Thursday, April 28, 2011

Just Talk.

To me, being an "advocate" for diabetes all comes down to one basic principle: being willing to just talk. It can be answering questions posed to you specifically, dispelling diabetes myths, telling your own story via blogging or forum participation, writing on the Facebook wall of a U.S. Senator... there are a lot of ways to be heard.

I've had several opportunities lately to do just that: talk. Now that I'm blogging, I notice that the people I see in my day-to-day life are more willing than they may have been in the past to fact-check with me something they heard about diabetes, or tell me that someone they know also has it, or ask me questions about my own care.

And I think that's pretty awesome.

For example, when I told one of Aaron's co-workers (who I had just met) about my upcoming diabetes-themed party and the milestone it was marking, I got a big grin and a high five. Turns out diabetes (I didn't ask which type) runs in his family, and they all get tested once a year. He seemed to totally get why I wanted to celebrate.

Then, at my diaversary party, a friend asked about my pump. We see each other pretty often but haven't had a lot of chances for in-depth discussion - our meetings usually center around football or other Reasons To Be Partying.

"So... your pump. Is that something you had to have surgery for, oooor...."

I realized that, for as much as I've mentioned diabetes around her, I've never gone into some of the important basics. Which made me feel a little bit dumb for not telling her all of this earlier - but there's no time like the present, so I went into how the pump works, where it goes, how often it gets changed out, etc.

Once a month, my employer brings in a massage therapist to do 15-minute chair massages. (And let me tell you, it's reeeeally hard to go back to work when you're post-massage and feeling halfway asleep. But I do.) She knows about my pump and CGM; I told her about my trip to DC for JDRF's Government Day. She's pretty hip to the diabetes vernacular, too. And when I saw her a few weeks back, the first thing she did was squeal, "Oh! I have something for you!", and pull out a piece of paper with a name, phone number and website on it. "I've got another client who has a daughter with type 1, and they're doing some sort of group thing? Anyway, I totally thought of you and told her about you - I hope that was okay? - and she wanted me to give you her information."

"Hope that was okay"? Heck yeah it is!

The most recent chance I had to "just talk" was with my cousin's wife, at an Easter get-together. We were standing in my parents' yard watching all of the kids play, and true to her direct nature (which I love), she just came right out and asked.

"So, no one ever talks about this, and I don't know what the answer is, so I'm just going to ask you. With your diabetes, are you able to have kids? I mean - is it safe? Because I have no idea."

(This is the part where I should note that, as one of the youngest in my generation on both sides of the family, I'm the only one left - besides my brother - who doesn't have children.)

The funny thing about this inquiry is that, perhaps asked a few years earlier, I might have been bothered by it. I wouldn't exactly have known how to answer. It would have caused me considerable stress to come with a decent answer - because, really, I wouldn't have known that answer myself.

That megaphone looks suspiciously
like a coffee mug and sleeve. Just sayin'.
Thanks to the community I've found here online, and the blogs and books I've read, I felt very prepared to answer that question with a resounding "Yep! People with type 1 have healthy babies all the time. It just takes some extra work."

This is part of why this community means so much to me - it gives me the confidence and information I need to be able to "just talk". Reading and hearing the stories of others - even from afar - gives me validation and purpose. When I talk about diabetes, I feel like I've got a team of warriors right there beside me. The words of others shape my own, in that my voice wavers less and uses bigger words.

I hope that this community does the same for you - and that the next time an opportunity presents itself, you'll be willing - and confident - to just talk.

7 comments:

  1. I have always used my diabetes and my pump as a way to engage and educate. I taught both health communication 101 and first year med students. I wore my pump prominently day 1 - and opened the first class with informal education about chronic illness. Worked every time... I am always happen to either open a conversation about pump/CGMS or respond to questions about my "2 cell phones".

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  2. Sometimes I don't like explaining though. Sometimes I want to say that is it just an MP3 player. Sometimes it's nice to pretend, or at least not get into it. Then I feel guilty. Guilty that I didn't take the time to explain, but there is such a fine line for me. It makes me happy you do explain, and I want to try harder to explain to people when they ask. Thank you :)

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  3. Hey Lauren! There are situations (and times) where I don't always want to say anything either - like at work. I guess what I meant is that in the social part of my "real life", I'm getting better at it. :)

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  4. I like your cousin's wife. When people ask, I'm happy (although, I'm beyond the pregnancy question :) ...). I much prefer someone who asks intelligent questions than those who assume and have the gall to say - "You can't eat that."

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  5. Thanks for using your voice to just talk, Kim. Keep it up!

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  6. That's so awesome! I recently learnt from one of the other tutors at work that one of our students in the art department has T1, so I'm hoping she will come talk to me if she needs advice. Privacy laws mean I can't approach her. But I'm considering creating an on-campus support group. :) one of our other T1 students unfortunately has had some nasty hypos on campus and terrified the tutors, he's pretty uncontrolled, and I learnt last month that he now has gangrene and will have his leg amputated! OMG this was a real shock - to have that happen to someone I know! I just wish I could have met him sooner and helped :(

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  7. You know, when I was in college I was happy to have the questions, discussion, etc. There was a guy who hovered nearby when I had lows because he was hoping I'd share my "giant smarties." Everybody knew back then, and it was cool. It somehow made me different, made me stand out. But since I got married and had kids, I tend to hide it. I don't know if it's because I've got my extra baby weight and don't want to get mistaken for type 2, or if I am just playing all my cards close to my chest these days. It's a rut I should get out of.

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