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.