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Archive for November, 2012

Differing Outlooks on Life

My daughter, Nikki
and Rainie

Last weekend as I strolled into a friend’s garden art show, a man who wanted to know about Rainie approached me.  When I told him that I am a diabetic, and Rainie alerts me to when my blood sugar is dropping rapidly, he immediately put up his hand to give me a “high-five”.  He was diabetic also.  As our conversation progressed, he began regaling me with stories of his diagnosis and bemoaning life’s hardships due to being tied to the regimes and paraphernalia associated with diabetes: the regimentation of shots, finger-stick/blood sugar checks, monitoring, food counts, exercise, etcetera, etcetera.  While sympathetically agreeing that life is different when one has diabetes, I began to overhear the lively discussion taking place at my feet between my daughter and a little girl.  The levels of enthusiasm toward life, and life’s situations, could not have differed more.  I was completely taken aback.

Later, I asked my daughter to tell me about the conversation she had with the little girl, so I could share it here.  This is what she wrote:

“…While I was talking with Angelina, the inevitable question came up, “How old are you?”

She responded with a resounding “Six!”

I told her that six was a good age to be and that I had enjoyed being six.

She said, “I think SIX will be GOOD!! I think I’m gonna get my wish when I’m six!

When I asked her what wish that was, she reached into her big glittery purse, and pulled out a well-loved book.  She informed me that she wrote it in there, and asked if I wanted to read it.  As I flipped through the loose pages, I noticed that the book was filled with “wishes” (to see Turtle Man, to fly in a private jet, to wear ‘the’ pretty blue dress, etc.)  When I finally got to where she wanted me to be, I read aloud from the obviously adult cursive handwriting:

 “Go to Disneyland and stay in Cinderella’s castle.  Dress up like Cinderella”

She danced and beamed, and said that she didn’t know if her wish would come true, because the Make a Wish Foundation was still talking to her doctors, but she hoped it would.

I told her I hoped so too – every one.”

(And I hope so too.  Every single one…)

Early Alert Canines’ “The Scentinel” Issue 2

Early Alert Canines is pleased to release the second issue of “The Scentinel!”



The Power of Self Realization

The color of diabetes awareness

Have you ever suddenly realized that you are not the person that you were raised to be? That the beliefs you hold about yourself are totally opposite to the ones you were brought up to embrace or accept?   And what you now see in yourself, you like?

I had that sudden realization the other day – mostly regarding how I relate to myself and others about my diabetes.  This all became paramount when I questioned myself about posting this on my Facebook page:

It’s Diabetes Awareness Month, it’s not pink or sexy, it doesn’t involve boobs, football players, or cute shirts. It’s about being grateful when your loved one wakes up in the morning. It’s about 3:00AM blood sugar checks, needles, low blood sugars, and the smell of insulin on your hands after changing a pump set or filling a syringe. That’s a person with diabetes life. Re-post if you love someone, know someone, or are someone with diabetes.

 Do I really want to endorse the fact that I’ve got diabetes?  The ‘younger me’ was taught to hide my diabetes at all costs.  I was taught that it was shameful and something not to be shared.  I grew to be my own reliant “chronic child” and never ask for help, even when I needed it badly.  But now, the answer is “YES!”  I do have diabetes and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  I’ve been teaching about diabetes to patients, families and groups for years; and finally, after over 55 years of living with “type 1”, I’m finding I can stand proudly and say, “Yes.  I have diabetes.”

Just last weekend, Rainie and I were representing Early Alert Canines at the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes.  As I was and talking to families and individuals with diabetes about diabetic alert dogs, I realized that, not only did I have Rainie (with her “Medical Alert Service Dog” vest) and was wearing my usual medic-alert bracelet (which I was not allowed to own when I was a child), but I also donned a blue “Cure Diabetes” bracelet, a blue-bead necklace, and a blue ‘dog-tag’ that states, “I have type 1 diabetes (T1D)”.  I was a walking banner for diabetes!  I asked myself, “How different could I be compared to what I was?”  And I also knew that my dad must be rolling in his grave. (He never became comfortable with the fact I began wearing a medic-alert when I went to college.)  I also discovered that, once I began wearing the ‘dog-tag’, other diabetics seemed to be more comfortable talking with me.  I wasn’t just another counselor or nurse. I was one of them.  Little kids liked to show me that they had on a dog-tag, just like mine.  We are all part of the same club.

Oh, and if you are still wondering, I did post that statement on my Facebook page.



The Life of an Ambassador

Rainie locked into a puzzle of Cub Scouts

At the training center, the instructors and trainers repeat, “Remember, whenever you and your dog are out in public, you are ambassadors for Early Alert Canines, as well as every other service dog in the community.”

Oh, how true this is.  Rainie and I are frequently stopped and I end up answering questions about diabetes, what she does, what an Early Alert Canine is, how they are trained, how to apply, the rules and regulations about service dogs, and, sometimes, medical advice regarding dogs (which I usually refer to their local vet).  We were warned that when the dogs are in their vests, we would lose our anonymity – which is not usually a problem for me because I am a born teacher and (usually) love to talk.  Rainie has learned that part of “getting dressed” is enduring (i.e. enjoying) a quick brushing before she gets her jacket on.  Since I know we’re likely to get stopped, I like her to ‘look pretty’; but I think she thinks she always looks pretty, and the brushing is just an added bonus.

Besides the daily, impromptu questions, Rainie and I have spoken or appeared at twelve “outreach events” in the past two months.  Because Rainie has made such a huge difference in my life, I’ve become passionate about bringing the knowledge about Diabetic Alert Dogs to the medical and social community.  The questions and responses we get vary immensely.  My answers must be correct, and heart-felt, while Rainie does her best to keep everyone entertained.  Since Early Alert Canines can’t fill everyone’s needs, I often find myself referring people to other agencies and suggesting other places to get their questions answered.

Here is a partial list of where Rainie and I have visited in the past eight weeks:

  • The Rotary Club of Aptos and Soquel.
  • The Farmers’ Market at Cabrillo (Early Alert Canines Fundraiser).
  • Silver Oak Cub Scouts of San Jose.  (The most interesting questions asked was, “Does she ever get to Play?”)
  • CarbDM meeting with parents of children with diabetes.
  • Watsonville Diabetic Education Center.
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s “Walk to Cure Diabetes” Santa Clara.
  • Watsonville School Nurses at the Watsonville Diabetic Education Center.
  • Soquel High School, three Health-Education classes.
  • Rotary Club of Santa Cruz.
  • The “Spooktacular Event” an Early Alert Canines.
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s “Walk to Cure Diabetes”, San Francisco.

And when we get home after one of these engagements, Rainie usually runs around the house, checking on her bed and making sure her toys are still here, as if to celebrate the fact that we are, again, home!