I was diagnosed with type 1 (aka. juvenile) Diabetes when I was 6 years old. My parents were probably more devastated than I was – I was too young to fully appreciate what it meant.
I had little choice but to adapt to a new daily routine in order to maintain my health – testing my blood sugars, injecting insulin, sticking to a diet. My parents looked after these concerns for me until I was old enough to do it for myself, however it was still a difficult adjustment to make. It took me a while to accept that this was the way it would be for the rest of my life.
As I was growing up, the Calgary Children’s Hospital would periodically pass along information about opportunities for kids with diabetes to get together for various activities, which promised to be fun, educational, and a good chance for me to compare experiences about living with diabetes with others my own age.
At first, I was really enthusiastic about it, begging my parents to take me out to these events. Some of them were for just an hour or two in an afternoon, and I once even went for a week long summer camp at Camp Horizon.
But the novelty quickly wore off as I realized these kids were a mix of personalities that showed little difference from the ones I already dealt with at school every day: the bullies, the taddle-tales, the snobs, the goodie-goodies and trouble-makers, and whatever other sorts a person can be in their pre-teens.
I went in, thinking that I would have a special bond with these other kids – one that I wouldn’t have with anyone else, and maybe we would treat each other better. But between us, there was no gradient of special consideration, which meant that we didn’t have to go easy on each other. Putting us in a room together didn’t mean we would all get along any better than a room full of non-diabetic kids.
Occasionally I did find one or two other kids that I got along with reasonably well, but they lived so far away, that maintaining a friendship with them was nearly impossible.
The adults facilitating these get-togethers would often throw out examples of high profile people who were Diabetic, to give us role models to look up to. The problem was, I hadn’t heard of most of them and once I found out what they were known for, it was never anything that I really appreciated. I didn’t really give a damn about rock stars and athletes at that age.
Eventually I lost interest in hanging out with other Diabetics because I found a handful of people at school with whom I got along much better, and was able to interact with much more frequently. Even though they weren’t Diabetic , we had so many other things in common – much more meaningful things that formed the basis for real friendships.
Throughout Junior High, High School, and even University, I would occasionally be introduced to people who were Diabetic. Most often it would result in nothing more than a five minute conversation: "Type 1 or type 2? How old were you? Do you take your insulin by injection? Any health complications yet?" It always struck me as being extremely uncomfortable sharing these intimate details of my life – things I rarely even shared with my closest friends - with a complete stranger that I had no other reason to be talking to.
As polite as I tried to be, I would often develop this immediate, inexplicable, and uncharacteristically intense dislike for other diabetic people that I met. In hindsight, I think this was because I felt pressured by others to like them for the sole fact that they were diabetic, and also, I didn’t like being lumped into a category where someone else’s way of doing things could reflect incorrectly on mine.
Nowadays I realize that Diabetes doesn’t define who I am. Most of the time it’s barely even worth mentioning. If I wanted to hide it, I could always run off to the bathroom to test my bloodsugars and inject my insulin before eating a meal in a public setting, but I don’t. I do what I need to do unabashed and out in the open. Perhaps I’ll precede it by a quick explanation so as not to take anyone by surprise, and if someone’s a little squeamish about needles then they have the opportunity to look away.
Though, heaven help anyone who gives me shit for doing my insulin in public, whether it be a misunderstanding or not – I have some very pointed responses prepared to put them right back in their place.
They say something like: "How dare you do that in front of my children! I don’t want them growing up thinking it’s alright to stick themselves with needles, that could be a gateway to becoming drug addicts."
I would say something like: "Have your children ever seen someone smoking? I bet they have, and did you object to that? Probably not. So how is it alright that they see someone choose to slowly kill themselves without objection, and not alright for them to see someone do what they must do to stay alive and healthy? If they can’t tell the difference, it’s nobody’s fault but yours as a parent."
I don’t need to band together with other Diabetics for support anymore, to reassure me I’m in the right, to fight my battles for me if I’m paralyzed by doubt. I’m confident enough in my own right to survive that I can fight my own individual battles. It doesn’t mean I’m out baiting people to start something with me either, it just means I’m prepared to push back as quickly and firmly as I’m pushed, before anyone speaking out against me can get any traction. Besides, I know my non-diabetic friends, and any bystanders with a lick of common sense, would have my back if I’m overwhelmed. It almost seems silly that anything like this might happen in this day and age.
Am I proud to be diabetic? That’s a trick question, because I’m neither proud nor ashamed, I just am. Is being diabetic a reason for me to favour others like me, to invite people into my circle of friends who I have nothing else in common with, who may hurt me or make me feel unnecessarily uncomfortable or ashamed of myself? No. But if I like someone to begin with, and they happen to be diabetic, it may form an additional strand in a much greater connection.
As much as I have the right in my personal life to choose to surround myself with people who I like and love, who make me feel strong and good about myself, I also have the right to dislike and disassociate from people who don’t. I don’t even need to have a reason beyond the way they make me feel, after they’ve had a chance to make an impression on me of who they are – I won’t decide until I’ve experienced that. It doesn’t matter either way, if they’re diabetic or not, gay or straight, man or woman, old or young, any race or colour – I’m free to like or dislike them personally for how they interact with me personally.
I’m capable of putting my personal feelings aside when I see value in working with someone, but in my leisure time, life’s too short to waste trying to get along with everyone. It’s just not possible without compromising who I am, and expecting others to do the same.
So thank goodness I have the freedom not to love everyone. It is a right that I’ll continue to exercise as respectfully as I can, so long as nobody tries to force me to do otherwise.
After the ARGRA Rodeo that happened over the July long weekend (coverage in last month’s edition), the month of July was fairly sparse for community events.
Steve and I went out for the Calgary Stampede, to take pictures around the grounds and cover the Grandstand show as we’ve done for the past several years. We tried to make it out for Capital Ex as well, but things didn’t go as we had hoped.
Les Girls held their Break the Bank dance on the 20th, which was a huge success. The Bank is a really beautiful venue with a high ceiling over the dance floor, and an upper tier at the back of the room that was used that night as the VIP area. The building was packed to the point where it was difficult to move through the crowd, and it was plain to see that everyone was having a great time.
What baffled us, as we were covering the event, is how willing the crowd of younger women were to be in photos. We sometimes dread all-women events because it can be like pulling teeth to get them in photos willingly. The anecdote we tell is that we will walk up to a group of 10 women, ask if we can take a group picture of them, and then all but one scatter out of the way – then the one remaining chickens out because none of her friends want to be in the photo with her.
Not the case at the LesGirls dance – they were practically throwing themselves at us for photos, which was totally refreshing, and showed a much more open and friendly attitude in general.
August looks like it will be pretty quiet too (aside from the BEEF Bearbash on the 18th in Edmonton, if that is your thing), which makes for a good chance to recharge before the big events happen in Calgary over the September long weekend.
PURE Pride returns to Flames Central on the night of Saturday, September 1st. If you recall, last year organizers claim they had to turn away over 700 people at the door because they had already sold out of tickets the night prior. So if you missed it last year, don’t make the same mistake twice!
The Calgary Eagle has their final farewell on Sunday, September 2nd, with a pancake breakfast at 9am, and then their party from 11am to 2am. This is the last opportunity to enjoy the space before the bar closes down. More details can be found in the article on the Calgary Eagle in this edition.
Staring 6pm on Sunday the 2nd, Les Girls presents Fused, another big dance event at The Bank. This time around it’s not just for women – everyone can enjoy this official wrap up party.
For more events across Alberta, check our event listing on page 55 of this edition.