Today is World Diabetes Day. Around the globe, people are wearing blue to celebrate and mark the day. Landmark buildings will be awash in blue light tonight. Seminars are being held. At kitchen counters across America and around the world, parents are drawing up vials of insulin or pushing buttons on insulin pumps and thinking about their dreams of a future without diabetes (between sips of the other elixir that keep the diabetes parenting world running: coffee. Of course).
Here at my house it’s quiet. Lauren is 500 miles away, probably still sleeping right now. Louie the Supercat is annoyed at me for trying to tie a blue ribbon around his neck (be a little more supportive, supercat!). It’s “winter cold” outside; something that makes me, the skier to the core, tres happy. I don’t have the light on in my office yet and it’s gray outside so the screen of my IMac is the only glow lighting up my messy desk and my steaming cup of Starbucks Verona Blonde (I like to think it’s good for my hair color) that came thanks to my Keurig. My hair is still a mess and there’s a huge pile of work staring at me to my left. (Book due. Two website stories due. Ski season stories to be researched. Too much work is a good thing for a writer).
But before I let the full light of day wash over my office and drag me into all that reality, I just want to sit here and savor it all.
Because this World Diabetes Day, I am marinated in gratitude. I’m awash in humility. All I want to do is say “Thanks.” So here goes, a list of thank yous that will be far too short and leave someone out. Because while this year was a remarkable year for me in diabetes advocacy and support, really; every single day of the fifteen-plus years we’ve battled Lauren’s diabetes (I cannot believe I can say “fifteen-plus” about it now), there’s been so much to be amazed at. These years have certainly been peppered with moments of fear and despair, seasons of heartache and decades of challenge; they’ve also been overflowing with a constant stream of amazing from every part of our world (and even new parts that came to us). Here goes. And as always, feel free to add YOUR thanks to someone in the comments section.
Dr. Fredrick Banting and Team: Banting, Best and their team invented a snazzy little vial of incredible that we all call “insulin.” Without insulin, Lauren would have died – yes DIED – on or about October 28, 1997. While I often talk about the nearly unfathomable challenge for a person living with diabetes today, please know that I understand how damn lucky we are to have insulin in our lives. Try to imagine a world without Lauren and all she has accomplished so far. I simply cannot. Dr. Banting won the Nobel Prize at a very young age and died tragically in a plane crash a few years later. Today on WDD landmark buildings around the world will glow blue in his honor. I’m sure he can see it from heaven. Because I know that’s where he is. Thank you, Dr. Banting, for saving Lauren’s life without ever knowing her.
The Staff and Volunteers of the JDRF: It’s not just that they make things happen (check out today’s news HERE). It’s not just that they raise hundreds of millions of dollars to fund research for a cure and better treatments. It’s not just that they funnel that funding into “fill the gap” spots that NEED an extra push to keep things moving along. It’s not just that they are a force to be reckoned with on Capitol Hill. More to the point, it’s this: JDRF gave me, Lauren and my entire family a voice in all this. Back in the beginning, when I thought there was nowhere to turn and nothing more I could do but get up every day and keep Lauren alive, I found the JDRF community. And while I’ve absolutely given them plenty of time and money, they’ve given me so much more. Like friendship. And knowledge. And empowerment. And again, a voice. I will never, ever, be able to say thank you enough to JDRF for trusting me with perhaps their most influential leadership role: Chairmom of Children’s Congress. (I still remember thinking when they asked me: what? Can’t they get someone good?) Or that they chose me to chair Government Advocacy for three years in which I got to head up the successful push to renew the Special Diabetes Program. I’m just a mom with an home office, and JDRF has allowed me to experience such a high level of advocacy and empowerment it’s beyond remarkable.
So thank you to the staff, both past and present, for choosing not to have a job, but to take on a mission. People like Heidi Daniels, Ginny and Dara, Lauren Shields, Kristin Judd (who not only works endless hours for JDRF but is raising a son with T1D), Jessica and Jennifer and the rest of the gang I had so much fun with planning Fall Leadership that year, Maryann Jacobson (who always makes me feel good when I think I don’t feel good), Amy Montalto (who I am loving my new partnership with), Suzanne Sobers, Karen Brownlee, Peter Cleary, Eileen Brangan, Joana Casas, Peter Van Etten, Laura Whitton and Ronnie Tepp, Hasan the Superman Shah, Kara Coen and Jaime Deesing Zarraby, Jenny McAwesome, Renata Robertson and Andrea Hulke, and so so so many others. Your work – even if you’ve moved on to other places – has forever made the world a better place. And every day I am thankful for you.
And thank you to the volunteers. I could not possibly list them all here but you all know who you are. The family walk team leaders. The board members. The Ride to Cure crazies (because I know you are crazy first hand, more on that in a bit). My “GLT Team” whom I will forever adore. Michelle Crouse. Tom Glass. Katie Clark. Gary Henn. Leah Wooten, who some may not realize is the “mother” of so many important JDRF national programs. Emily Green. Shelley Page. Pam Sagan. Red Maxwell and my awesome friend Marinda Maxwell. Charlie Queenan. Rob German. The late Jim Tyree (whom I miss every baseball season. It’s just not the same without razzing him). Margery Perry, one of my D-Mom idols. Kassy “Marsha” Helme, my volunteer twin sister. Mary Regina Bennett (and fabulous family!). Ray and Shannon Allen, who have become friends for the worst of reasons but with the best of results. Cynthia Ford, whom I adore and admire and who has a way of cutting to the point that is just perfect. Every single one of my Children’s Congress families, both my year (2005) and the years since then. The gabillion of friends I’ve made while speaking at chapters across the country. We are bonded for life, and for that I am so very thankful. The great thing about us is we all know when we need a moment to breath, one of us has the other’s back. From now and forever. Plus we are all really fun at a bar.
My Ride to Cure donors and supporters: The list of folks I have to send notes to is thick, and yes, they are coming. You know I cannot settle with just a standard note so it takes time! I’ve written enough about the ride on this blog but just to say it again: every single one of you who donated, watched, cheered and supported have changed my life. At a time when I thought, well, I might not have the ability to stay effective in this battle, you showed me that I can – not because of me but because of YOU. I will never, ever, ever forget the support and love Lauren and I felt from all of you. And the nearly $40k we raised as a team is supporting research right this very moment. You, my ride supporters, I will thank every day for the rest of my life.
The folks at Childrenwithdiabetes.com and Friends for Life: CWD was the first place I ever found someone who gets it at. Late at night, on dial up, I stumbled upon CWD and found a world of information, support and just plain compassion. Friends like Ellen Ulman and Renee Burnett and Katie Black and others simply changed my life. And Jeff Hitchcock (plus his better half Brenda?) You know, they respond to every email I’ve ever sent them. When you realize they’ve build a community of millions, that’s kind of incredible. Laura Billetdeaux and Stacey Nagel and Kimberly Karr and Tom Karlya oh so many others have simply enriched my life, particularly in the past year. Becoming a part of the Friends for Life faculty is as rich and honor as being Chairmom of CC. And again: I’m not worthy. But I feel so blessed not just to have this chance to continue to make a difference and have a voice, but to know you all. Not only do you teach me about compassion and education and empowerment and support, you teach me about red wine and scotch too. And that’s a beautiful thing. So thank you so much for the gift you’ve given me of being a part of your community.
Senator Ted Kennedy and family (and other elected officials): We miss you, Senator. What you did for our family for so many years –and what the rest of your family still holds close to their hearts on our behalf – has changed the world. But here at my house, it has simply shown us that public service and elected officials can be amazing, good, caring people (something we hold close to in this current climate). You were such a busy man but you always took time to send Lauren notes, take our calls, check in with us and stand up for us any time we needed it. Thanks also to Retired Congressman Delahunt, Senator Kerry and Senator Brown. And their staffs. Each one of you is a big reason Lauren is determined to make a difference in this world.
Sean, Leigh and Michael: They, besides Lauren and Louie the Supercat, are my family. Thank you to Leigh for the years and years of being a supportive and awesome sister. I cannot wait for one of her first grade classes moms to come in all worried about having a child with Diabetes in school and learning that Leigh is a master of daily diabetes care and gets it. Thanks to Michael, my soon to be son in law, for learning and embracing all this and understanding it is a part of our family until the cure. And thanks to Sean. As I said on the stage when they surprised me with the JDRF International Volunteer of the Year award (and with sneaking him there to witness it), Sean may not always be visible in the diabetes world, but he has never once questioned my need to dedicate so much of my time to work that has a different kind of “paycheck.” And I think his experience volunteering at the Ride to Cure rest stops showed him WHY I’m so freaking into my D-world friends. I know diabetes has impacted every one of you, but I really think it has made our family stronger. Thanks for being my home team.
Louie the Supercat: You might not be a “diabetes alert dog” but you sure are a “someone needs some love alert cat.” We worship you in a way that is not right. Heck, I just thanked you on a blog and I’m pretty sure you don’t always even read my blog. But thanks for being a supercat.
Lauren: Thank you for being you. You are funny, talented, honest and sincere. You are working toward a major in government and communications that you want to use to change the world for the better. You’ve battled diabetes with grace (okay and a few Linda Blair moments). You are a hero and role model to so, so many. Thank you for being you, even when diabetes is a pain.
I know I missed someone – more than a few. But please know I’m thinking today and every day of what you’ve done for me in this crazy diabetes world.
My Verona Blonde needs refilling. My work is calling my name. It’s full on daytime now and I’m going to rock my blue outfit.
Not for me – but for you. You, my friend, are a difference maker. And that fuels me every single day.
Thank you. Thank you. I’ll never be able to say it enough.