i can trace my passion for diabetes-related social advocacy back nearly a decade,
must have been 14-15 when i started writing out my diabetes story.
i needed people without diabetes to get it.
i needed someone who understood.
i attended a support group or two, but found them to be information overloads.
that, and i had trouble connecting. could have been age related, maybe i just wasn’t ready.
regardless, the longer i went without meeting someone who understood, the greater the fire burned in me to start something, something i wish i had as i grew to know my disease.
it took until my sophomore year of college to act on that growing flame,
but thanks to lillian, i did.
lillian and i met in a rather unconventional way.
i worked at smart alec’s as a cashier and lillian frequented the establishment with her friend francesca.
one day, lillian showed up to get salads with her mom.
i didn’t usually pry into the affairs of our regulars, but this time i asked,
“why the visit, mom?”
my memory may be tricking me, but i recall a rather sullen glance between lillian and her mom before the answer spilled out.
lillian had been diagnosed with diabetes.
i pulled my pump from my pocket and said, “me too.”
it was only a short time after that we started getting together.
we talked a lot about diabetes, we lamented and we laughed.
then, lillian and i dreamed up a brand new support group,
which we affectionately called:
Bay Area Diabetes Association of Students and Supporters.
why the long name?
well, because it is an acronym that spells out:
our support group efforts only extended to flyer hanging.
but boy did we dream up all kinds of possibilities…
what if we could actually get a group of college age-students and dish about all things diabetes?
wouldn’t our lives be so much better if only we had a safe place to vent?
needless to say, B.A.D.A.S.S. wasn’t sustainable and fizzled out.
but my passion didn’t
and neither did lillian’s.
lillian and i met six years ago, haven’t seen each other in five,
and met up today.
yes, for the first time in five years, the only two members of B.A.D.A.S.S. reconvened.
it took no time to remember why lillian and i clicked back then.
she has this sense of social responsibility that moves her into action.
her ‘pipe dreams’ are grand and span years into the future.
she takes unsweetened iced tea at starbucks,
and examines the world around her through every lens possible.
she is considerate of individuals, institutions, and communities.
i admire her.
i look up to her.
and get this,
we barely talked about diabetes.
we didn’t gripe about the trials of life with chronic disease.
rather, we discussed our current situations, goals, and pipe dreams.
diabetes didn’t fit in.
it wasn’t the story;
and i liked that.
the content of our chosen lives felt bigger than the diseases that connected us in the first place.
it was a beautiful thing and i am missing lillian already ❤
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a post-post shout out to bea sparks for her stunning comment:
I love this story, Heather. 🙂
I think one of the first times you and I ever hung out solo was when you let me tag along to one of your coffee dates with lillian. I had completely forgotten until just now. So happy you were able to reconvene and reconnect with her. ❤️
Gosh, I love reading stories like this. Glad you were able to meet up again, and pick up where you left off.
And Bea Sparks is awesome.
Diabetes shouldn’t always be the story.
When two long-lost acquaintances with diabetes talk about diabetes, it’s kind of like when two long-lost acquaintances reunite and talk about the weather: “Yes, I know it’s sunny today.” “Yes, I know how much it sucks to wake up with a 300+ BG”. There’s not much to be gained from that conversation. You’re coming from the same place, it’s obvious, it’s acknowledged, and it’s understood, even when unspoken.
Over five years, I’m sure you both have had lots of experiences. You’ve got lots of catching up to do, and not a lot of time in which to do it. No time for small talk!