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The Stripes & Spots
Have you rocked out a striped gown in the hospital? If you have had the miracle of bringing a life into the world you may be pretty familiar with the hospital fashion wear. You just kind of hope that at least 2 out of 3 of the strings holding the gown together (almost) are still present on the garment you receive. If we or a loved one finds ourselves in a hospital gown there is a very good likelihood that we are concentrating on what is going to happen during the time we are there vs how we are looking.
In the last couple of months I have sported striped hospital gowns numerous times. It is a very fortunate thing that I realized many years ago that most folks are not really noticing our appearance whether it is in stripes or something equally unattractive. A mentor many years ago shared a gem with me. He told me that other people are generally involved in their own situations. If we step out with one black & one blue sock on then it is unlikely that we have the flashing neon sign on us that we think is there at times. If we are in a hospital setting this may be magnified again. As I have looked around during hospital visits recently, what I have not only seen with my eyes & noticed as a feeling is that many people are pretty freaked out with worry & this is understandable. The fact that the striped gowns have not been longer than the knees & are short sleeved has bothered me more than it seems to have troubled others thankfully for the most part. It has bothered me that while I have these huge red spots that look like something really weird I have had to many times let the cat out of the bag so to speak while being at the hospital in these gowns. The rest of the time I cover the spots up big time & don’t have to explain that I am not contagious & that they look more menacing that they are. Sometimes we can get tired of explaining stuff like this. The thing with type 1 diabetes & many other “365” challenges is that they are invisible. People cannot simply look at us & be able to tell that we have type 1 that’s for sure. Frankly I like that because there are times when I love just not talking about type 1 or being the girl in the crowd that is the “type 1 diabetic.” Sometimes I simply want to let type 1 fall far into the background & just be me with no labels attached. Maybe you feel this way at times too.
Remember those ghost writing pens that we may have enjoyed using as kids? They were very cool because you could clandestinely write a note to your buddy & it would be invisible until they used the other pen over top of the note to read it. I would love to take an invisible device & erase the red dots especially when I have to go for appointments requiring a gown so that I can stop reassuring everyone that I come in contact with that I do not have the plague or something scary. Who knew that a severe case of strep throat could continue to be presenting in other ways over 7 weeks later in the form of red spots long after strep throat was treated & healed. Oh yes, the ghost writer super spot remover just may need to be invented soon. The funny thing is that the tests that I am there to complete are being completely overshadowed by these spots. And type 1 is merely a footnote since most of the folks coming in contact with me are so fixated on the spots. Maybe I should wear spot coloured clothing so that I can camouflage all of this on a humourous note. If the movie based on the character in the Dr. Seuss book “Put me in the Zoo” comes to film, I think I have a great chance at the lead roll I share with you with a laugh. That’s the choice & that is to either laugh & reassure people that they are not going to catch something horrible or get cranky & impatient. I choose the former. We each are beautiful originals so we each make our own choices.
As we enter into soccer season for this year, we see more stripes. We see them in the form of the uniform of the referee at the games. You or a family member may be playing soccer this year. Our youngest son is part of the “hive” playing soccer this year & I get such a charge out of the little guys & their looks of determination. At this age it is more of a social outing it seems & half time snack time tends to be the highlight of the game. It is just serious fun & that is exactly right. If we have type 1 then we kind of have an internal referee of sorts following us around. It is like the ref is giving us a shout if our blood sugars are too high or too low. If I had to hear the sound of a referee for my blood sugar control in my head, I would like it to be the voice of Morgan Freeman. His voice is so soothing & so encouraging & just seems to have a spectacular way of promoting the calm. I feel more like I hear a drill sergeant though most of the time in my head as the voice of the blood sugar referee. That is a work in progress to replace the referees in my head.
Type 1 has no spots or other outward appearance for me. You & I may hear more times than we can count that we must be better now since we don’t look like we have type 1 & we look well. The thing is that unlike the spots which are under clothing of strep, there is a layer beneath that again is inside our bodies & that is truly invisible to the eye. It is within that invisible layer that physiologically none of us really know what is going on inside our bodies living with type 1. Can you get beaten up & have no marks on you? Yes, we can because we can get beaten up physiologically from fighting type 1 & other “365” health challenges. What is invisible is still very much there. We can look like we are healthy to others & be big time sick & know it or even not know it. We do our very best with management of type 1 or other health challenges & we fight what appears to others as a phantom. It is the invisible beast & it is there vividly to us.
There is something very comforting about running into someone else who is fighting the invisible beast too. Very few words are needed beyond, “me too” or “I get it.” Even a squeeze of the other person’s hand speaks volumes. A few weeks ago I was volunteering & a lady that I had never met before came into the kitchen that I was preparing refreshments in with a panicked look on her face. She was a wee bit confused & simply asked for a cookie. I looked her in the eye & asked her if she has diabetes. She was so surprised & relieved. How do you know she asked me. I wanted to tell her that it is the ghost writer ink but instead I simply told her that I know because I have it too. She told me that she had left her home very quickly that morning & had forgotten to pack a fast & slow acting sugar. She began to verbally beat herself up over that. I stopped her. Then I looked her in the eye & handed her a spray form of fast acting sugar that I had in my purse that was brand new & all ready. I told her to please keep it in her purse from now on since there is only one of her. The cool thing was that over the last couple of months I have had a lot of medical tests that I have had to fast for but the spray sugar was a good way of keeping my stomach empty for many of the tests if I went into a low. I had purchased the spray sugar for that purpose but had not had to open it yet still had it in my purse. I was so happy to help out another person with diabetes so seamlessly. It is a tiny world because when I went for my follow-up appointment with my endo. a week ago, as I was leaving this same lady was coming into the office. We just passed one another & smiled. I could tell that she could not quite place where she had met me & that is exactly right.
While I was waiting in the endo’s office for my turn to see the doctor, there was a gentleman sitting next to me. He was a very friendly fellow & started out a conversation with a question of who was I there to pick up. I replied, “no one.” He responded with “well you cannot be here for an appointment for yourself because you don’t look like you have diabetes.” What does a person with diabetes look like I wondered. I smiled & said, “thank-you.” I thought to myself, how cool is it that I look healthy even with this invisible type 1 beast accompanying me everywhere as well as the spots. Neither the type 1 beast nor the spots define me though. It was time to check my after breakfast glucose numbers so I went ahead & did that. This same gentleman challenged me to a blood sugar dual. He told me what his wife’s glucose number had been & said, “beat that.” Always being up for a challenge, I agreed to the dual. He told me to beat 11.3 & yay, in spades, my meter proclaimed a lovely 7.8! “Good for you young lady” the gentleman responded. Then we just had that “I get it” look with one another & that is comforting indeed.
While I am patiently waiting for the red spots to go away so that I don’t have to keep explaining them when I have to wear stripes, there is something precious that has returned this week that I am delighted about. My taste buds after 7 long weeks have fully returned to normal. I had no idea that there are so many taste buds located in our throats. Prior to this week tea & coffee tasted funky & I was beginning to wonder if my taste buds would ever return back to their status quo from pre-strep throat days. Now with the return of the taste buds, I am appreciating tea & coffee more than ever. It is the little enjoyments in life that I am so grateful for. The little things…like a hand squeeze, a “me too”, a smile, having tea or coffee & tasting it fully with a dear heart, candle light, the sound of our children’s laughter, homemade cheesecake that turned out for this novice on the first try by luck, soft music, a walk in the woods with my furry personal trainer, the feel of the Spring air on my face, and the feeling of helping another battle warrior with the invisible beast of type 1.
My heart’s hope for you is that the one thing always that remains fully visible to you is the compassion & encouragement & love of battle buddies in your life.
Smiles, Saundie :)
May the week ahead be full of visible acts of kindness for you. Next Monday's sharing is "A1C (Attitude is of 1 of Cranky or Conqueror)" :D