Going for the Diabetes Gold Medal
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Olympics. Huge. I love that the world can come together and compete in sports, despite the various states of chaos going on around the globe. Athletic competition can be the equalizer for worldwide diplomatic relations. The games always reveal huge surprises that make the Olympics so interesting.
My favorite gymnast of all time was Olga Korbut who, in 1972, captivated the world with her flawless performances and captured our hearts with the charm she exuded as she danced across the balance beam and tumbled through the air. She was irresistible and inspired many young ladies watching at the time to become gymnasts. There was no denying Olga's influence on the sport which became hugely popular in the US as a result.
As I watched this year, an event occurred that really struck me. In the 400 Individual Medley Swimming Final, there was an American swimmer, Chase Kalisz, participating in his first Olympics. This particular swimming competition is one the United States has owned since 1996—always owning the gold. But Kasuke Hasino of Japan had other plans on this night.
The US Swimmer came in second and went home with the silver medal instead of the gold. Not that a silver medal is anything to sneeze at, but remeber that the US has forever dominated this race. What's interesting is that the young American swimmer beat his old record by three seconds. If you follow any event that is timed, 3 seconds is almost an eternity. Three seconds beyond his best, and he came in second.
So, did he lose?
In my opinion, the competition, perhaps. But lose? Absolutely not. I've always believed that all we can do is our very best in anything we do.
As pour over social media, I read countless stories of how depressed and upset parents get with themselves when their child’s glucose numbers are out of control, 'no matter what they try'. I‘ve seen the tears of sheer parental frustration that this disease brings upon their families.
The White Elephant in the Room
There's a question each and every athlete must ask themselves as they prepare and/or finish a race: "Did I give it my absolute all? Did I put it all out there without cutting any corners?”
Clearly, the young swimmer who beat his own time by three seconds surely has nothing to be upset about. He did his absolute best and then some.
Over the years I have been asked a question, and a real tough one, by people who are extremely nervous to even consider asking such a question. But I have never shied away, and neither have my kids. Stay with me on this. Here's the way it goes:
“Aren’t you ever afraid?”
“You know, diabetes can be a tough disease…and you never know...”
“You know…the ultimate horror story…uhmmmm…I mean…”
“You mean my kids dying from this disease?”
The only way to understand something is to hit it head on and not pussy-foot-around it. In the scenarios above—and it’s been a discussion many times in our 23 year journey—it's the 800 pound gorilla in the room, that no one talks about.
Let’s be crystal clear on this subject; I rarely if ever, think about this scenario. But I surely know it’s possible. Still, it’s just as possible (and probably more so) that my children will be killed in a car accident as it is from having type 1 diabetes. Do I not let them drive? Of course not but here's the way I deal with fear:
# 1. To get over a fear, face it.
I don’t fear it. What I do, is respect it. The reason I do not fear my kids behind the wheel of their cars is that they are fully educated on every aspect of the vehicle they drive. They know what it can do, and they know what can be done to them by someone else who does not know as much about driving as they do. We are not gripped with fear each and every time they go out in their car.
#2. Do NOT allow yourself to be gripped with fear when you are living with diabetes.
Education, education, and more education. Preparation, preparation, and more preparation. These are the tools to give our kids and to ourselves.
When asked that awful question, my answer has been the same since day one. Should the ultimate ever happen, I must, MUST, be able to look myself in the mirror and say I did everything I could. I taught them everything I could to help them live full, active, and positive lives.
The only acceptable answer for me has been, yes. If I could not answer ‘yes’, I went back to the drawing board and kept at it. Kept at it until we were all ready to take-on whatever was ahead of us. And the only one who can answer that question honestly is ourselves.
If you need to do more, whatever that means, than do it. Every situation is different and everyone has to deal with challenges. Winston Churchill once said, “If going through Hell, keep going.” Let that quote be your inspiration.
Our kids have thrived. Lucky? Sure that has no doubt played a role, but they‘re about as versed as they can be about their health challenges. The decisions they make now are the decisions we made for them when they were younger.
And that for us is as good as any gold medal will ever be.
I am a Diabetes Dad.