Saturday, November 5, 2011

Because I Knew You

Today's Prompt: 5 things that changed my life. For better? For worse? List 5 things that changed your life as a patient, caregiver, or Health Activist and how.

I'm going to go the sentimental route with today's prompt and tell you about 5 PEOPLE who have changed the way I live with diabetes in the last few years.

They're not the only 5 - there are more of you out there, but this selection is deserving of my gratitude in this month of thanksgiving.

#1 - Hubster

My husband knew I had diabetes before I told him on our first date. He is an intelligent man and had inferred it by a random reference to insulin that I'd made on my dating profile.

We had been dating about 6 weeks when I confessed to him that I was afraid of burdening someone with the baggage of my diabetes, with the knowledge that my lifespan was probably shortened, with the highs and the lows and the worries. He matter-of-factly told me never to talk like that again. Never again to say I would die young.

And he said all of that knowing that his own aunt died of diabetes at a young age - found dead in bed like so many.

From that point forward, he gave me the kick in the pants I needed, helping me gain control of my blood sugar management, helping me eat more healthily and get some exercise, helping me choose - and purchase - new tools, and ultimately directing me to the D-OC by sending me blog links. He gets credit for the 'whole grain' overhaul of my pantry, the introduction of the "if you can't describe the taste for me then you have to try it" rule against unnecessarily picky eating, the inclusion of fresh veggies, skim milk, lean meats, etc. And unfortunately I repay him by becoming a good cook and over-feeding him on a regular basis. But he gets all the credit for the adjustment in my attitude and in my basic level of care. I love you so much, Cheeseburger. So much.

#2 - Manny

Manny Hernandez is not only an entrepreneur and a visionary in terms of social media, having founded TuDiabetes, EsTuDiabetes, and the Diabetes Hands Foundation with his gifted artist wife Andreina, but I am lucky enough to call him my friend.

Working side by side with him and the other administrators at TuDiabetes, I found a camaraderie I never knew I was missing. When I was at my emotional lowest earlier this spring, Manny was on the other end of the phone.  When my husband's flight benefits first kicked in, Manny and Andre were our first trip.

I could list dozens of ways that TuD has changed my life - and Manny gets much of that credit as its creator - but he also reminds our team to take care of their diabetes and their families first. He responds to every member concern in a compassionate, generous way. And it's through his example that I lead our team of people living with diabetes to monitor and maintain the community we moderate for others living with diabetes. Big hugs, amigo.

#3 - The Evil Genius

My CDE. I told her this week that I needed a nickname for her on my blog and that I was probably going with "the evil genius." She smiled and shook her head as she plugged in my equipment to upload my data.

The Evil Genius is not only disarmingly pretty, but she is a whiz with basal rates, charts, and trends. A dietician/nutritionist by title, she's actually the best damn diabetes educator I've ever met.

When she pulls out her highlighters and calculator and starts punching away, I know I'm going to feel better tomorrow. She sees trends that I don't see. She makes adjustments that I fight with her about and later swallow my pride and thank her for. (Case in point: Yesterday, my pre-meal blood sugars were 100, 101, 100, and 113.) She makes pregnancy management infinitely easier, and she loves my daughter, who regularly destroys her office during my hour-long visits. (Sweetie grossed us out this week by insisting that she sink her toddler teeth into a giant hunk of synthetic body fat sitting on a shelf. Yum.)

The first day that I met her, the E.G. demanded I stop using my lower abdomen immediately and that scar tissue build-up was why I couldn't lose my "pouch" I kept down there. I was offended that a 20-something barbie doll dare speak of my body fat. Just who does this b-tch think she is?

This week? I was rolling down my pants behind her desk to get her opinion on my back fat.

My, how the years can change you.

And thanks to my embarrassing display of flesh, she has been the only person with a viable theory about why my cannulas keep kinking. My skin is too taut. So I'm moving my pump to my inner thighs for the next few months to see how that goes. (The first attempt at the thigh experiment was a horrible failure, but I'm going to try two different new adhesives and see if I can make it work.)

So E.G., you, my lovely friend, are a hero of mine. Thanks for your accessibility, your expertise, and your tolerance of my patient resistance. Oh, and thanks for putting up with me creating this graphic in honor of you:

#4 - Kristin

Anyone who has ever had a penpal must know the joy I've found in my friendship with Kristin. I loudly proclaim her my best D friend. She is the camp bunkmate I never had. And our emails and shared struggles always lift me.

Kristin was one of the first people I met on TuDiabetes. She was about the same age as me, newly married like me, hoping for kids like me, and living on the other half of the planet from me.

If one of us suggests something to the other, it's considered and reviewed. I chose a pump based on her recommendation, I joined a listserv she suggested, I try her tips on D management. She checks out the brands of baby stuff I use or a website I swear by. And we often remind one another of good advice once shared in one direction that now needs to be repeated in the other.

Kristin helped me lower my A1c and my postprandial numbers. She introduced me to homemade sweet potato fries and unsweetened coconut and encouraged me to cloth diaper. She stayed up ridiculously late to be on admin calls that worked for everyone else's time zones.

And she has softened my approach toward people - with and without diabetes - with her gentle and patient temperament, helping me voice everything more sweetly. Even when I'm banning someone from TuD. :)

#5 - Dr. M

My list couldn't be complete without a gracious nod to my endocrinologist. I have never felt more understood, more familiar to, or more listened to by a physician. She is the epitome of bedside manner.

I came to her in 2004, sick of being labeled noncompliant, hoping for a fresh start with someone who wouldn't judge me for my earlier missteps. Someone who would treat me as a young adult able to manage my condition.

It's through Dr M that I was referred to my CDE, to my OBs, to my ophthalmologist, to my podiatrist, to my reproductive endocrinologist, and here recently, to a savvy surgeon. When people ask me why I drive all the way into Dallas for all my different doctors, I see Dr. M's face in my mind and hear her voice. "My endo is there," I explain.

And she was. When I had Sweetie, she either stopped by my room or called - every morning and evening. She was standing there cocking an eyebrow when they wheeled in my lasagna and chocolate cake dinner post c-section. :) (I'm still jazzed about that. No broth for me!)

When I suggest a book or a website, she writes it down and gives me her thoughts on it at my next visit. When I break into tears, her hand is on my shoulder and her voice floats over me in total calm compassion. She doesn't excuse bad behavior, but she doesn't dwell on it either. She suggests a way to change it as though it's the most sensible change a person could make. She is no nonsense with a dry wit.

She once told me in no uncertain terms that I had to quit at least 1 of my 3 jobs. "Melissa, you eat more chocolate and work longer hours than I do. You're the diabetic. I'm the doctor. Do you see anything wrong with that?"  I gave notice at 2 of the 3 within a week or so. Within a month, I was apartment hunting closer to my remaining job. She tells me what I already know and need desperately to hear in a way that makes my choices clearer. She even drew a hard line for me about a challenging family situation we were in earlier this year.

I hear stories of hilarious things she says to other patients and colleagues - pulling no punches and just telling it like it is. And it always makes me smile. I get a kick out of how she rolls her eyes when I tell her ridiculous things other doctors may have said to me and the way she orders me around in a way that always suggests that she considers me perfectly competent and that I should know better than to do whatever it is I'm in trouble for - like performing home surgery on my staph infection. *blush* (Though the surgeon said I did a great job.)

She empowers me. She reaffirms what I believe when it's true, challenges what I wrongly believe about diabetes, and really knows who I am without checking her chart for my name. She gets one of my five pennies today. And though I have a very flattering photo of her (thanks to Google), I will reserve her some anonymity today and instead give you the unicorn endo.

"Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But, because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
--- from Wicked

This post was written as part of NHBPM - 30 health posts in 30 days:


  1. Great post about SIX really great people. Love you!

  2. You had me at tears with the husband part! Reading this gives me such hope! Every type 1 who has children inspires me, and I can't explain it to non-diabetics. Aside from children fears, I'm terrified of D playing a role in my future relationships, but your story gives me hope. And even the parts about your CDE and endo... I wish I had that. I don't have anything close. I get 15 minutes, and I'm pretty sure he has to look at my chart for my name. Thank you for this post! You inspire me beyond what you realize!

  3. O M G ---- that is greatness. That pictures looks just like the EG. I love it. She is adorable and amazing with the basals!! Gotta love her!!!

    Great post --- as usual. :)

  4. LOVE this!! I cannot wait to meet you! And be ready for me to steal numbers from you for both your EG & Dr.M. :)

  5. fantastic post! what a beautiful tribute to those people you love. and the part about the hubs had me thinking about josh. we are so blessed!

    also, "For Good" from Wicked has been running through my head as i read this... :)

  6. If my CDE looked like that I would call her an evil genius too! :P