2012-02-14

My Secret Society

A few months ago, a new employee joined my workplace. He arrives at the office at approximately the same time I do; we seemed to show up at the coffee machine at the same time; we seemed to show up at the water cooler at the same time; we seemed to show up at the washroom at the same time.

I put two and two together, and as it was eventually revealed to me through casual conversation, I was exactly right. We're both diabetic.

There is much to say about how lousy life is once you get diabetes, how many challenges you have to face, how many compromises you have to make, and how closely you have to monitor absolutely everything you do in life from the day of your diagnosis to the day of your demise. I try not to blog about any of that stuff because it's obvious, uninteresting, counter-productive, and depressing.

Instead, I like to focus on the positive. I am an optimist. It's hard for non-diabetics to understand that there are "positives" to diabetes, but the truth is that there are positives.

Here, I am reminded of a part of Lance Armstrong's biography It's Not About the Bike, in which he recounts a meeting with a fellow cancer patient who tells him, "You don't know this yet, but we're the lucky ones!" Armstrong thinks the guy is nuts, but by the end of his therapy, he realizes that the guy was right.

It's the same for diabetes. People don't realize the harm that their food does to them - they literally have no idea, no clue. We diabetics understand it well, though, because we can feel the pain. But just because you don't think you can feel the pain doesn't mean you're not suffering from it, as I pointed out a while back. Living such a regimented life actually puts us in a position where we might be healthier than the average joe. Really, it's true.

So that's one positive, but it's not the one I wanted to blog about today.

Back to my coworker. Upon discovering that he is diabetic, we instantly formed an indescribable kinship of common experience. We shared similar stories. We had similar advice for our eavesdropping colleagues. Knowing this about each other is great fun because we find ourselves in the same position often, whether it's pounding back a liter of water to bring our BG down, or hurrying off to the men's room after a long meeting, or sharing tips on how we figured out exercise and what we can and cannot eat.

Of course, it's not just my coworker. I know many people who are diabetics. We're the ones shooting our stomachs full of hormones before every meal, the ones tucking our shirts in in front of the mirror in the washroom in a restaurant having just taken some insulin. We're the ones making a midnight b-line for the refrigerator to finally have that piece of cake we had to forego at dinner (even hypoglycemia has its perks!), or sharing stories about what it's like having to - as my cousin put it - eat "like twelve bowls of cereal."

We can usually spot each other. We know what's going on when we see these things happen with others, and we help out. Frankly, we're a bit of a secret society.

No, you can't join the club. But luckily, you'll never have to. That doesn't mean we don't enjoy being in the club once we're inducted.