Why I Choose to Celebrate My Diabetes on St. Patrick's Day
Dia-versary: The celebration of the date a person was diagnosed with diabetes.
Intriguing and confusing term to many, including Webster (maybe that's why the term hasn't been added to the Dictionary yet). I’m sure people are puzzled why someone who was diagnosed with a chronic, incurable illness would celebrate the date of that diagnosis year-after-year without fail.
Let me tell you why I continue to believe this is a DO…
Even 18 years later, I still vividly remember the kelly-green frosting (it was St. Patrick’s Day) painted on the vanilla sheet cake that was sitting on my lunch tray the day that I had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. A friend who was sitting at my usual lunch table auctioned off my piece of cake to my other girl friends, declaring that I would not be able to eat sugar again. I was panic stricken. I clenched up. Frightened that my friend was speaking into a megaphone for the whole junior high cafeteria to hear. I remained a frozen mute in the navy blue plastic chair.
It took me months to speak publicly that yes in fact I had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but that in no way that would limit my life. I’ve used that initial wound to now travel around the country and speak to over 250,000 people about diabetes. I still get ignorant comments and questions about living with diabetes (check out my next blog on a recent event I had where a gentleman asked me why I was overweight), but what has changed is the strength of my voice. The voice that God gifted me with has become stronger and more confident as the years have passed. And trust me when I say, that is a far cry from my gawky 13-year-old self who sat in that chair in the lunchroom, and couldn’t form a sentence to respond to the bad joke being thrown around.
So how did the concept of a dia-versary ever come about for me?
From the first year that I was diagnosed, my parents adamantly said that March 17th would be a day of joy, reflection on another year where the battle had been fought, and subsequently I had been victorious. They didn’t measure my success on what my blood sugars were, or what the doctor’s report said. What was of upmost importance to them was if in fact I was living a life not defined by a chronic disease diagnosis. They did this by each writing me a card, giving me a small, sentimental gift, and usually a dinner out (my choosing!). Some of my friends have even joined in to show me their support by mailing me a card on this date or shooting me an e-mail. I have saved every single one of those cards because there are some days that are tough, so I will go and find my box and read the words of encouragement from the people who love me and who I love the most.
A friend of mine recently shared of their own past struggles of facing adversity as a child growing up and that him and I, though different life events, had a similar effect on our lives. He stated, “You’ve lived your life in a way where you didn’t let diabetes define you, but it certainly refined you.” I believe we’ve all faced adversity at some point in our life that we weren’t prepared for. What helped me was my faith and the family and friends that surrounded me with positivity. We are the only ones who CHOOSE how we are going to handle the events that are thrown our way.
I take every St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate the woman that God has formed me into. He brought me down to the valley to fight the battle of this disease, but equipped me with the strength to climb up to the top of the mountain to shout the words that I had made it to the top.