July 4, 2005

Firsts and repeats

Last week Charlotte and I attended a fancy-shmancy awards banquet at a conference related to my job. Here was an interesting pumping challenge: I needed a formal outfit, but I couldn’t hide the pump under a dress because the dinner was a business function with numerous courses & I wouldn’t be able to politely excuse myself every time I needed to bolus. Nor could I safely estimate the carbs ahead of time because I didn’t have the menu up front. (If I were very organized, I could have gotten it, but I am not.) I’m also not so good at counting carbs while I’m eating them. I need to see the food, count, bolus, and then eat exactly what I've counted if I’m to estimate well.

I ended up trying on most of my wardrobe hours before my flight to the conference. Finally I sorted it out: fancy skirt, Charlotte at hip on waistband of same, fancy blouse hanging down over Charlotte. Which is pretty much what I wear every day of my life, just a more formal version. Go figure.

Anyhow, Charlotte and I happily meandered through the meal. I pushed buttons as needed, chatted with the guests, and so on. Feeling especially free, I even ate dessert, which I seldom do. After the dinner, during a mingly period, I went to talk with the guests who were seated too far away for conversation during the meal. One lady was quite friendly. She wondered many things about me: where was I from, where had I gone to school, how had I come to work for my company, what was the meaning of the medical ID bracelet on my wrist?

Ooh, interesting segueway. In my 8 months of wearing the bracelet, this was the first time anyone who didn’t already know I’m diabetic has noted (at least verbally) that it’s a medical ID. It’s a rather pretty one and relatively subtle as these things go: Minnie

“I have diabetes,” I explained.

“And when did you go on the pump?” my new friend inquired.

Touché. Another first: Charlotte called out in public by someone who is Not Violet.

See, I’m still a child at all this, really. I’m not the bold, brilliant, beautiful K at the beach with Charlene. And you guys with the type 1 kids have been around this block many times already, only you’re coaching kids of 4, 6, 9 on how to answer much less politely phrased questions than this one. I'm still just a neophyte.

I guess what I’m saying here is that I needed my mom.

Mom was not, alas, in the vicinity. So I answered the question, briefly noted my happiness with Charlotte, and waited to see what would happen next.

As I waited I observed to myself: how strange this feels, to have been dining gracefully (I thought) with my pump while this woman across the table was observing me the entire time. How strange to be discussing my medical status with an important guest in a business setting. How strange to have seemingly no control over any of these things. How very diabetes-ish life can be, since I got diabetes.

The woman went on to explain that her son, age 24, has had type 1 since he was 4. (Ohh.) And hasn’t been to the doctor for 3 years (ohhh), though he seems fine, but she worries about him, naturally, it's been 20 years with DM and of course he knows he ought to go to the doctor but still he seems to be doing fine…


It wasn’t about me at all. Not at all. It was just another one of us, needing to tell a story. That, my friends, I know plenty about.


  1. Oh, Violet, I LOVE the way you write. And right: you are so right! We DO need to share, don't we?

    I guess it's safe to assume that nearly anyone asking such pointed questions is in some way one of us. You did great your first time out!

    BIG HUG,

  2. V,

    You did dine gracefully. Just as you live gracefully. Those pointed sort of questions are sometimes hard to field, but they become easier every time they're asked. And, as you said, it seems like the diabetics themselves and Their People all need to reach out sometimes. We've all got stories to tell.

    But lucky us, kiddo. We all have each other.

    Rock on. You and your Charlotte.


  3. Thanks for sharing your story. I was picking up dinner the other night and I saw a girl, probably 16, with her dad in line in front of me. She was wearing a pump, or so it appeared to me.

    I so so so so so wanted to ask her about it (and more importantly, see if she babysits!!) but I didnt. I thought, when Bailey is out with me wearing her pump in 14 years or so, she wouldnt want some strange dude striking up a conversation with her about it. Why should she have to talk about anything with a stranger... much less her insulin pump?

    You handled the situation with incredible grace. I'm so glad you shared.

  4. You don't need your mom, Violet. You handled everything like a champ.

    I'm guilty of blatantly asking people about their diabetes, but only because Brendon has it. Otherwise, I'd never ask someone about it.

    Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut and blatantly talk about Brendon's diabetes instead (with his permission of course).

  5. Oh Violet, I am very proud of you. And as Shannon said, you certainly did not need your mom at that moment (though you may have liked the moral support as you answered this woman's queries).

    It's hard when someone sees and calls out our differences, isn't it? I'm sure it gets easier the longer you live with those things that set you apart from the majority, but I'm not certain you ever get over the surprise when that "calling out" happens unexpectedly.

    Not long ago we took the kids to an indoor waterpark where we we all just let go and had fun. Joseph's pump stayed in a locker near the pool while we went down the slides, coming out for boluses when he ate, or if he needed a little insulin after one of his hourly checks.

    Anyhow, as Joseph and I were climbing into a large inner tube that would take us down the mother of all waterslides, a man standing in line behind us stepped forward to ask about the capped-off site on Joseph's abdomen.

    It was truly startling. In a way, almost like a violation.

    Joseph looked surprised and a bit uncomfortable at first. I waited a moment before answering, to give Joseph the chance to explain, if he wanted. Sure enough, he told the man it was where he connected his insulin pump.

    "I have diabetes."

    As he said this, I felt the strangest combination of pride (in my son's calm response when faced with a stranger's question) and anger (toward this "stranger" for reminding my son that he was not just like every other child at the waterpark that day).

    At Joseph's response, the man went on to say, "I thought so. I'm a paramedic, and I've seen that before, but never on a child."

    He was very curious, and asked a few more questions before we were ushered to the opening of a slide that turned out to be not at all as frightening as I had anticipated.

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