As I write this, I have just gotten word that the doctor who diagnosed me, Mark M. Singer, MD, passed away. My wife and I sat across the desk from Dr. Singer on a hot August day in 1983 as he confirmed the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. Oddly, the date I was diagnosed soon would become the date of my beautiful daughter’s birth. The sting of that moment in Dr. Singer’s office was forever vanquished the moment our beautiful Lara entered the world on August 24.
So what I think about right now are the people who have always ridden alongside me and provided the support I need to own my diabetes. Actually, I am a co-owner of diabetes. I share it with my stellar wife, Nancy; my aforementioned daughter, Lara; and my awesome son, Jesse. Diabetes is the hardest challenge of my day-to-day life, and I couldn’t do it without the support of an amazing group of people. Unfortunately, in the last few years, my team has been diminished—not just with Dr. Singer’s passing, but with the loss of my supportive and loving in-laws and of my own mom, who loved me, supported me, and worried from afar!
I was 30 when I was diagnosed with diabetes and consider it a blessing that the diagnosis came a little later in life. By then, I had the tools to become an active participant in my diabetes … and I deeply believe this is what counts in caring for diabetes, whether Type One or Type Two. Despite my excellent team, at the end of the day it is I who must be present for the hints, signs and omens that this subversive disease delivers each and every day. I have to do a blood test now! I must treat a low blood sugar now! This is the constant, nagging truth of diabetes; it is my “dark passenger” (to borrow a term from the Showtime series Dexter) and if I don’t pay close attention to it, it could destroy me. I cannot let that happen.
I make my living in the high-pressured, ever-changing world of television post-production, where people work at a ridiculous pace for hours, days, even weeks at a time. I am very open about my diabetes, but most colleagues forget about it, because I have become an expert at dealing with it and keeping it under control. I recently started a YouTube channel called The Diabetes Project, with short videos about dealing with the disease.
When I’m under a deadline (which is always), the meals delivered from nearby restaurants don’t always address my health needs. Chinese and Mexican food are not a diabetic’s best friends, but I can navigate my way around too much fat and keep my sugars reasonable. I always have healthy snacks nearby—bananas, cereal bars, cheese, and an extra juice box. My diet is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination—I have stood, late at night, in front of the vending machine, waiting for that Snickers to fall—but I try to have a healthy attitude and keep this beast in control.
Exercise is another story altogether. When I was first diagnosed, I started race-walking, a good way to stay in overall shape. Then I stopped. A couple of years went by. Then I started going to the gym—a great release from the stress of work that fit into my schedule. Then I stopped. More years went by. I rationalized: I was always coaching the kids in soccer and baseball; I walked a mile or two in the city, depending on where I parked. I wasn’t “exercising,” but I wasn’t a total couch potato!
But one day my daughter, who is active and has participated in various fundraising runs, informed me that she had started a team for the Tour de Cure called DiaBEATit. How could I just sit there and watch? So I broke out the old bikes, had them spiffed up—and we’ll be riding together in the Tour de Cure! Exercise is back in my life.
So I want to thank my team—starting with Lara (because she got me to do this), Nancy, Jesse, and the current team of doctors and professionals who keep me connected to the best care available and help me navigate the jungle that the insurance industry has become. I ride for them—and I ride for you, if you are touched by diabetes. The good news is that, even though diabetes is a dastardly thing, you can be an active participant in keeping its effects far from your door.