Diabetes Roulette

NeonAs I was discharged from Joslin’s inpatient treatment unit after my diagnosis, we stopped in the clinic gift shop (What a silly euphemism for pharmacy) for it. My parents insisted.

It was ugly.

Institutional. Klunky. An eyesore.

And a constant reminder that I had, as it was engraved on the back of it: DIABETES.

The firecracker red caduceus symbol was like a neon sign to strangers, both adults and children. The conversations were:

ADULT VERSION

“Are you allergic to penicillin?”

“No, I have diabetes.”

The Look* came next and the inevitable Greek tragedy of some loved one who was afflicted with this horrible, wretched, unforgiving disease and was now dead. (Don’t get me wrong. It’s horrible, wretched, and unforgiving, but I was twelve. A mature twelve, but I was still scared out of my wits. You don’t say stuff like that to a kid. Ever.)

*The Look can only be described as the reaction on your face when you accidentally punt a puppy into a wall or fart in a quiet room full of people you want to impress. A painful, pitiful, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that this is happening…” expression. You know The Look. 

CHILDREN VERSION

“What’s that?”

“I have to wear it because my parents said so. I have diabetes.”

“Whatever. It’s pretty shiny.”

Fin.

I preferred the children’s style of conversation, obviously.

I dutifully wore it everywhere and just gritted my teeth every time I looked down at my wrist. For a while, I shoved it under my Swatch® watch and hoped that no one would notice. By the time I was sixteen, that stainless steel shackle was thrown into the bottom of the jewelry box. Sayonara.

In an attempt to get me to wear something in case I passed out in public, my parents bought a prettier, delicate gold one. It got some play, but joined the first one at the bottom of the box.

“Stainless, meet Gold. You’ve got so much in common.”

Years went by and when the mood hit, I would pull out Gold and slap it on. When I went on vacation or when I was traveling for business. Never when I was out “hitting the clubs” (Gah, what a horrible phrase…), when I probably needed it most.

RevolverDiabetes Roulette. 

That’s what I was playing. For stupid, vain reasons. I didn’t want people to know that I had diabetes. I didn’t want to talk about it, didn’t want people to know me as “the chick with diabetes” (rather than “the chick with the classic, dry wit” – they didn’t know me as that either, but I could dream…), didn’t want to be judged if I was stuffing my face with a doughnut or a Big Mac.

Even after I began wearing a pump, I would still not regularly wear a bracelet. I bought a Sports version for kicks, but it joined Stainless and Gold in the box (which was starting to get crowded…)

I didn’t when I began wearing a CGM. Why? Wasn’t it obvious? Neon signs – two of them now. (And these items even beep!)

Goodness, it wasn’t like people couldn’t see those items strapped to me like a mad bomber in the marketplace. And I wasn’t shy about my diabetes anymore. I’ll talk about it to anyone who asks and I tend to push back when they start up the kidney or amputation monologue.

Know what changed?

I was sitting in a session at the Friends for Life Conference in a highly emotional (at least for me) session: “Parenting with Type 1 Diabetes”, listening to someone I admire greatly say:

“I have my children’s names on my ID bracelet so that if something happens, the first responders can call them by their name.” 

At that moment, my selfish Diabetes Roulette game was over.

If something ever happened to me in public, I want my daughter to be safe and spoken to gently by her name. I want my husband to come get her or to be informed of what was happening.

I am wearing  one of those ID bracelets now (Blaze orange Sport, if you must know, which makes Stainless look downright sedate), waiting impatiently for the new Lauren’s Hope one with my daughter’s name and my husband’s phone number engraved on the tag.

It will be a constant reminder that I have diabetes.

And a family.

And that both need to be cared for when I can’t.

 

 

0 comments
  1. Great post and another good argument as to why we should all wear a Medical ID of some sort. I wore a gold necklace for years and years. Most of the time now I wear one from Lauren’s Hope. I get lots of compliments on my nice bracelet, but not once has anyone commented on the medical tag part of it. I don’t know if that is good or bad.

    1. I’m wondering the same thing- will it be recognized as a medical ID bracelet when it needs to… Time will tell, but then again, I hope we never have to find out.

  2. You can certainly write a “perfect” post, woman. You had me laughing at mad bombers and literally in tears at the end. Super big enormous hugs to you, my friend.

  3. Wow.Tears-that’s an argument that trumps all the others to pieces. I’ve never enjoyed wearing a medical alert(so yeah, I don’t) but your post has me seeing the issue in a new light, every mom wants her kiddo to be safe/slightly more secure. Thank you for writing this.

  4. I love the way you write… it just sucks me in.
    Like Laddie, I wear get compliments on my ID bracelet but if people notice it’s also a medical ID, they don’t say anything. I bought a Lauren’s Hope bracelet with a white caduceus and a friend mistook it for a flower once. I hope that if the situation ever arises, someone will check my wrists because anymore, some of the most stylish accessories give really valuable information!

  5. This definitely resonates with me, lack of children notwithstanding. The only time I ever wore a MedicAlert bracelet, was, weirdly, to impress a guy (long story). I still don’t wear one, hoping my pump will speak for itself. You do bring up an interesting point: why, if I’m so open about my diabetes and I now wear a pump, can’t I bring myself to add the bracelet? Perhaps something about the cumulative weight of it all. Great post.

  6. I remember those silver, rectangular bracelets you speak of. They were ugly. I didn’t have that kind. I had the stainless-steel football shaped one that had an entire medical history engraved in tiny letters on the back – but was still ugly. At some point in my youth, I don’t remember when or why, I stopped wearing it.

    (I’ve gotten the “are you allergic to penicillin” question too; but like a hyperactive salesperson, I’d respond “Yes! But that’s not all!!”)

    At some point, myself and another kid were sitting next to each other at the pediatric endocrinologist’s office — the doctor thought it would be a good idea to put patients together so we didn’t feel so alone, and the nurse talking to us asked “do you wear a medical alert bracelet?” My companion proudly extended his wrist. I put my hands in my pockets and never felt so ashamed in my life.

    Some memories stick, and serve as a constant reminder — that one did it for me.

    (I still wear a football-shaped bracelet, though this one is gold and the logo is not nail-polish-red, but I am looking to replace it soon — and I love all the comments, recommendations, and feedback I’m reading around the DOC!)

  7. Great post, C. Thanks for sharing yet another good reason to wear one.

  8. I absolutely didn’t want to wear a bracelet (even though I’m also allergic to penicillins and latex), but after reading this post, and then looking at Lauren’s Hope, I feel I should send you my bill. Or you should get commission. Or I’ll just thank you. 🙂

    1. Which one did you get? I absolutely adore mine. So weird, eh?

      1. Oddly enough, when I graduated from college in December (I’m far from the “typical” college age), I had wanted a Tiffany & Co. Infinity necklace.

        Fast forward to now and I ordered the Infinite Beauty in black with the oval filigree id tag.

        Seriously, so glad you posted about Lauren’s Hope. The thought of ordering something from MedicAlert was depressing.

  9. […] is an invisible disease. Yes, we may wear insulin pumps and CGMs and medical alert bracelets, but if we are doing it right, people can’t tell we live with a chronic illness. (And […]

  10. […] the time I was going to him, I wasn’t wearing my diabetic alert bracelet and hadn’t even thought about an insulin pump. I’ve never hidden my diabetes to […]

  11. […] It took a long time before I was comfortable checking my blood sugar in public or even bringing notice of my diabetes anywhere. (I didn’t want to even wear a medical ID.) […]

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