Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another Warrior, Different Battle

Another guest blogger.  Enjoy
I woke up this morning and put on the coffee. Gotta have my coffee. It’s a simple pleasure that never gets old. But today is different. Today isn’t every other day. It’s my 23rd anniversary. Twenty-three years ago – Jan. 12, 1987. The day my 10-year-old world turned upside down and inside out. The day I learned what mortality was inside the office of an endocrinologist who said, “It doesn’t go away.”

“It” was type 1 diabetes.

I can’t remember what it’s like not to have diabetes. It has been part of the fold for so long, for the majority of my life. Right along with doctor’s appointments, glucose monitors, blood tests, finger pricks, insulin injections, low and high blood sugars – the lineup that comes when your pancreas doesn’t produce insulin.

Some people become hardened by disease. I’ve seen them; heard them. I guess it’s easy to do. We all want to be healthy. But looking back, I think I got softer. Being vulnerable completely opened my mind…and my heart.

I got past the shitty side of having a chronic disease because I didn’t want to miss out on life. It was that simple for me. Even at age 10, I somehow made the connection –blame, resentfulness and anger would only lead to loss of moments. And being a kid, I had so many moments before me. A whole life full of them. I wasn’t going to be stripped of moments. That was my perspective then. It’s my perspective now.

It sounds simple. It’s not. It sucks having diabetes. I wish for a honeymoon at times, for some sort of break. Maybe just a stretch of time for my fingers and stomach to heal from jabs. But it’s there. It’s always there, like the reality of the complications it can bring. But I leave little time or space in my head to think about that. It’s all about living. I want moments. Lots of them. And so it’s about control, fortitude and Hope. Hope that fighting hard will keep my body well and strong. Hope that big things in research are on the horizon people with diseases. Hope that I’ll be around for the ride…and for the ride of the child I envision in my future.

A focus on health is tough, too. I don’t want numbers (blood sugar levels, carbohydrate counts, etc.) to consume my day, because that’s not living either. It’s about balance. Something very hard to achieve for most. I’m still learning balance.

I don’t think much about having diabetes, except during what I call “episodes of reality” like driving to my doc’s office, or waiting to get blood drawn, or experiencing a low blood sugar that drenches my shirt with sweat and makes my hands shake. That’s about it. I’ve been blessed with good health and the discipline to keep it that way. Not one trip back to the hospital in 23 years. I’m proud of that. But I’m more thankful that I was able to accept diabetes…and move on.

Today, I’m thinking about it. Today, I celebrate life and the indelible mark that living with a disease has made on my life. It’s given me character…in the biggest way. Today, I celebrate the “unexpected gift” of diabetes (to use the words of USA TODAY’s Scott Bowles, a reporter who had a kidney and pancreas transplant to treat his juvenile diabetes).

Good morning, Diabetes. I’m still here…and I’m very alive.

Kristin D. Schaner is the public relations manager for Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Contact her at kdschaner@gmail.com


  1. From another type-I diabetes warrior, thanks for sharing this honest and heart-felt post. It is courageous to not just survive a disease but to thrive and feel empowered despite it. You're right, it does suck. It sucks a lot. But there are a lot of great things we'd miss if we just stopped our story there.

  2. This is a beautiful post anyone with a chronic illness can identify with. Although a breast cancer buddy and I laugh that we didn't need any more character -- thank you very much - we did accumulate some more through our shared experience with cancer. Illness deepens you at the center where it counts. When you write, "Its all about moments. Lots of them" I want to shout and celebrate.

    Congratulations on the hope, and strength and fortitude you realized were necessary to create the life you wanted. And I'll be it took all of those 23 years to distill the experience into this beautiful essay.

    Thank you, Kristin. You are a very special person.