It’s a terrible, selfish wish that I think all of us in this D world have from time to time.
“I wish I had someone who really got me and got it.”
I’m not talking the friends we meet in the D-World (although they are absolutely beyond amazing. Anyone who does not think so can ask those of us who lived this life B.I. [before internet]). The power of the Diabetes Online Community is remarkable.
That said, who hasn’t wished for a friend – someone who already gets you and gets how you think – to truly understand this world and be able to communicate with you on a real level?
But that’s a terrible wish. It would mean . . . yeah. It would mean they’d have to have someone they love beyond reason be diagnosed. In real time, we would never ask for that.
And then there is my friend Anne. When Lauren was an infant, Anne was the friend I pushed a carriage downtown and back with all the time. We had play dates for the girls. We signed them up for dance class together when they were toddlers and shared responsibility for the rides to and from over “The Scary Road” to the south side of town where the dance school was.
We thought the same way about a lot of things: discipline, activities, reading, family time. And when Lauren first started showing signs of diabetes the summer before kindergarten, Anne was one of the first people to point it out. (Of course I didn’t truly listen. Not sure if it was denial or stupidity, but I was not hearing it).
And when it happened, she was one of the first people I called. I knew – and I was right – that she’d never say anything stupid like “When will she grow out of it?” Or, “Too much sugar?” or “I told you that you should have nursed.” Nope. Anne never did anything but be helpful, encouraging and a true friend.
She was one of the few people I could leave Lauren with and feel totally comfortable (and that was back in the days of Regular and NPH [shudder, shudder]; a time when you really had to obey all the rules of diabetes care and follow a crazy strict schedule as well as chase down constant lows and highs. Alas). She was totally supportive when I figured out the first dance recital plan (even when that stupid other mother complained because “if your kid gets to eat backstage, my kid should be able to too. It’s not fair! Oh, puh-leeze). Anne got it, helped me and stood up for me and for Lauren. I honestly could not have survived those early years without her.She and her family stepped up too — doing the JDRF Walk with us each year, attending the gala and raising their paddles on behalf of Lauren. Her youngest son Jeffrey even won our coveted “youngest walker award” one year.
Anne had two other younger children, and since Lauren was my youngest, as the kids grew (and her daughter Lauren’s age went off to a private school), we found our time together diminished. But I always felt she was one of my heroes.
Then came Lauren’s confirmation. I knew I’d be seeing Anne and her family there, and looked forward to getting a photo of my daughter and her daughter just like the one way back at their First Communion (the year Anne helped me figure out how to hide a pump in a Communion dress). I looked around and saw her daughter up front with the kids. But when it was time for communion, I only saw her husband and other daughter walk up. No Anne, and no youngest son.
Hmmmm, I thought. Knowing Anne, she’s over at the Parish Center getting things ready for the reception. She’s always one to step up for those things. I never saw her afterward but there was kind of a crowd. In the back of my mind, I felt unsettled. But I did not know why.
Then, the next morning, my phone rang first thing. It was Anne’s husband, calling from his cell phone. We joked about a few things and talked about how cute the girls looked the night before.
Then he took a breath and said, “Anne and I have something we have to tell you, and we wanted to tell you first.”
Oh my God, I thought. And for some reason: Anne is sick. I hope it’s not cancer.
“Anne is at Children’s with Jeffrey. He was diagnosed with diabetes yesterday. We didn’t want to ruin confirmation for you so we waited until today.”
When I tell you the immediate pain and shock I felt was almost equal to Lauren’s diagnosis, I’m not exaggerating. How can this be? Come on, Anne is the one friend who did everything right for me. Why, oh why, had her family been chosen?
I hung up the phone and called her at Children’s immediately (only fellow D-Moms have the right to call at such a time. This I knew). We talked for a few moments. Anne said “I’ve been waiting and waiting to talk to you.” I told her I would not be coming in (I know how busy and stressful dx time is, after all) but I’d be here for her when she and her son got home.
I worried for a few moments. How much should I butt in? Would I be too pushy? And then I decided to just do what I’d want done. I called one of the best pedi endos I know and asked him to take Jeffrey even though his practice was full. He agreed. I left a note on Anne’s door with his name and # and said “But only if you are interested. Don’t worry if you are not.” They were and they did.
And now, Anne and I speak in a common language that few understand or want to be part of. We share all this, the crazy days, the basal changes, the emotional challenges, all of it.
One day, sitting in my kitchen over coffee, Anne’s phone rang and it was the school nurse. Knowing she did not have to apologize to me for picking up right away, even in the middle of a conversation, Anne did just that. As I listened to her familiar conversation (“287? Did he eat yet? Last site change was yesterday. Ketones? No? Good. Correct only to 170 because of gym, Call me in two hours.”) a sudden rush of, well, this is terrible to say but I’m going to confess it: a sudden rush of thankfulness came over me. Here I’d been for years, really alone in all this when it comes to a true friend who really gets it. And now, here I was sitting with a friend I’d long respected and admired, and she was truly in my world.
As quickly as I was thankful, I felt shameful. Tears came suddenly and Anne asked me what was wrong. I explained how horrid and selfish I felt. I promised her I wished more than anything that she was not in this world. But I told her how I somehow felt “saved” when she joined me.
Being Anne, she said she totally got it. But I don’t know. I wish I’d never wished for an “insider friend” in this world. I wish I’d been stronger. I wish Anne didn’t speak this language.
But still, even with the guilt, I’m so lucky to have her. Sorry ‘bout that, Anne, and Jeffrey.
What do you think? Share you stories of your D-world friends here, whether they came in later like Anne did for me, or you met them in the D world. Give them a shout out and say thank you in the comments below.