Last week was a very busy diabetes week for me. I started the week in Phoenix, Arizona with the Monday meeting of Valley Pumpers. I headed back to Minnesota midweek and attended the JDRF-sponsored Adults with Type 1 program. On Saturday I joined a group of Type 1’s who hang out every other month for a couple of hours at Panera Bread. That’s a lot of diabetes fellowship for six days and is certainly not how I would have optimally scheduled my week. In fact someone suggested (you know who you are!) that I needed a new hobby. But I had a good time at each event and would have been disappointed to miss any of them.
I’ve never been one to Tweet my whereabouts and I don’t think that you want to read about the minutiae of my conversations at each meeting. I also don’t think you want to see my outfit or know what I ate or drank. What makes these meet-ups blog-worthy is the juxtaposition of them with a Saturday post by Wil Dubois at Diabetes Mine. Wil writes a weekly column called Ask D’Mine in which he thoughtfully and/or humorously gives answers to letters and questions submitted by readers. Saturday’s letter was from a longtime Type 1 who was frustrated/offended/astounded by the “Mickey Mouse” cheerfulness that he perceived dominated the newsroom at Diabetes Mine. He couldn’t understand the excitement at Diabetes Mine over new technology and new medications. He is plagued with many complications and seems trapped in a very dark place with his diabetes.
After assuring the gentleman that no one at ‘Mine finds diabetes to be fun to live with, Will eloquently explained the attitude of his fellow Type 1 writers:
There’s a difference between making hell sound like fun, and having fun with hell. We’re stuck in this nasty old broken-down house, and all we can do is choose how to decorate it. I cope with black humor. That works for me. Others among my peers are snarky, or analytical, or philosophical. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with the un-dealable.
We just manage, the best we can.
There is no doubt that those of us in the DOC have fun and revel in the absurdities of a life spent poking ourselves with sharp objects and dealing with the chronic frustration of trying to manage the unmanageable. We learn from each other, we inspire each other, we support each other. We laugh at each other, we cry together. Occasionally we bug the heck out of each other. Tweet after Tweet, blogpost after blogpost, Facebook photo after Facebook photo, and one day we discover that we have become friends.
I wonder how the gentleman would have viewed my week. Could he have participated in any of these meet-ups and come away with a little bit of appreciation for his fellow Type 1’s and a little bit of enjoyment from having spent time with them? Would an hour or two spent laughing, complaining, supporting, and learning with other pancreatically-challenged individuals have helped bring a glimmer of sunshine into his diabetes life?
I would have liked to have him join us at our Panera Bread lunch on Saturday. He could have spent time with a group of people who genuinely like each other and feel that our lives are enriched by knowing each other. He could have talked about diabetes, alert dogs, and Symlin and then learned about Scott’s new car, Ann’s two grandchildren due in December, and Allison’s first Minnesota winter. I mentioned the Diabetes Mine article and asked: “If you knew that you would lose all of your online and offline diabetes friendships, would you choose to have never had diabetes?” Without a moment of hesitation, Katie expressed the universal sentiment of “Hello, Life with No Diabetes, and Bye-bye, Diabetes Buddies!” (You’re right, Katie, but you could have at least hesitated a moment before replying.)
The gentleman from Diabetes Mine would have also seen that although we have lots of fun, none of us is naive about the evils of Type 1. How could we be after being told of Mike’s young friend who recently lost a leg due to diabetes? How could we be when there was an empty chair at the table because of the death of Dean Devalerio this winter? How could we be when we read about the eye problems that Kerri and Sarah are experiencing? How could we be???
The Diabetes Mine post was labeled Ask D’Mine: Anger Isn’t the Only Option (Part 1). I am very curious to know what Part 2 will bring us on Saturday.
But until then, I’ve been called worse than Mickey Mouse….