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Looking Back: PWD in the Wild.

As the ladies of Team Sparling prepare for our trip to Orlando for the Friends for Life conference, I’m looking back at a moment from last November, when my friend Renza and I were spotted as “PWD in the wild.” 

*   *   *

We were sitting at the coffee shop having a really nice Melbourne cappuccino (they make the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had in my whole life, with the steamed milk almost like a marshmallow topping on each coffee – amazing), talking about the Australian diabetes social media summit. The weather was sunny and crisp, with plenty of other patrons enjoying their caffeine jolt at the outside cafe tables.

“I guess when I was diagnosed, it didn’t matter much to me that I didn’t know anyone else who had diabetes.  I didn’t really know what diabetes was.  But as I grew older, I wanted to find that community, and that’s where the Internet has helped tremendously,” I said to Renza, talking about the impact of the diabetes community on my emotional well-being.

“And here we are now,” said Renza, laughing as she stirred her coffee.

No joke - Melbourne has the best coffee I've ever tasted.

We chatted on about the Summit the day prior, and what we thought of it. And then our conversation tumbled into our personal experiences with diabetes and pregnancy.  Thinking back on this conversation, we probably said the word “diabetes” at least a dozen times in a ten minute conversation.

Which is probably why the young woman was staring at us from her table, just a few feet away. She was holding her coffee cup near her mouth, but hadn’t had a sip yet.  She was fixated on us.  Her young daughter was drinking a frothy mug of hot chocolate, swinging her feet as the wind caught and tousled her bangs.

“Excuse me,” she said, almost to herself.

My seat was facing her table, so I leaned in and said, “Hello!”

“I couldn’t help but overhear – you both have diabetes?”

Renza shifted in her seat.  “Yes, yes we do.  I’m sorry – were we being too loud?”

The woman laughed nervously, her cup still close to her mouth but merely an accessory at this point.  “No, not at all.  I was happy to hear … I mean, my daughter was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few weeks ago.  We’ve never met anyone else who has diabetes.”  She made a sweeping gesture with her hand.  “And here you both are!”

“Real life people with diabetes, in the wild,” I smiled.

Renza leaned back and extended her hand, introducing herself and explaining to the woman that she had type 1 diabetes and also worked down the street at Diabetes Australia Vic.  “You can come visit us any time you’d like – and I’m at this coffee shop all the time.”  She handed the woman her card.

Thank goodness for the poise and professionalism possessed by Renza.  I couldn’t help myself – I waved animatedly at the girl and her mother and this stream of information passed my lips:  “I’m Kerri and I live in the United States and I’ve had type 1 diabetes for twenty-six years and I have a husband and he and I have a daughter who is two and a half.”

I wanted them to know I was okay, and that even though my life has included type 1 diabetes for several decades, I was still okay; it was a consolidated diabetes life story in one messy sentence, delivered with a caffeinated edge.

“How are you doing?  How are you both doing?”  I asked.

The woman looked at her daughter, who was staring at us.  “We’re good. We’re doing good.  We come to this coffee shop often because they are the only ones who really listen to how I want her hot chocolate prepared.  Her daycare is right around the corner, so it’s a nice place to stop.  They do listen …” her voice trailed off.

“We do know.”

We talked for a few minutes, and the woman gathered up her belongings.  “It was so nice meeting both of you.  Really.  Thank you.”  Her daughter stared at us with her big, brown eyes, the same as her mother’s.

“Our pleasure.  I hope to hear from you.  Please do reach out,” said Renza warmly.

The woman took her daughter’s hand and crossed the street toward the daycare center, her delicious Melbourne coffee still untouched on the table but every single sip of her daughter’s special-made hot chocolate all but devoured.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. This brought tears to my eyes. I remember the astonishment and relief I felt when my newly-diagnosed son’s energetic, cheerful, and uber-positive nurse bustled into the room wearing the same CGM my son had just been given. Jen’s positive example and encouragement provided a positive launch for our diabetes journey. Beyond giving us hope, she shaped our approach to diabetes, teaching us by example to face it down fearlessly. Her impact was really powerful and lasting. I’m so thankful for people who use their gifts and situation for good like this.

    07/8/13; 6:21 pm
  2. Deanna #

    After my 3 year old was diagnosed I remember the relief of meeting adults with type 1 that are living ‘normal’ lives. :) And it’s amazing how I notice pump tubing on people now. There are many, many out in the wild. ;)

    07/9/13; 12:00 am
  3. I love meeting PWD in the wild! And more than anything, I love when I can encourage moms and young girls about being able to have healthy pregnancies, even with T1D. I blogged about this a while back, but I ran into a former teacher of my stepdaughter while I was still pregnant with my twins … the mom (teacher) had spotted my pump and was asking me all kinds of questions about my pregnancy- she was very encouraged to hear I’d had a previous successful pregnancy, and that I was doing GREAT while carrying my twins. I left that conversation feeling like I was skipping out ot my car. Which of course, I was not, because I was after all hugely carrying twins. lol

    07/9/13; 11:17 am
  4. It seems that every post you write brings tears to my eyes! We are only 4 months into our life with diabetes. Hearing your experiences have been so valuable to me. Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad that mother was able to speak with you. It has been hugely important for me, as a mother of a child with diabetes, to talk with other healthy, happy and successful PWD.

    07/11/13; 1:07 pm
  5. This made me cry….shortly after having laughed psychotically over the glucose tabs in the doggie bag;)

    I’m the mom of a recently diagnosed type one teen daughter. It is so good to read about thriving, healthy people…with babies and husbands and senses of humor.

    10/4/13; 3:59 pm

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