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In Their Own Words: Diabetes and Gratitude

People touched by diabetes share what they’re thankful for


Thank You’Tis the season to take stock, give thanks, and pay tribute to the things we’re grateful for in life. For some folks touched by type 1 or type 2 diabetes, Thanksgiving may take on some surprising meanings.

In praise of care partners: Scott Johnson’s tribute to his wife, Tabitha

We’ve profiled several caregivers on The DX, but one story has stood out in particular: Scott Johnson’s 2014 tribute to his wife, Tabitha, with whom he has two children.

The Johnson family

“We grew up together, learning about life and work and responsibility. We learned about enjoying each other’s company and spending time together. And we learned about diabetes,” Scott, who lives with type 1 diabetes, wrote in his loving tribute to Tabitha.

“As the years went on, we learned that diabetes would challenge us in many ways. Some physical, some financial, some mental – often all three at the same time,” he continued. “What might drive many people apart somehow pulled us closer. I have learned that when the diabetes storm rages, you are the shelter I seek.”

As for growing old together, Scott wrote: “I know that we’ll have our fair share of challenges. Diabetes may be a big player in some of them, but I’ve learned through my time with you that, as long as we’re together, we can get through most anything.” He added: “Thank you for being the love of my life.”

Read more: Scott’s special tribute to his wife, Tabitha

Riva Greenberg and “flourishing” with diabetes

Riva Greenberg, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for over 30 years, is a diabetes advocate, author, speaker and Huffington Post columnist. “Call me crazy – some do – but I think living with diabetes may offer us some benefits. It has been that case for me,” she explained on The DX.

“For instance, it’s given me more motivation to stay healthy, so I really watch what I eat and make sure I walk every day. It has also given me a greater appreciation for what I do have, like my amazing husband, wonderful friends, and loving family. And it’s given me this work I’ve always craved: helping others.”

Riva Greenberg and her husband, Boudewijn Bertsch, 2013
Riva Greenberg and her husband, Boudewijn Bertsch, 2013

After working in the diabetes field for over a decade, and speaking with over 150 people living with diabetes, Riva said that many people like her used diabetes as a catalyst to lose the pounds they’d been struggling to lose for years, and many were finding fulfillment by teaching others in their community about diabetes.

“Diabetes gave these people a greater sense of purpose,” she said. “They take the actions that help them live as healthfully as possible, and see that maybe they gained something with their diagnosis and didn’t just lose something.”

But that doesn’t mean they or Riva don’t ever experience grief, loss, frustration, sadness, or burnout. “We sometimes do. But seeing a relatively positive future, we are able to metaphorically ‘strap our boots back on’ and keep going. Here’s the exciting news: flourishing is available to all of us.”

Read more: Riva Greenberg’s 7 steps to flourishing vs. coping with diabetes

Patrick Totty and the road ahead

When a routine checkup in 2003 revealed that Patrick lives with type 2 diabetes, he found an opportunity in his diagnosis. “Bad habits had crept in. I thought, ‘Okay. Let’s use this as an occasion to shed some bad habits.’”

So he did. Patrick, a freelance writer and Diabetes Health contributing editor, lost almost 20 pounds after walking every day, cutting back on portions, beer and carbs, and adding more vegetables. He said he drove down his A1C to the target level he and his doctor had discussed.

But after two years of a healthier lifestyle, however, that enthusiasm began to wane. “My A1C crept up a little. I got back a few pounds, enough to realize I wasn’t being as diligent about things as before,” he said.

In 2013, Patrick and his doctor noticed his numbers start to rise again and decided it was time for another change: adding insulin. “It was kind of a boogeyman thought in my mind, ‘Ooh! You have to take insulin because you’re not exercising enough or eating right,’” he said. “But then I realized there’s a reason why they call it a progressive disease.”

Through it all, Patrick managed to be appreciative. “I think that the thing is, even if it’s hard, to have at least a small sense of gratitude,” he said. “I can know, within approximately 30 seconds, what my blood sugar level is. It’s good to have just a tiny bit of gratitude about the fact that we know much more now about what to do about diabetes, and we have much more control in terms of things we can do to feel better about ourselves and also make our bodies feel better, such as exercise and diet. They’re not cures, but they’re good tools.”

Read more: How Patrick Totty has paced himself for the road ahead

You may also enjoy:

Tips for caregiver happiness

Rethinking Thanksgiving dinner

Mothers, daughters and life with diabetes

Disclosure: Scott Johnson and Riva Greenberg are paid contributors to The DX; Patrick Totty received no compensation for his interview on Discuss Diabetes. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewees and/or contributors, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

© 2016 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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