Diabetes Ambassador By Helen May


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I have already mentioned that I have a new job. Before starting, I wanted to take a break, get away from normality and enjoy some fresh air. Unfortunately, my boyfriend was unable to join me so I decided to go on one of the group walking holidays that I used to join when I was single. I booked late so there was not too much to choose from once I restricted the dates and applied my “only places where I did not know anyone else to have visited” filter. So, at the end of last month, I found myself on a minibus with 16 strangers heading for the Rodopi Mountains in Bulgaria bouncing around narrow, windy roads to a hotel in a small village where every house owned a cow.

After being assigned a room mate (a lovely farmer’s wife who I had never met before and hadn’t spotted on the minibus), it was time to experience Bulgarian food. But more importantly, it was time to meet my fellow intrepid hikers. The conversations started as they usually did on these trips, discussing where we’d been before. I guess it was all we knew we had in common. For some this became an opportunity (not necessarily, intentionally) to boast so I was glad when our leader interrupted to introduce herself to the group. This was followed by a round table introduction.

I am not a fan of these events and, usually, hide my discomfort by making a joke or two. But this time, I came up with a fiendish plan: I would use my introduction to come out of the closet, place my cards on the table and, reactions be damned, tell a group of strangers that I have a chronic disease and stick needles in myself.

There were a number of reasons for this:
– I dislike hiding away when injecting but, the other hand, I don’t like making others feel uncomfortable when I suddenly untuck my shirt and expose my midriff in public.
– I once shared a room with a lady who had a needle phobia. To avoid scaring anyone else, I wanted to warn them needles would be on display at every mealtime. I asked if anyone had a needle phobia to tell me so I could be sensitive to them.
– I don’t mind talking about diabetes so by being so public telling the group, I hoped I was giving them the message to ask me anything they wanted.

As it turned out, there were no needle phobiants so I could stab away to my own delight (or at least as much as I needed). But there were lots of questions throughout the week: how often do you inject, does it hurt, what is a hypo, why is it dangerous, what’s the difference between type 1 and type 2, … Thankfully, I did not get the comment about being too thin to have diabetes but, if I did, I would try not to judge and correct them in a friendly way but point out that I am not an expert.

I have diabetes. It is not my fault. So, I am not ashamed of it. I will continue to show by example that I can do what I want and help others understand diabetes as much as I can. I see myself as a Diabetes Ambassador: spreading the word.

As for the Holiday, if you like huge meadows full of wild flowers, alive with butterflies, I thoroughly recommend the Rodopi Mountains in Bulgaria.

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