Let’s explore diabetes with owls

For those of you who are David Sedaris fans, I hope the title of this post got a bit of a chuckle out of you. For everyone else, I apologize for what probably seems like an incredibly bizarre sense of humor. But on to the diabetes part.

On occasion, I am really, truly grateful for the challenges in my life and for the ways they have shaped me. I’m not going to sit here and claim that I overcame utter poverty, a childhood as an orphan, or really any other debilitating event. I have, however, successfully lived with Type 1 diabetes for 16 years. At age 11, after months of feeling sick and rapidly losing weight, I was admitted to the local hospital to receive some medication and a lot of education. Since then, I’ve lived an incredibly full life of travel, parties, outdoor pursuits and so many other things diabetics historically were not supposed to enjoy on the same level as non-diabetics (I think we’ll call them Muggles, just for fun).

But those are the things I’m grateful for having in spite of having diabetes, not because I have diabetes. This disease has also given me so many amazing friendships I would not otherwise have. Every summer, I would go to a camp for kids with diabetes. It was the one and only time in those difficult teen years that I did actually let myself be myself. Though popular in school, I chose to hang out with the dorkier, goofy group at camp because they were so damn fun and carefree. I’ve lost touch with many of them over the years, but there are some great memories that come surging back every time an Avril Lavigne song comes on the radio. Which is not often, I’ll grant you that.

Then there are days like today when diabetes gives me a chance to give back. I was put in touch via the grapevine with a young family whose nine-year old daughter was struggling with her diabetes. When I drove out to their house today and met the family face-to-face, I realized it wasn’t the daughter who was having trouble as much as it was the parents. Not that I could blame them–it would be terrifying to let your child live a normal life when she also had to remember to test her blood sugar, bolus for any carbs she ate, watch out for lows. I spent well over an hour just chatting with the family, letting the parents pepper me with questions and doing my best to answer them. Do you wake up when your blood sugar goes low? What are some good recipes that won’t make her sugar spike? How can we keep her from drinking alcohol when she’s a teenager?

I’m pretty sure every parent wants the answer to that last question, but unfortunately I don’t have it. I certainly drank plenty in high school and college. As I was gathering my coat and purse to leave, the mother jumped up, ran out the door and came back with two dozen eggs.

“These are from our chicken coop! I don’t really have anything else to say thank you with, but please take these at least.”

I grinned and gave her a hug. If nothing else, diabetes has helped me earn 24 farm fresh eggs, and I’d say that’s something to be grateful for.

And you? How have your own challenges influenced your life? Please share any difficulty that ended up becoming a blessing in disguise.