During my lunch break yesterday, I dropped by the local Ann Taylor store to poke around in their sale rack. An older woman, maybe about 55 years old, approached me and asked if I needed a dressing room started.
"No, I'm all set, thanks. I'm on lunch, so this is just a quick visit."
"Oh! You work in the area? I've seen you in here before."
"Yes, I work at dLife."
She pursed her lips. "dLife? What's that?"
"It's a diabetes media company. We have a website? And a show on CNBC about diabetes management." I ran my fingertips down the seam of a black dressy top that I loved.
"Diabetes. Oh, the sugar! I have that. I have diabetes and my doctor told me to try and lose weight."
"That's good! You're taking the right steps." I moved away a little bit, perusing another sale rack. She followed me.
"You know, I see all these fat little kids at the high school when I drop my daughter off. I see them and I can't help but think that they are all going to get diabetes. Like me. They'll end up taking shots and losing their eyesight, you know. Diabetes is a very serious disease."
I smiled at her. "Diabetes is a very serious disease. But diabetes isn't always caused by being overweight. There are different types of diabetes."
"I know. The kind I have? It's because of being overweight. My ex-husband told me that." She adjusted her glasses. "But I want to lose the weight so I don't end up taking shots. Did you know that some people have to wear a machine all day long that gives them their shot? My goodness. Those people must be sick as can be. No ma'am, I don't want that to be me. I take my pills. I'm not going to end up like those people."
I was on my lunch break. I didn't want to get into a big diabetes discussion while I was shopping. But I couldn't let this lady ramble on, thinking diabetes was her fault and also thinking that pump wearers are on their death bed.
"Well, diabetes isn't your fault. It's a disease, not a guilt trip. But it's good that you're taking your pills and trying to lose weight. That's a step in the right direction. I also have diabetes - type 1 - and I wear one of those machines that gives me insulin all day long." I smiled again, trying to show her that I wasn't dying.
"Oh my. How long do you have?"
"How many years?"
(Is she seriously asking me this?)
"Left? Ma'am, I'm not dying. This machine doesn't mean I'm dying. It's just another method of insulin delivery. So instead of shots, I wear this pump. It's okay. I'm in good health. I've been diabetic almost 22 years. It's complicated, but it's not my fault. Diabetes brings enough to the table - we don't need guilt, too."
"Well, I don't want to wear that thing." She gestured quickly towards my pocket, where my pump was clipped. "I'll just keep taking my pills. I don't want my diabetes turning into what you have. No offense, sweetie. You look very healthy, and I never expected you to have it, too. And I never expected yours to be that bad." She smiled sweetly, making her remarks sound even more ignorant.
I'm all about educating people and raising awareness. But sometimes I'm not up for the challenge. I wanted to buy a pretty shirt, go to the bank, and then go back to work. I didn't have the patience to be tolerant that afternoon.
"That's great, ma'am. I wish you and your health all the best. And just so you know, I don't want to wear this pump, either. But it keeps me healthy. And I want to be healthy. Have a good one."
Turned on my heel. She was still talking, something about "We're having a sale on suits, did you know that ..."
Lady, if I have just one day left or a million years in my future, I don't want to spend another minute of it talking with you.