Attitude is Everything with Type 1
A certified diabetes educator describes the importance of wringing as much fun as possible out of his diabetes self-care.
The following edited excerpt comes from Dr. Beverly Adler’s book, My Sweet Life with Diabetes: Successful Men with Diabetes.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: Diabetes is a pain in the butt.
Think about it: you have all the “usual” responsibilities of work, school, family, and home, and then all the tasks associated with a chronic health condition piled on. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: developing the right attitude is the secret to success.
It was a hot, muggy Texas afternoon during summer break after my freshman year of college, and I was spending half my time drinking juice and the other half urinating it out. My energy was gone, and there was no way that just the Houston heat had caused my drop from 155 pounds to 117. I was watching an episode of M*A*S*H in which a character had diabetes. And guess what—he had the same symptoms!
A quick exam, blood test, and urinalysis, and then, “Gary, I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that you have diabetes.”
I had no idea what the good news could be.
“You’re lucky to be diagnosed now,” my doctor told me. “We have come a long way in treatment. The way research is going, I’ll bet in five or ten years, there will be a cure.”
I should have taken that bet.
A difficult summer passed in learning meal planning, how to monitor my glucose, and insulin dosing. But as time passed, I grew determined never to let diabetes keep me from anything I’d set my mind to, even if it meant getting “creative” to keep my attitude positive.
For example, before dinner, my roommates would gather to wager on my blood sugar. Everyone threw a dollar on the table; closest guess took the money. The faster learners asked about my day’s food intake and exercise before making their guesses.
And while I had always been into sports and fitness, keeping in shape now reached the passion level. If there wasn’t anybody to play basketball with, I’d ride my bike, jump rope, or go lift weights with the football and rugby teams.
I’d entered college intending to be a doctor, but along the way, I lost interest, something to do with the way pre-med and med students worked and studied themselves into oblivion. I bounced around majors. Once out of school, I tried a variety of jobs, including advertising and public relations. That gave me opportunities to be creative and do a great deal of writing, which I enjoyed, but it still felt like punching a clock. I wanted something to be really passionate about; something to excite me to get up and go to work in the morning.
Then an exercise physiologist I worked with inspired me to look into the diabetes field, helping others take better care of themselves. I went for an MS in exercise physiology, and was fortunate to land a job with a Joslin Diabetes Center affiliate in Philadelphia, a place that stressed a positive, “can do” approach with all its patients. The proactive attitude at the affiliate helped lead me to becoming a certified diabetes educator. I now have my own business helping other people with diabetes take charge of their condition.
Through many twists and turns, diabetes has led me to a very satisfying career in a way no career counselor could. The writing skills honed early in my professional career I’ve put to good use, having published five books and more than one hundred articles on all different aspects of diabetes self-management. Being on the diabetes lecture circuit has allowed me to travel to many interesting places, meet amazing people, and make some really good friends.
So, yes, diabetes is a pain in the butt, but it’s our pain in the butt. We’re stuck with it, so we might as well take care of it…and have some fun doing it. If there’s another thing I’ve learned in all these years, it’s that merely being equipped with all the tools and expert guidance doesn’t cut it. It’s your attitude – keeping a sense of humor, looking for answers, and not letting anything get in your way – that really makes the difference.
Gary Scheiner is the American Association of Diabetes Educators 2014 Educator of the Year and owner and clinical director of Integrated Diabetes Services, offering clinical services and publishing self-care news and information to a worldwide clientele. You can order My Sweet Life with Diabetes: Successful Men with Diabetes at Amazon.com.
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