Living With

Connecting With Other Diabetics

Kerri Sparling Health Guide June 08, 2010
  • Over the weekend, Chris and I ended up in a harborside restaurant in South County, RI.  We stood in line and read the chalkboard menu until it was our turn to order from the girl behind the counter.

    "What can I get for you?"

    "Can I have an iced coffee?  Do you have iced hazelnut?"

    "I'm sorry - we don't have hazelnut.  But we have snickerdoodle or french vanilla.  Either of those work for you?"

    "Snickerdoodle sounds awesome.  Is that a syrup?  Is it sugar-free?"

    She gave me just a quick look.  Not judging, just looking. "It's definitely sugar-free.  Medium or large?"

    "Large," I said, and she turned away to make my coffee and I saw the pink Animas pump clipped to the side of her black pants, the tubing sticking up all crazy.


    And instantly, I want to ask her a million questions.

    I wanted to ask her how she liked the Animas.  I wanted to see how long she'd been diabetic and did she go to Joslin, too?  Did she know any other diabetics?  How long had she been pumping?

    I wanted to tell her that the tubing gets all crazy on my pump, too, sometimes.

    But do I have the right to make her diabetes my business?  Just because I write about it doesn't mean I have the right to grill her about her diabetes.  She wasn't asking me why I wanted to make sure the coffee was sugar-free.  She was just going about her business.  Did I have the right to poke into hers?  Just because she wears an "external symptom" of her diabetes in the form of that pink pump, did I have the right to ask her about it?

    There have been a few times when a diabetes discussion was thrust on me without my invitation.  "Hey, what's that thing on your hip?" becomes this moment of advocacy that, while effective, wasn't what I wanted to do that day.  Sometimes I just want to order my coffee without being grilled about why I need to make sure the syrup is sugar-free.  Other times I'm blogging about the teeniest minutiae of life with diabetes.  I oscillate between wanting to be a diabetes advocate and someone who lives a quieter diabetes life.  Sometimes I don't want to talk about it at all.  That day, I didn't want to be an advocate.  (Or a pain in the rear end.)  I just wanted to get some coffee and enjoy the day.

    Maybe she doesn't want to talk about it, either.

    She made my coffee and added some cream.  I handed her my money.

    And I left without saying anything.

    It's not always what we have to talk about.  There's way more to us than this.