Listening to Diabetes Stories, A Sweet Gift

I was more than ready for the announcement to board my late-night plane for the long journey home. I had taught my Diabetes Seminar from 8am to 4pm, packed up my stuff, then plodded through two hours of traffic to Dulles Airport and was anxious to get back home to northern California.

Just as I was getting comfy in my airport seat, my feet propped up on my suitcase, cradling a cup of hot tea, a gentleman who could have doubled for Santa Claus, plopped down next to me and asked, “Were you here for business or pleasure?” 

I explained that I had taught a seminar on diabetes for the health care professionals at a local hospital.

“I have diabetes, he said as he looked away, but I just got tired of taking my medications, so I stopped taking them.” 

I took a sip of my tea and nodded.

He continued, “actually, since I stopped my medications, I have lost over ten pounds. I don’t think those medications work.”

I asked more questions about his self-care and barriers. He wondered if taking care of his diabetes really mattered.

I provided a passionate description of how important it was to keep working on his diabetes and at least continue taking his metformin. I encouraged him to try to monitor blood sugars a few times a week.

I described how elevated blood sugars can cause weight loss as the kidneys try to clear out extra sugar in the urine (he was experiencing polyuria) and that his blood might be looking thick and gooey like honey, slowing down his circulation.

I reassured him that metformin, in addition to helping to lower his blood sugars won’t harm his kidneys, can help lower cholesterol levels and may even have a cancer protective effect.

He got quiet for a few minutes and said,

“Well, maybe I could restart taking the metformin, I just hate taking all those pills.”

 “Yeah, it is a lot, I replied. But it’s worth it, and you are worth it. You deserve to live the best life possible with your diabetes.”

When they called our group to board the plane, he patted my shoulder and nodded a thank you.

As a frequent traveler, dozens of complete strangers have opened up their hearts to me and told me stories about their struggles managing diabetes.

Each story touches me in a different way and reminds me of the complexity and permanence of living with a chronic condition.

I consider these stories sweet and fragile gifts. Gifts that make me a better and more compassionate educator.

As educators, people tell us their diabetes stories all the time, in clinics, hospitals and airports. A special thanks to all of you for your careful listening. You are providing a gift of invaluable hope for people living with diabetes.

This compassionate listening is making such a difference in so many people’s lives and I am sincerely grateful for each one of you!

Love, Coach Beverly

This story is from our December Newsletter. Click here to read previous issues or sign up for future newsletters.