I have always loved puzzles. In 4th grade, my grandfather bought me a subscription to Games magazine. Every other month one arrived and kept me entertained for hours at a time. I returned frequently to each issue to discover yet another solution to an incomplete story. The interest and the skill set I developed became a great asset in managing my health.

The summer leading up to eighth grade I was diagnosed with Juvenile Onset Diabetes (Type 1). I remember in the hospital the doctors, nurses and my family were very concerned and expected me to be terribly upset with the news. Up until then my apprehension and aversion to shots was well known. At that age though, I had no knowledge of Diabetes and what I would need to do to manage it. When I entered the hospital I had lost 23 pounds in six weeks time. I was severely dehydrated. The hospital staff archaically believed that withholding fluids would provide them further conclusive evidence to back their theory of Diabetes. Once my dehydration reached the point where uncontrollable tremors surfaced they were confident in the direction they needed to take. I was already rattled by the symptoms I had experienced. I reached a point where I had become so weak that what I had was no longer a concern for me, I simply wanted to feel better.

The puzzles I enjoyed from Games magazine helped prepare me for the challenges of diabetes. Food exchanges, units of insulin, ratios of Regular (short acting) and NPH (long acting) and a monumental shift in my food selection. Considering that I was a teenager with a sweet tooth, I did not enter this nutritional change with welcome arms. I was quite defiant at times. Every day for the last 35 years the tools I acquired from those puzzles have been put into service. They offered me the ability to look upon my challenges as an opportunity. In addition, the friendships that developed because of my diabetes provided me strength, hope, and inspiration. Simply realizing that these struggles were not exclusively mine, that the road I traversed was not a road I walked, alone made a huge difference.

In 2007 my lack of concentration intensified, my energy level plummetted, everything I ate made me feel horrible,  and a myriad of other symptoms appeared at random. After months of inconclusive tests for thyroid, Lupus, and a number of other health concerns I discovered I had Celiac. I was excited to know that I finally had an answer. I now had available to me a way to overcome my difficulties. I searched for books to enlighten me with answers. Food was now the center of my universe, it consumed me. Everything I ate now required careful consideration. The grocery store was the greatest puzzle of my life. Before placing anything into the basket I had to study the label. The ingredient list was my nemesis and my friend. This dichotomy was now part of my everyday world. Whatever I struggled with, I found answers to consider. One of my favorite sources of information came through stumbling upon a variety of gluten free blogs. I found a great deal of support and encouragement in reading these. I also learned how to make foods that were extremely good. It was like discovering heaven after a period of time wandering the desert finding sustenance but nothing to excite my tastebuds.

After 35 years of managing my blood sugars, I have found that my greatest joy comes from helping others. My experience allows me to explain why someone with diabetes might respond the way they do. I now understand the torment a parent endures watching their son or daughter struggle through difficult circumstances.It is considerably more difficult than going through the same trial myself. After raising two boys, I have the unique opportunity to understand both sides with clarity. To share with parents the perspective of what their son or daughter is walking through can provide confidence knowing their child’s struggle is not due to anything that they have or have not done. That this is simply something their child needs to walk through. For your child to know that you accept their decisions is monumentally important. To speak with teenagers, sharing with them that you understand their trials, their choices, their fears, their frustration and their anger. To explain to them their parents fears and frustrations as well.

I believe that the secret to peace and joy comes from walking beside those that are hurting. By giving them your full attention and supporting them with the choices they make you provide them a gift.

If they rest a little easier for having shared a story what could possibly be more fulfilling than that?


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