Friday, November 20, 2015

Celebrating a Major Milestone

St. Marys, GA to St. Augustine, FL
November 2-20, 2015

Celebrate with me! Before we stepped onto Pelican on November 2 for a new season of cruising, I passed a major milestone and joined an elite club —those who have lived fifty years with Type 1 Diabetes. If I fill out the proper paperwork, I can even get a beautiful bronze medal inscribed “for 50 courageous years with diabetes” from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston and also a Diabetes Journey Award from the Eli Lilly Company.

Halloween marks the anniversary of my diagnosis. Fifty years ago when I was first hospitalized, people in costume came to the pediatric ward to hand out treats. The nurse stopped them near my bed: “Don’t give her anything. She has diabetes.” As they walked away, my new reality began to sink in. A short time later, one of those lovely people rushed back in holding out an apple. (Kind acts toward a stranger that seem unimportant might be remembered and appreciated for a very long time.)

Over the past five decades life with diabetes has sometimes been a challenging sea to navigate. My faith was snuffed out for a while and later reignited. I’ve felt a tangle of emotions and experienced discipline on a sliding scale of near-zero to near-perfect.

Treatment has come a long way in fifty years and so have I. I didn’t always, but now I work very hard at maintaining the best control I possibly can. Every day includes multiple finger sticks to check my blood sugar, calculating how every bite of food will affect my blood sugar, and matching it with the correct amount of insulin.

Coming in to a marina or anchorage, doing a watch, going out on deck, walking on a beach, I need to know my blood sugar is in or near the normal range. I can’t go anywhere without my test kit and glucose tabs at hand. To be honest, sometimes I get tired of the whole routine. Balancing blood sugar is a job with never, ever, a vacation day. Part of me would wish away the blood tests, injections (cannula insertions), diet, and struggles in a heartbeat.

Even if I could turn back the clock and undo the diagnosis, would I really? Well, not if it meant that I would lose all the good that living with diabetes has worked into the fabric of my life. Living with this disease has woven compassion, empathy, discipline, endurance, and determination into my character. Without it, I wouldn’t be the same person at all.

God has used this for good, to change me, to grow me, to show me that He is always loving and faithful. Over the years, my feelings toward diabetes untangled into acceptance and gratitude. I thank God for making our bodies so “fearfully and wonderfully” that mine could withstand years of less-than-ideal blood sugar levels and still thrive.

Since I embarked on this journey in 1965, I’ve led a wonderful life that happens to include diabetes. For more than thirty-three years, Keith’s love and support have been the best possible help. What a gift that with my health issues we can be on a sailboat far from medical care without extraordinary concern. This Thanksgiving, I am profoundly grateful to be so amazingly healthy fifty years down the road.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV