As we learned in the previous installment of the series, frustrating questions can segue into enlightenment. In this post, I’m starting with a positive note instead of leaving you hanging until the end. The topic? Diabetes Allies.
You know the deal: You’re walking the dog, ordering a drink or a sandwich at a counter, or otherwise going about your life—and then you see it. The glint of shiny plastic. The telltale orange of a syringe. If you’re like me, a test strip is worth a thousand words and is an invitation to jovially sidle up to a new person with whom you may not have ever spoken before: “Do you have diabetes? I have diabetes, too!”
Such a direct approach may not resonate with everyone, and I respect that. Maybe you are reading this, thinking, “I am the person Katie always approaches and I really need to do a better job of looking like I’m in a hurry and/or very distracted.” I get it. Sometimes just knowing I’m not alone supersedes an introduction, and sometimes I just don’t feel like talking about diabetes and increasing its presence in my life even further—but I am sitting here writing about diabetes and thinking about diabetes and wondering if this sentence about diabetes is funny, so here we are. Diabetes diabetes diabetes. Diabetes.
Do you ever have moments when you’re so over it and can’t stop cursing diabetes, and then all of a sudden it appears in your face to mock you? That’s how I see these unexpected conversations about diabetes, which can be surprising and, despite my occasional resistance, can even be pretty decent day-brighteners. Here are a few anecdotes to illustrate how these chance encounters can benefit both the approach-er and the approach-ed:
- While hanging out with friends, I noticed that someone I had just met was also wearing an insulin pump. I pointed this out by showing her my own pump. She did not seem as thrilled as I was to discover this; I recognized her “diabetes is fantastic for everyone but me” expressions as I’ve felt that way on more than one occasion. Although we didn’t get in-depth about diabetes, I learned that she was traveling and having trouble finding test strips in the U.S. that were affordable without health insurance. We quickly became Facebook friends and I was able to help my new (“official”) travel/diabetes friend who was in a sticky situation.
- I was out at a bar recently when a woman tapped me on the shoulder. “Is that your Dexcom?” she asked, referring to the CGM on my arm. “My husband has diabetes and he never knew you could put it there!” We ended up having a long conversation, right there in the bar, about pumps and CGMs. At first, I kept it simple and wanted to get back to my friends; eventually, I realized that this woman spends a lot of energy supporting her family, including her spouse with diabetes, and talking with a stranger about how to restart a CGM while she was in the middle of a bachelorette party with her friends probably wasn’t her top priority at the moment, either. When the opportunity for support presents itself, it’s a good idea to take it, no matter how random it may seem at the time.
- I was taken by surprise the other day when a colleague I’d never conversed with before called me out on having an insulin pump the other day. We exchanged diagnosis dates and commiserated about the annoyance of blood sugar swings while working. It actually changed my whole day and I felt better knowing that I wasn’t the only one who put up the “Will Return in Five Minutes” sign when my blood sugar was high.
After all, that’s why we speak up, isn’t it? Because it feels good to know we’re not alone. That’s why you’re reading this blog, right? Whether you have diabetes or you love someone who does, making new friends who are in similar situations serve as comforting reminders of that.
How do you feel when a fellow PWD approaches you? Imagine you’re stuck in front of me in the checkout line at the grocery store and leave your answer in the comments below.