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.”
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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.
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.