I can’t tell you how often I have been asked it.
I never knew how scary my answer could be to others.
Until – I asked the same question of someone not in the diabetes club.
Yesterday I met one of the strongest most beautiful women I’ve ever met. Not just physically beautiful, although she is. She also had this energy around her. Something that screamed “Im beautiful, life is beautiful and so are you.”
I normally drop my youngest at soccer practice and return home or run to the store. Practice is an hour and a half. He checks his blood sugar prior, has snacks, water and his meter in his backpack and his coach knows so I feel confident he will be fine. Yesterday I stayed. At first I stayed because I was chatting with another mom but still intended to leave. Then I stayed because Sugarboy ran to the sidelines saying he didn’t feel right. He checked, his blood sugar was 327 so he drank some water, gave a correction and ran off. Still I didn’t think I’d hang out but then I got to chatting again with two other moms and I was having fun playing with one of the other mom’s dog. I’m a sucker for a fun dog.
I can’t recall how it came up but at one point one of the moms mentioned, almost as a side note, that she has breast cancer and then our conversation continued with some other topic – kennel cough? homework? tattoos? I honestly don’t recall what we were talking about but all those things too. I kept thinking ‘but she has all her hair and she looks fabulous’. The conversation circled around and there was an opportunity for me to ask about the cancer. I don’t know all the rules regarding how one askes about cancer and I told her that too. She was so kind and said there aren’t any rules.
So this beautiful mom, women, wife, daughter was diagnosed over 8 years ago with stage 4 breast cancer. I know nothing about breast cancer so she explained stage 4 is not curable. At that point the cancer had spread to her bones and liver. There isn’t a cure, nothing can be cut out to save her. She only learned she had breast cancer because her neck hurt. Her neck hurt for months and she contributed it to being on bed rest prior to delivering her youngest son. After her son was born she did see a doctor. The pain was due to tumors compressing part of her spine. At the time she had a newborn a toddler and a second grader. Over the last 8 years she has done radiation twice and multiple rounds of chemo, including one that did cause her to lose her hair. She laughed as she recounted stories of drawing eyebrows on only to inadvertently wipe them off thus leaving only one brow. Have I said how beautiful her laugh is. I should say that I recognized her beauty before the word cancer was ever used. She was like one of those people you meet and hear talk and you just know you want to be around them because they would make everything fun, one who simply sends positive energy out just by laughing. I mention that because lots of people want to say how kind and wonderful people are after they learn the person has some chronic illness – it wasn’t like that, I was drawn to her before I knew.
Anyway – we talked more about kids, school, bears, soccer, and of course cancer.
Then I asked it. I prefaced it first with the fact that I know the question sucks but I still wanted to ask.
“Does it run in your family?”
No. No she is the only one. The first (hopefully the last).
That answer stung. I mean really really stung. It wasn’t the answer I wanted. Not that I wanted to hear that many of her family have also had cancer, I wasn’t wishing ill will on others. It stung because that answer means it can and does happen to anyone. She was 39 when she was diagnosed. A month before her magical 40th birthday which would have allowed for the yearly mammogram.
Her advice – do breast exams starting as soon as you have breasts. Do them often. Know your body. The lump that started it all for her was tiny, it wasn’t a sphere, it wasn’t something she would have recognized as something to be concerned about. The only way she would have known to be concerned was if she had been doing regular self breast exams because she would have known it was ‘different’.
DO SELF EXAMS. KNOW YOUR BODY.
SCHEDULE THOSE APPOINTMENTS TO HAVE MAMMOGRAMS. (I have an appointment slip on my counter that Ive had for two weeks – waiting to call and schedule the appointment. Somewhere in our twisted minds (at least mine) not going means I’m safe. That’s stupid.)
Back to the question. In no way am I suggesting type 1 diabetes is anything like cancer. It isn’t. But that question – that scary ass question is something I’ve answered more times than I can remember. I’ve seen the look of ‘fear’ pass over the faces of people who’ve asked it – whether they are families with one child with diabetes who worry for their other children or families with no connection to diabetes – no one wants to hear that I have 3 kids with type 1 and no history on either side of our family tree.
Diabetes and Cancer (not comparing – just including) don’t care if there is history. They don’t care if a person is humble, generous, kind, intelligent, beautiful, educated, a mom, a dad, a baby – they do not discriminate.
Share the signs and symptoms of early onset diabetes so others may catch it early.
Do self exams to know your body.
Get anual physicals (that means turn and cough guys).
And always, always, love one another.