distancing and masking guidelines are easing. More and more people are getting vaccinated on a daily basis. While we’re far from returning to life before the pandemic, we’re definitely much closer to being able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life (such as hugging a family member or friend) with less anxiety.
So even though the milestones I met in my 27th year (buying my first home, getting my puppy, surviving heartbreak and falling in love again, to name a few) are things that I celebrate daily, I’m also really looking forward to the minutiae of the next 365 days…seeing my family and friends in-person more frequently, breaking out of the bubble (safely, of course) that is my home, going to new and old places for both familiar and unknown experiences…in other words, I’m excited to embrace the things that I took for granted pre-pandemic.
I’m hoping that year 28 brings a whole lot of “great” with it: lots of love, joy, adventures, and hugs from all the people that I’ve missed hugging in the last year or so. Just like with everything else in my life, I’ll bring my diabetes along for the ride and celebrate it, too, because it just makes me appreciate all the things that make life worth living that much more.
Tomorrow, one of my favorite diabetes non-profits – the College Diabetes Network (CDN) – celebrates its 10th birthday!
All I can say is…wow. A whole decade of CDN doing beyond amazing, impactful things for the diabetes community.
I’m not an active member of an existing CDN chapter today, but I used to be. In fact, I was the President of the UMass Amherst chapter of the CDN for close to three years when I was an undergrad there. And it just so happens that my time as President coincides with the time that CDN was really just beginning, meaning that it’s been my honor and privilege to witness it thrive from its origin.
I will never, ever forget being coerced – I mean, attending – a talk at a local college with my mom in which college students and parents sat together on a panel and spoke to high school students (like me, at the time) about the college experience…mainly, how to handle the transition from having my parents help me manage my diabetes to gaining more independence and accountability for it as a young adult away from home.
At this talk, I met Tina Roth, the founder and CEO of CDN. Actually, I didn’t just meet her – we chatted for a bit about how I was going to her alma mater, UMass Amherst, and that there was this little group on campus there called the College Diabetes Network. She told me I should check it out in the fall and think about joining in case I had the desire for peer support when it came to juggling diabetes and college life.
I didn’t know it then, but that conversation and my subsequent action to attend a CDN meeting changed my life.
Through my involvement with CDN, I was introduced and understood for the first time in my life the value of peer support when living with type 1 diabetes. As someone who rejected it her entire childhood, it was brand-new to me as an adult and an incredibly powerful tool that I believe helped me navigate college as a PWD in an informed, healthy, positive, and self-assured way.
My involvement with CDN gave me confidence: as both a student leader and as a person living with diabetes.
My involvement with CDN gave me exposure: to other students just like me across the country, to new technologies, to resources that improved my quality of life.
My involvement with CDN gave me a career path, for goodness’s sake: It reinforced that I’m a writer. I became a T1D blogger through an opportunity that became available to me because of CDN. I was able to put both my CDN leadership experience as well as my blogging skills on my resume that lead me to the full-time job that I have today.
My involvement with CDN gave me so much more, too…lifelong friendships being among the most important. I met the most inspiring, motivated, intelligent, and kind people through CDN. I love keeping up with them via social media and pre-2020, I was even able to catch up with some of them in person. And I can’t wait for the day that we can do that again.
There is no doubt in my mind that CDN changed my life. And I’m just one person. To think that they’ve continued to grow and expand, with more and more chapters being created at colleges across the country, and more and more people learning about their mission to provide young adults with T1D the peer connections they value, and expert resources they need, to successfully manage the challenging transition to independence at college and beyond.
Happy birthday, CDN. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, and thank you for all that you continue to do for countless young adults. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years look like for you!
Today’s blog post is taking a personal turn because I’m using it to wish an extra-special birthday to my big brother!
It’s a milestone birthday – let’s call it age 29.999999 – and as such, I wish that I could celebrate it with my brother in person. But seeing as he lives about a thousand miles away from me (no exaggeration), coupled with the fact that travel isn’t exactly something that I personally feel is a smart idea right now, we’ll have to settle for a virtual celebration at the moment.
So before I continue with this birthday post, one thing you should know about my brother is that he’s just about the polar opposite of me in every sense of the word – I’m 5’3, he’s over 6 feet tall. I have blue eyes, blonde-ish hair, and fair coloring, whereas he has brown eyes and hair, and a much tanner complexion. And I choose to share my life pretty freely on the Internet (case in point: this blog), but he’s much more private in comparison. (As a result, my bro shall be known as “my brother” to help maintain his privacy.)
And now to tie everything together a bit – this blog about diabetes, this post for my brother, and my relationship with him – another thing you should know is that I don’t have a single memory in my lifetime of my brother treating me differently because of my diabetes.
I’ve never heard him complaining about living with two T1D women (my mom and I), not once.
I’ve never felt judged by him for any choices I’ve ever made about my diabetes.
I feel like he may be the only person that I’ve ever met (and possibly will ever meet) who is completely, 100% impartial to my diabetes…and that’s really cool to me, for a bunch of reasons. But mainly because I think he realizes that I have plenty of other sources in my life that will judge me, treat me differently, or react in some way to one or more facets of my life with diabetes, so he just stays out of it.
I’m thankful for that.
One final thing you should know about my brother (besides today being his birthday, how different he is from me, and how nonchalant he is about my diabetes) is that he’s pretty effing fearless – he goes beyond being chill about my diabetes, he is chill about errrrrythang. He moved to a brand-new state, met all sorts of new people, found a nice living situation, started a new job, and oh, he also got into the best shape of his damn life and has officially run a marathon and become a certified personal trainer, all in the last three years. And he’s acted borderline blasé about all of his achievements. Like, WTF!!! In contrast to my high-stress, always-anxious, and wound-up-tight self, he’s the coolest cucumber and I hope that he knows I’m proud of him and can’t wait to see what he does next.
Happy birthday, bro – please don’t be mad at me for telling the world (okay, the 7 people who read this blog) about how awesome you are.
Well, today is my 26th birthday. As I alluded to a few months ago in another blog post, I’ve pretty much been dreading this particular birthday.
Today’s the day I’ve got to switch health insurance carriers. I’m going off my parents’ plan and signing up for the employee plan offered by my company.
Am I nervous? Yes. Am I scared? Hell yes. But am I alone? Hell, no. I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I’ve got so many resources in my life – family, friends, the DOC – who will help me navigate the confusing world of health insurance.
I’m also well aware that many, many other T1Ds have been in this position before me. While it’s impossible to forget the horror stories about people who have been unable to afford their medication due to a lack of insurance coverage, or who have a hard time paying for insulin and other diabetes supplies in spite of having health insurance, there’s so many more people who have found ways to make it work without having to sacrifice their health or general well-being.
So I’m going to focus on how blessed I am to have resources all around me, as well as a job that offers decent health insurance (or just a job, period…there’s plenty of jobless people out there who have double the hurdles to jump over compared to someone like me). Today, I won’t dwell on my fears and anxieties about health insurance. Instead, I’ll celebrate another year of life and enjoy the day.
October 2, 2017: The day that I hit the “publish” button and Hugging the Cactus went live.
I can’t believe it’s been one year (and one day) since this blog was officially born. So much has happened in my life in the last 365 days, both related and not related to my diabetes.
And this blog has gone through so many changes in that time span. From aesthetic to logistical, it’s been a (welcome) challenge to figure out the best way to write and run Hugging the Cactus. I’ve learned so many new things along the way and I continue to learn more on practically a daily basis.
Although I wish that diabetes wasn’t a part of my life – or anyone’s life – I’m grateful that I’ve mostly made peace with it after 20 years of living with it. Actually, scratch out the “living with it” and replace it with “thriving with it”. I used to think that was totally cheesy, but that phrase really does encapsulate what it’s like to be undeterred by diabetes.
I’m also grateful for you, the reader. There are times in which I question why I write this blog. Those times are fraught with self-doubt, writer’s block, and listlessness. But then someone reaches out to me – directly through the blog, via social media, or even in-person – and they offer support or let me know that my writing has resonated with them in some way. And that, right there, reminds me why I write this blog: to connect with others, to remind people in the diabetes community who deal with this isolating chronic illness that they’re not alone, and to raise general awareness of T1D. There are many people in this amazing tribe of ours who write better blogs, take prettier pictures, and impact a larger audience than I do, but like them, I’ve found my own voice that has allowed me to channel my experiences with diabetes in my unique, storytelling way. And I plan on continuing to do so for a long time to come.
So thank you, reader, for stopping by here three times a week and supporting my mission. I hope that you enjoy the next year’s worth of Hugging the Cactus. For now, let’s celebrate today by reminding ourselves that we’re more than our current blood sugar values or A1c levels. Celebrate by choosing to do more than just live: thrive.