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[IPr] About facing your mortality - long reply (of course!)

> When I was diagnosed with diabetes, my own spiritual director pointed out
the similarities between me and Ebenezer Scrooge: Scrooge's redemption
started with a visit from the ghost of Jacob Marley.  Diagnosis with
diabetes can be a death knell, or it can be a call to live life as well as
we can.  It's our choice.


Three cheers for your spiritual director...that is beautifully put, & so, so
true!!  Being given a challenge is so often a call to action, an
opportunity, a chance to realize & recognize what you have & why it is
valuable.  No, I'm not saying I was happy to be diagnosed, or that on a
daily basis I am glad that this is my particular (if I may borrow a phrase
:)  ) cross to bear - but I do get plenty of opportuntities to put my own
situation into perspective, & it doesn't come up all that badly in the great
scheme of things.  I teach in a public school system, so I get to spend a
lot of close-up quality time with kids who deal with things that seem far
greater than my own difficulties...& they do it with style.

Ten years ago, when I first started in this district, I became very close to
the family of one of the high school girls - I was the assistant band
director, & they were very actively involved in the music program, so I saw
a lot of them outside of regular schoolday functions.  The girl mentioned,
Kathy, was a  sophomore at the time,  absolutely beautiful in a
delicate-looking china-doll sort of way.  No, she wasn't physically
fragile - she was in guard (the band's flag/rifle line) & those girls rolled
& flipped & got a serious workout at every practice!  :)  Anyway, she had
gorgeous blonde hair down past her shoulders, & it seemed her younger sister
was always scheduled for haircuts, because she usually wore hers very short.
One day in conversation I asked Kathy if she'd ever worn hers short...or if
she avoided it so that we could all tell the two apart.  She told me that
she would never, ever cut it short again for as long as she lived, because
of the two years she had been bald with the chemo.  She'd dealt with
leukemia in middle school - and won, & that hair was her victory banner.   I
felt very humbled in the fact that this fifteen-year-old had a very deep
knowledge of what those words "as long as I live" mean, because she was far
better acquainted with them than are most adults who toss them around.

We've got a little boy in our school system right now who will not
(according to those who have monitered his rapid decline this past year)
live to see the end of the fourth grade...he may very likely not see the
beginning of it, due to the same thing.  He was only able to be in school
the first few months last year, until his immune system could no longer
handle contact with the other kids & the regular school environment any
longer.  He was asked to be the ribbon cutting "guest of honor" for a cancer
research fundraiser this summer - he told his mom he'd do it only if they
would also schedule a backup person, in case he wasn't around any more.  His
little sister (going into second grade) may end up doing it in his stead.

People have been asking about how we feel/felt ablout diagnosis - a
diagnosis is an answer, a way of KNOWING what is happening.  In any problem
situation, health-related or otherwise, the first step is to identify the
problem so that you CAN deal with it in the best & wisest manner possible.
The diagnosis, then, is a revelation - a start on the journey of learning to
handle this in a way that will enable us to LIVE life.  The worst time I had
with diabetes was the several-month period BEFORE diagnosis...losing weight,
endlessly thirsty, urinating 24/7 (or so it seemed), & vascillating between
denying anything was wrong (I mean, why would there be?) & dancing around
the notion that maybe I was dying of some rare degenerative "disease that
had no name" & I'd perhaps better get my affairs in order.  I was 21 at the
time.  I had so many classic symptoms that it was just slapping me in the
face saying "Wake up!  Here I am!"...but I had no knowledge or frame of
reference into which to put them.  Diagnosis, then was a relief - "Yes, this
is something known to the medical community; yes, there's a reason my body
seems to have gone whacko; yes, there are ways to treat this, so I don't
have to just helplessly watch while my body disintegrates from the inside

On the regular list, from time to time a thread comes up about how people
feel about their diagnosis date - was it the worst day of their life, do
they celebrate or ignore it, etc.?  Personally, I fall somewhere in between
the extremes...but if I had to say for sure, I think I'm MUCH closer to the
celebrant end of things.  To me, that date was a turning point - a rite of
passage, the way some might see getting your first job, getting married,
becoming a parent, graduating from college, death of a loved one, losing a
job, moving, etc.  It was a very distinct moment that signified change, &
the recognition & acceptance of a new set of responsibilities, a new
identity within the community & within myself...& a challenge to meet these
new demands, to rise up to those things that come with it.

No, such rites of passage are not always welcome, & they do bring burdens -
in this case, days beyond counting of  "ill-health" moments, struggles to
understand, the aggrivation of working SO HARD to control blood sugar levels
(only to see them dance toward the sky for no reason you can fathom), the
stress of trying not to be a burden to your loved ones - you know the list,
& you could all probably add to it, with the individual dragons you face as
well.  The thing to recognize is that these rites of passage also bring
gifts, if you can find a way to allow yourself to see them as such.  I think
I've developed a lot more empathy with the frailties of others, than I might
have otherwise had.  I am calmer in the face of crisis...when you spend a
part of your private reflection time really looking at the "big picture" of
your life, it becomes easier to prioritize & know that most things people
panic over truly do not signify the end of the world.  I have the chance,
through pumping (& loudly trumpeting its virtues), to share information that
may help others who need it more than I did) to find out about an improved
way of regaining their lives...those people (locally including a
seven-year-old & a fifteen-year-old) may grow up to change the world.
Actually, regardless of their accomplishments, they WILL change the world,
simply by living in it...the way I see that is that it's merely a matter of
degree!  :)  If I weren't on my own Diabetic Oddessey, these kids' parents
might never have heard about the pump - so in my own twisted way, I
celebrate the gifts that come with this condition!  (Maybe a little "out
there" by some standards...but hey, it works for me!)

The next issue of a publication I edit will carry an article that really
speaks to the heart of what I see this list as being about.  It's called
"Reflections of a Wounded Healer", & the writer (who laughingly admits she's
been 'gifted with the "grade b" verion of bodies') focuses on how often
those of us with chronic health issues get so caught up in the cycle of
doctor visits, meds, maintaining levels of this or that, always watching &
monitoring & treating, that we lose sight of the fact that we are not simply
a body, but also a spirit...one that does NOT share the limitations that our
physical vehicle has been given.  The article is wonderful, & the author is
one whose wisdom comes not from "book learning" but from KNOWING who she is
& the challenges she faces.  She is not diabetic...she battles instead
Meniere's Disease, a severely-compromised (read: pretty much non-existent)
immune system, & some rare form of migraine (whose name escapes me at
present) that brings on mini-strokes, among other things - & her world is a
very calm & strong one, largely due to her perspective on things like
illness and spirituality.  No, I can't imagine what it's like for her, being
told at thirty-one I've just had a series of strokes, & looking at my
two-year-old son & realizing I may or may not get to see him learn to ride a
bicycle, or go to school, or bring home a prom date.  It all goes back to
the "appreciate that which you've been given" thing...I would not willingly
trade my diagnosis for hers.

(*Note*  I'd be glad to share her article with any who are interested...let
me know if that's you!)

Anyway, I think I need to bring my own "morning babbling session" to a
close.  As to the length of the post...no, I won't apologize - in reading
the subject line (actually, the "From" should've done it!), you were

Brightest Blessings to All,

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