D-vangelism: 7 Secrets to Being an Effective Diabetes Ambassador without Being Weird

from the website, www.americanmedical-id.com

Full disclosure: This is not my tattoo. But it does look like a cool idea, and I’ve thought about it. From the website, http://www.americanmedical-id.com

I admit it: I’m a D-vangelist. Everywhere I go, I look for opportunities to tell people about my savior. Insulin saved my life 42 years ago, and am not ashamed to stand up and testify.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a water park, wearing my pod on my arm. The guy behind us in line asked me what it was, so I used his question as an opportunity to educate and advocate. About 10 people had congregated around us, and they all heard the good news of modern diabetes technology.

Over the years I’ve learned a few secrets for talking effectively about my diabetes without being weird about it:

  1. Wherever you are, be there. Like it or not, you and I take our diabetes wherever we go. You can either accept or reject the role that goes along with that to be an ambassador for diabetes. My opinion: If you decide you don’t wish to educate others about diabetes, you give up your right to complain about people who say stupid stuff about it.
  2. Let it shine. Don’t hide your diabetes under a bushel … no! (Sorry, I was roped into teaching Vacation Bible School a number of years ago.) Look, I am a PWD (Person With Diabetes). I have been for nearly 80% of my life. So I own that. I’ve never been one to hide my pump, pod, or now my CGM (which I started yesterday). I don’t purposely show them off, of course, but I don’t see a reason to conceal them either.
  3. Be prepared. When we go out, PWDs are careful to take everything we need—tester, glucose tablets, insulin, and other supplies—with us. I’d never leave the house without being prepared for highs or lows. I think we should also be prepared to tell people a little about the highs and lows of living with diabetes when asked. Who knows more about it than those of us who live with it every day? You don’t have to know everything about diabetes; just share your story … briefly!
  4. Be natural. Try not to force the conversation. Simply answer people’s questions … and then stop talking. You don’t need a pitch or a speech. And don’t use this as an opportunity to make yourself the center of attention. If people keep asking questions, answer them, and then move on. If they stop asking, view that as a sign.
  5. Control the Diabeteze. We PWDs—whether we’re T1Ds or T2Ds, whether or not we wear a CGM, regardless of our latest BS (or BG) (mg/dL or mmol/l) or A1C, regardless of whether we’ve ever gone into DKA and had to upload our PDM to our endo or CDE—tend to use all kinds of diabetes nomenclature that PWODs (People Without Diabetes) cannot understand. Communicate to be understood. Drop the d-jargon.
  6. Be real. A conversation about your diabetes won’t be weird if you just be yourself—unless, that is, you are weird. It’s OK to talk about how you deal with your diabetes, but, of course, keep it generally positive. Sure, it’s fine to say it can sometimes be a pain in the butt, but don’t go on and on about how horrible your life is. Nobody wants to hear it. Who likes a Diadebbie Downer?
  7. Love. That may sound weird, but what I mean is that as you talk to people, put them first. When you start with a humble attitude, it frees you to simply provide answers for people and help them to understand diabetes more.


How Living with Diabetes Is Like Living with Your Spouse

diabetes-and-marriageIn the Facebook group, “You Know You’re  Type 1 Diabetic When …” Randall Dennis quipped, “I have decided that I love my diabetes because it has stuck with me longer than any of my wives.” That got me thinking: How is living with diabetes like or unlike living with a spouse? First, here’s how living with diabetes is LIKE living with a spouse:

  • Some highs and lows are expected.
  • Daily tests are a part of life.
  • The longer our life together, the more complications seem to develop.
  • Almost certain interruptions occur when I’m watching a great game on TV.
  • The littlest thing can set off a confusing chain of circumstances I can’t control.
  • Has required numerous “lifestyle adjustments.”
  • An error in judgment can reap both short-term and long-term consequences.
  • My commitment to care can make all the difference.
  • “Stop attacking me! I’m not the enemy!”
  • When I forget to do something I’m supposed to do, I will suffer.
  • When I’m feeling low, a little sugar can make me feel MUCH better.
  • Our life together has made me who I am today.

I’ll share some of the ways they are different soon.

Add to the list! What are some other similarities between living with diabetes and living with a spouse?

*     *     *     *     *


Diabetics in Love

The Diabetic Dad and the Delayed Delivery


I Am Thankful for Temporary

triumphant disabled manTemporary is a sweet sweet word.

I have had type 1 diabetes for 42+ years, and I am very thankful that it is temporary.

Yes, perhaps someday I’ll be the recipient of a working pancreas transplant or a robotic pancreas or some other “cure.” Or maybe I won’t. Either way, my diabetes is temporary. Someday, it will be gone, and I’ll have a body that can metabolize blood glucose.

No more finger pricks and shots and pumps and counting carbohydrates. No more need for Hemoglobin A1Cs or endocrinologist visits.

I’m ready to celebrate! 

But diabetes is not the only thing that is temporary, of course.

To my friends Stan and Chuck, MS is temporary.

To my sister Kathy, Rheumatoid arthritis is temporary.

To my friend Terra, loss and grief are temporary.

Loneliness is temporary. Depression is temporary. Chronic pain is temporary.

Cancer: temporary. Abuse: temporary. Dementia: temporary.

One of the reasons I enjoy reading the Bible is that I believe it displays the bigger picture of life for us. It provides perspective. From beginning to end, it’s easy to see that all the bad circumstances of life are just temporary. The Bible describes life as a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

See, when Jesus told people not to worry about their lives but to seek the kingdom of God, he was telling them, and us, that stuff is only temporary.

When Jesus healed people of their diseases, he was telling them that their sicknesses were only temporary. All these people eventually died of something, and yet all of it was temporary.

When Jesus’ close friend Lazarus was deathly ill, Jesus didn’t immediately run to his rescue. Why? Because Jesus knew it was all temporary.

Jesus told the thief on the cross next to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” In other words, this is just temporary.

My circumstances and yours are temporary, no matter how difficult they are or impossible they seem. Even if healing or reconciliation or freedom or stability never come in this lifetime, it is still all temporary.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

I’m ready to really celebrate! 

What does temporary mean to you?


The Diabetic Dad and the Delayed Delivery

Jordan baby picMy wife and I were in the delivery room about to give birth to our first child. Now, before I get too far into this story, I need to explain that my wife, Heidi, is from New Jersey. If that fact means nothing to you, go to Netflix and watch a couple episodes of “Jersey Shore.” Or don’t and be thankful.

Anyway, Heidi was something like 27 centimeters dilated–I’m not really sure; I’m a guy–and the nurses were calling for the doctor. Unfortunately it was dinner time, and because I live with type-1 diabetes, I needed to eat. So I hurried down to the cafeteria to get some food. Fortunately, Heidi did a good job of clenching for 15 minutes till I returned.

By now my blood glucose had dropped really low, so I sat in a hospital lounge chair and began to eat. I wanted to be sure I had the energy I needed to remind Heidi how to breathe properly and anything else she ordered me to do.

Heidi, with all the compassion a Jersey girl after 32 hours of labor can possibly have, told the nurses that if I passed out from my insulin reaction to just shove me in a corner out of the way and take care of her. The nurses laughed but Heidi was very serious.

Just then the doctor walked into the room, just as I began eating my strawberry cheesecake. He quickly assessed the situation and said, “It’s time to have this baby!” He looked over at me eating dinner and inquired to no one in particular what was going on. When a nurse informed him that I had diabetes and needed to eat, he tapped his fingers on the side of the bed and said, “OK, so we’ll wait for dad to finish eating.”

Heidi did not agree with his prognosis. But you have to understand: she wasn’t thinking clearly at the time. I’ve never seen her so mad or heard her scream so loudly.

So I left the last few bites of cheesecake on the tray. Twenty minutes later we welcomed Jordan Michael Mack into the world. I got to cut the umbilical cord, which I did with a steady hand thanks to that cafeteria run.

The whole thing was incredible. Mom and baby were healthy and did well, and dad was able to finish those last two bites of cheesecake.

*     *     *     *     *     *


How NOT to Teach an 11-Year-Old Boy to Give Himself a Shot

Camp Hamwi and THE Shot

The Year I Was Banned from the Olympic Games

Diabetics in Love


dPOLL: Where do you struggle with your diabetes care?

In my last several posts, I’ve discussed looking at your diabetes care as more than just a physical issue, but to consider it holistically. In my last post, I provided a simple five finger diagnotstic tool you can use to evaluarte how you are handling your diabetes care. Today I’d like to see which of these five aspects of our health we tend to struggle wioth most.

Please choose the issue you struggle with the most and then be sure to click the VOTE button. Thanks for your involvement!

Diagnose How Well You Are Handling Your Diabetes

Mike_Hand.jpgDo you feel like you’re losing your grip on your diabetes care or some other life circumstance?

In my last post, I discussed the idea that we can best deal with difficult life circumstances holistically. Today I want to make this as practical as I can. So the task at hand for you today is to use your fingers as a diagnostic and prognostic tool. Use this handy five-finger exercise regularly. For each one give yourself a score from 1 to 5, 1 being “totally missing,” that is, you are ignoring this aspect of your health, and 5 being “hitting on all cylinders,” that is you are doing great (not perfect) at this aspect.

  1. (Index Finger) How is my physical health? (Be sure you point at yourself, not others, throughout this assessment.) This of course is the most fundamental thing (everything else takes place in relation to your physical self). Am I testing? Am I eating right? Am I exercising? Don’t forget that the other components seriously affect this one.
  2. (Middle Finger)  How are my emotions? Am I feeling mad? Sad? Afraid? Joyful? Trusting? Sometimes this finger can get us into the biggest trouble. When life doesn’t go as we would like it to, we feel like giving this finger to everyone around us, and to ourselves, and even to God. But remember, your emotions are not in control! Emotions are pulled along the tracks by the engine of your mind. (That’s important.)
  3. (Ring Finger)  How am I doing mentally?  Perhaps I need to change the way I think, which has an effect not only on my emotions but everything else. As you evaluate your overall health, use this finger to consider your commitment to your health in each of the other areas. Put a ring on it.
  4. (Little Finger) Do I have healthy relationships—good friends and close family who support and encourage me and provide me some accountability? Don’t discount the little finger because it’s “little.” I’ve injured my little finger several times and I found it difficult to do much at all with my hands. It’s the same with your relationships. Positive, healthy relationships help you deal better with things emotionally, mentally, physically, and yes, even spiritually. Do you have a little group who will do that with you?
  5. (The Thumb) How is my spiritual life? Regardless of what your spiritual life consists of, this component has a substantial, perhaps even supreme, impact on everything else. I believe what the New Testament says about this one: that if I put this one first, all the other things line up as well (see Matthew 6:33). As I mentioned in my previous post, you can hold on for a short while with your four other fingers–that is, with your own power–but without the thumb, a higher power, you will eventually lose your grip.

I’m writing this blog because I hope to help people with all five of these vital components of life. Please follow my blog (either at the top or bottom of your screen) to keep up with my posts. I’ll touch on each of these “fingers” in other posts.

Hold on tight!

Diabetes: Enemy or Pure Joy?

It’s human nature. It’s intuitive. As human beings we look at the trials in our lives as the enemy. Trials like diabetes or cancer or marriage problems or, well, you name it; they are all uninvited antagonists that only want to make our lives miserable, and worse, to destroy our lives

In a previous post, “Successful Diabetics Own Their Diabetes,” I noted that some people with diabetes seem to view their condition as a kind of “Dr. Evil” (from the Austin Powers movie series)–a villain who is constantly scheming to terrorize their bodies.

Of course we look at trials this way. Like I said, it’s human nature. But that doesn’t mean our human nature is what’s best for us. Sometimes we have to fight against our human nature and look deeper within us to something that’s better, that’s healthier.

Part of my premise, my basic assumption about life, my guiding principle, is that life circumstances—the stuff of life like living with diabetes—is best dealt with holistically. That is, health is not just something that’s physical; it’s also mental, emotional, social, and spiritual.

Sometimes in order for us to deal better with something like diabetes, we must change the way we think about it, or feel about it. And perhaps to do that better, we need the relational support, encouragement, and accountability of friends and family. Or we need to put it all in the hands of a higher power; we need to trust God.

For me, the physical, mental, emotional, and social parts are like fingers. I need each one to hold on. But the spiritual component is the thumb; without God, I’m eventually going to lose my grip.

I enjoy reading the Bible. It provides guidance for me in how I think and feel and live life to the full. It provides quite a few … well, let’s just say counterintuitive ideas. Here’s one:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2–4).

Wait a minute. Consider dealing with my diabetes as “pure joy”? Are you kidding me? But look at why we should consider it a joy.  It develops really good things in us, including perseverance and maturity. See, having a positive, even joyful, attitude toward my diabetes is not just some pie-in-the-sky thing. I’m being totally realistic in the way I look at my diabetes.

Yeah, sometimes the highs and lows aren’t fun at all. They feel awful. They can bring lasting damage. But each one is also a learning experience. What did I do or not do that caused this high or low? What can I do better to avoid it?

Yes, these trials test me. They test my resolve. They test my strength. They even test my faith. And each one tests how I will respond. When I respond with a negative mindset, with unconstructive emotions (yes, I am in control of my own emotions), with unhealthy habits, without the support of others, and especially without the power of God (the one who created my body, brain, and emotions), it sends me into a destructive downward spiral. But when I chose to respond by considering my difficult trials with pure (not fake) joy, I can persevere through them.

That’s right: Considering it pure joy does not mean faking it. It simply means I decide with the free will I have how I will respond.

Read my next post on this topic. It’s very practical about how to live this out in your life. I’ll show you how to use all five “fingers” as a handy diagnostic and prognostic tool.

In the meantime, keep your grip!