All of my life, I’ve been told “you are in a world of your own!” Whether it was meant as a compliment or an insult, I chose to tune it out. 🙂 I never really thought of myself as “unique” by any means, but I guess there was some truth to it – I’ve got a goofy sense of humor, I’m highly entertained by awkward moments, I have particular taste in foods, and I’m not one to hold back my opinion on random issues. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed WITH diabetes in high school, though, that I started to take those comments seriously. I suddenly had to deal with something that no one else around me had. I went through emotions and struggles that no one else around me understood. I DID feel like I was in a world of my own!
For years, I chose to keep all of that to myself. I only told my friends and family what they needed to know. You know, so they didn’t think I was going psycho when I was simply having a sugar low…stuff like that. And for years, I didn’t know a single soul who also had Type 1 diabetes, so no one could relate. Until, that is, I met one person in college that also had Type 1. We weren’t friends by any means, in fact, we didn’t get along at ALL. However, whenever there seemed to be an issue where she was suffering from her diabetes, or vice versa, we were the first to be there and help. It was strange, but it was a sort of bond the two of us shared that no one understood (or even knew about!).
I had a similar situation happen to me last month that warmed my heart in a weird way. I was at a trade show, talking to some customers when a vendor at a nearby booth tapped me on the shoulder. He told me my insulin pump had been beeping and just wanted me to know. At first, I was a bit freaked out – how did he know I had diabetes? Did I forget to rip that stupid label off my forehead??? Then I was touched to think that some stranger cared to alert me that my alarm had been going off (instead of getting annoyed that someone nearby was beeping). After talking to the guy, it turned out that he also had Type 1 diabetes and had seen my Omnipod (on the back of my arm) so he recognized the beeping alarm linked to it that was coming from my purse. In that moment, I had an instant bond with this guy. Even though he was a complete stranger from a competing company who I might never see again, I felt this small sense of unity between us that said, “I get you! We’re in this together!”
Now, before any of my friends jump up and ask if numbers/dates were exchanged, it wasn’t THAT kind of connection. It was more a form of community that I’ve begun to embrace. When diagnosed with an illness of any kind, it can sometimes feel like you are suddenly isolated – given some new “issue” that makes you different or separate from everyone else. While it does make you different, it doesn’t have to separate you from the people you know and love!
By keeping my issues to myself, I was only isolating myself and closing off any support or help that my friends and family could offer. It wasn’t until a group of friends had an intervention with me to be truthful and open up to them that I finally started sharing with them the details of what I was going through (and the beginning of this blog!). They immediately stepped up and helped out in more ways than I could ever have expected! They made a huge difference in helping me get through all the challenges of my transplant, and continue to do so as I maneuver my way through many other on-going health adventures. 🙂
I’m not saying I now walk around carrying a sign saying “Look at me! I have a bunch of crazy health things going on and YOU have to hear about it!” Nor do obsess or make it the sole focus of who I am, but by keeping that door open, and not hiding my issues, I’ve gained many new friends and connections! I now get together regularly with a local group – DADA (Dallas-Area Diabetic Adults) – and volunteer as much as I can with JDRF. I’ve also been asked several times to reach out to people who have been newly diagnosed with kidney failure or celiac disease to help them get through their fears or confusion (people I now consider my new friends). I love being surrounded by people who share this thing (whatever it may be) we have in common. We “get” each other and speak the same “language”. We don’t have to explain why we feel the way we feel at times because we’ve all been there and understand. Most importantly, we support each other without judgement. That’s what community is all about. It’s not a luxury – we need it.
So for all of you out there who feel you have to fight your battles alone, please don’t. Life is so much easier and enjoyable when you can open up about it and reach out to those that want to help. Go online and find a support group. Look up associations that support your cause. Talk to your friends and family. You never know who you’ll meet or who those people might introduce you to!
Things I’m thankful for today:
1. I am surrounded by amazing people who love me for who I am! *heart*
2. Thanksgiving is next week! I’ve never been excited about turkey, but our family’s tradition of eating whatever we want (not turkey) has become something I totally look forward to! (yay appetizers!)
3. I have a solid roof over my head. All of the news about the California fires is heartbreaking! My thoughts go out to all of them and what they’ve lost. I hope they are all able to find more permanent shelter soon!
4. That my friend Kerrie’s BFF is showing improvement from her stroke. We continue to pray for her quick recovery so she can come home soon!
5. Having a job! I’m so glad I’ll be able to shop for Christmas!
6. Christmas fairs. On the note of shopping, these may be a bit cheesy, but they offer some cool ideas for Christmas gifts. 🙂
I’m always a day late and a dollar short! Yesterday was North Texas Giving Day, where everyone is encouraged to help donate to their favorite charity. I was totally planning on posting at that point, but realized too late that I missed it. So, what to do? I walk the runway as any diva would and say, “Who’s late? I’m just making a more memorable appearance!”
Sooooo… to go on with the show, this year I’d like to shine the spotlight on a charity I’ve mentioned before that is truly beneficial to everyone involved – Taylor’s Gift. I’ve mentioned their story in a previous post, but their entire focus is on organ donation – a cause that is obviously near and dear to me. It impacts us all in that you never know if and when you’ll ever be in a situation where your life is dependent on the offer of another person’s organ -whether due to a freak accident, a disease, or a random bear attack at the zoo! Seriously, it could happen!
On the flip side, we have all been touched by a loved one who has passed, and having to make logistical decisions about what to do next while trying to grieve seems a near impossible task. We all need the support, and this group offers that. They offer hope for both sides of the story – for those needing life, and those who want to continue the lives of lost loved ones – while also educating everyone about the process and immediate need for donors.
I was able to volunteer at their 4th Annual Outlive Yourself Awards dinner this week, and once again, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house! I’ve met some great people via this group, and it literally gives me goosebumps to see how many people in that one room have actually had their lives changed by the donations they’ve received! The auction raised more than $60K that night to put towards a stand-alone Organ Donation center that will be built in Dallas, and they announced a partnership with Nike to create Outlive Yourself socks! How fun is that?? Anyway, if you are interested in donating (money- or organ-wise) please visit their site to register or give. It’s one way you can truly outlive yourself while helping others! I can only picture Taylor strutting her way to Madonna if she only knew how her legacy has lived on. 🙂
Things I’m thankful for today:
1. Having a family that is just as passionate about giving back as I am! My mom has told me that she’s interested in speaking opportunities to share her experience and help. LOVE!
2. I made another “kidney friend” who is waiting for her kidney as we speak. It’s scary how almost identical her experience is to mine…down to the heart issues and all! Shout out to Jessica! We’re all praying for you!
3. I’ve been made the Chair of Logistics for the JDRF 2019 Type One Nation! It’s actually what I’ve been helping with in the past few years, but I’m loving the title of “Chair” added to my name. haha…
4. Walmart brand GF Oreos! I’ve tasted some pretty lame copycats that don’t come close to the real thing. However, when I bit into one of these…what??? I can eat Oreos again?? YES!!! Now, if I can convince them to create some DoubleStuf’s… mmmmm…
I am a working woman again! Woohoo! Man, I’m so glad I’m not a salesman! Having to “sell” myself to every new prospect I met was exhausting and WAY out of my comfort zone. It really tested my PR skills, though, as I “spun” every question/answer into something that somehow managed to convince a few folks how amazing I would be on their team. LOL!
So, now I’m maneuvering through the “new kid” phase…which, being a military kid, was never a difficult thing for me. This time, though, has posed some new challenges. I’ve been trying to ease my co-workers into not thinking I’m the new resident freak with crazy health issues a mile long. Not sure how that’s going for me, but time will tell. I can already give major props to the company for being super thoughtful at our 4th of July BBQ – they not only purchased GF buns for me, but also went as far as putting foil on a small portion of their grill so I wouldn’t be cross contaminated by their previous cookouts! How cool is that? 😀
Job celebration aside, what I REALLY wanted to talk about, though, is another form of organ donation I just discovered. Being a transplant recipient, I figured I’m most likely never going to be able to donate my organs to someone in need. I believe that the diabetes and the immuno-suppressant medication will have done too much damage to be of any use to anyone else. HOWEVER, I just discovered a way that I can contribute/donate! It’s called nPod (Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes) and it was developed by JDRF to help find a way to prevent or reverse diabetes by researching the organs of those who have lived with it. A lot of what we know about diabetes is found via cadaver studies, and I will be happy to donate my organs to science if it will help put an end to this debilitating disease! I’ve already registered, and in the spirit of advocacy, I plead for anyone else with Diabetes to do the same!
You should never take more than you give. – “Circle of Life” (The Lion King)
*I’d insert a pic from the movie/musical here, however, I don’t want Disney suing me for copyright infringement. So, instead you get this free clip art of a cute lion.*
Things I’m thankful for today:
1. I’ve got a job at a company that values my experience and me as a person.
2. My sister made it back safely from her amazing trip in New Zealand!
3. All of my friends who so fabulously pimped me out during my job search. You are all amazing for having my back…I owe you one!
4. The NTTA for quite literally saving my life when I had a tire blow out in the middle of the highway during rush hour! Scariest moment of my life.
5. GF Pizza rolls! My next challenge is homemade pop tarts… mmmm…