Reunited, and it feels so good
My high school graduating class totaled 200 students, give or take. Of the 200, three of us had Type 1 diabetes. I had it the longest, since first grade, and the other two got it sometime around sixth. It wasn’t something we talked about much – we all were in different social circles, and in those years (teenage years, late 80s/early 90s), diabetes wasn’t something that you wore on your sleeve – literally or figuratively.
I had gone away to a diabetes summer-camp in 1981, right after I was diagnosed, and honestly didn’t care much for it. But in 1987, Ron and Tony (not their real names) convinced me to give it another try, so I did. Some bonds were formed and memories were made that summer, but by the time the next school year rolled around, we all went our separate ways again. I never really knew Ron well – he was from the other side of town and had gone to a different elementary school. In the combined Junior High, kids will be kids, and you didn’t dare cross that arbitrary line and talk to people from “the other side of town”. But I had known Tony since kindergarten, and although we were never best buds, we were always friendly.
This past Friday was our 20th High School Reunion, and this time Tony and I were like best buds. He’d been through some rough times, and after Ron passed away, he was really feeling a bit alone. Shortly after the news about Ron had spread, word had spread that I had died also. Obviously that one was false, and I had to break my vow of never joining Facebook to prove it to my classmates. But Tony wasn’t on Facebook, and he really didn’t know for sure how I was doing, or if I was even around at all.
Previously, I had heard that Ron passed away due to “complications from diabetes” but nothing further. But I learned that he turned to drugs to help cope with the day-to-day life with D, and when one masked the symptoms of the other, well, I really don’t need to go on. Still, this is a chilling reminder that the emotional side of diabetes can be very real and very powerful.
But anyway, I had seen Tony’s name-tag sitting on the table outside the ballroom at the reunion and knew he’d be there. When he saw me and pulled me aside, conversation started with “so, how are you feeling?” and recollections of that summer twenty-five years ago at camp, but quickly shifted to talk about how Lantus was a Godsend for him, stories of highs and lows (mostly lows), blood sugar tests, us taking care of our kids … and vice-versa, and how we pay for all of this.
Actually getting into the details of things was a bit awkward for me. I walk in there with all of my robot parts (which I feel privileged to have, by the way), and he tests his blood sugar twice a day because it’s all he can afford, going by how he feels at all other times. I wanted to show him my CGM with the downward-pointing arrow, I wanted to tell him about temporary basals (his job is physically demanding, and he’s suffered some serious lows while working. it would really help.). But I didn’t want to lecture, and I didn’t want to flaunt. No one likes being on the receiving end of that. He still struggles, but he does the best he can with what he’s got.
Still, he’s got a pretty good handle on his diabetes – finally – and that made me feel really good. And for him to see how I was doing, well, I’ve got a pretty good feeling that he shed some tears later on behind closed doors. From what he, and separately his wife, told me, he left the reunion somewhat inspired, believing that you can live a healthy and happy life with diabetes and that Ron’s way isn’t the only way.
Tony’s wife said he talks about me often, and to actually see me at the reunion, in good health and in good spirits, meant the world to him. I guess I was kind of like an in-person “You Can Do This” — not by trying, but just by being there and sharing my story.
(I briefly tried bringing up the whole “bunch of people on the Internet” thing with plans to segue into the blogs, Twitters, videos, and so on, but he would have none of that. Computers intimidate him). But it was getting late, I was getting a little tired, and he was getting a little drunk, so it wasn’t exactly the right time. However, we’d now had each other’s phone numbers, and hopefully this time we’d meet again before the 30th reunion.
But before I left, he gave me a wet, sloppy kiss on the cheek. Which was really awkward for me, but in a way was really satisfying. It had meaning.