It’s almost here. Nearly a year ago I started thinking to myself … maybe. Just maybe. Six months ago I clicked on the link, signed up and made the first donation myself. JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. Death Valley, California. I didn’t own a bike. I’d not been on one (other than those cute ones with baskets you rent on vacation) for about 25 years. I also set what seemed like an outrageous goal: to raise $30,000 for diabetes research.
I just stopped into our local store to grab something and the cashier said “Hey, when is your ride?” And it hit me. It’s not two months away. It’s not two weeks away. It’s not even next week. “It’s this Saturday,” I said, and immediately felt my heart pounding. That thing I imagined: It’s almost here.
And I have to say, while it’s been six long months of very hard work (both in training and in fundraising), I realize this as I look back (and look ahead):
I am pretty damn lucky.
Because really, all this has been such a gift to me, to Lauren and to our entire family (even Louie the Super Cat is pretty pumped about it all. I can tell because he donated to the ride. Still trying to figure out who helped him with the online stuff there).
I am lucky because all this has reminded me of a few things: Of what hope feels like. Of what friendship is. Of how many, many amazing people I’ve been lucky enough to know in my life so far. And that in this crazy life we now know with diabetes on board, we are so completely not alone.
You see, when your child is diagnosed with diabetes (and I would imagine any other frightening, life-altering and incurable disease), in an instant, you feel cut off from the world. I remember sitting in her room at Children’s Hospital in Boston and thinking “I don’t know what life feels like anymore.”
I remember those first months at home, struggling to learn how to take care of her, trying to brave it up and just be strong when I was just so flipping frightened. And feeling, despite all the calls and cards and gifts for Lauren, absolutely and completely alone.
But I wasn’t; not by a long shot. When we first did the Walk to Cure Diabetes and over 150 friends raised money for us and showed up to walk, I realized quite quickly that my friends were in a dark place with all of this too. They desperately wanted to help us, but simply did not know how. The walk became their main way to show us their love, support and dedication. And we treasured it.
But when Lauren went away to college; all that changed. It’s hard to still have a large walk team when your kid and all her friends are gone away. And frankly, I felt like my friends might have needed a break. For years and years and years I’d asked them to step up for us. And I know: it must get old for people.
So we backed off from the walk. Sean and I still go – and we donate to all kinds of other walk teams – but we no longer are that giant, awesome team that nearly every at the Boston Walk noticed each year.
But here’s the thing: diabetes had not gone anywhere. I was still the mother of a young woman now who had to learn how to manage life with all this on board. I’m thrilled with her mastery of life and diabetes, but that does not mean I don’t have fear. And I don’t have worries. And I don’t have dreams. Dreams that include her having an easier life. Dreams that include grandchildren who cannot possibly ever get Type 1 diabetes. Dreams in which I no longer know the insurance company customer service hotline by heart. Dreams of a cure. And yet, I’ve felt kind of like I had to just shut up about it for a while.
And in a way, it is kind of like being back in that window at Children’s I looked out of 15 years ago. Back to being alone.
Then came the Ride. I have to say, while our entire community embraced the walk all those years, I’ve never felt anything in my life like the support, encouragement and donations I’ve seen and felt through this program.
From the simple things: like the lovely Sue Hoagland, a member of my beach club with some time on her hands because she’s retired. Often on hot days when I was out training she’d just “happen” to drive by and happen to have cold water or happen to stop and make sure I was okay. I know she was looking out for me. Her support was just so, so cool. And it wasn’t just her. Over time, it seemed like everyone in town knew I was on that bike for a mission. (Thank GOD they knew not to roll down the window and talk to me – our roads demand focus!) but I’d get a quick wave, a beep or a “Go Moira!” many times each ride (and thus the cashier asking me when it was. I think everyone in town knows. At our walk to Cure this weekend, I saw some Plymouth high school kids and walked up and said “Hey – I’m Lauren’s mom!” To which all of them said ‘Good luck on the ride!” Wow – even the kids in town are cheering me on).
To the big time things. Some numbers to consider:
*Over 310 people have donated to my ride. That’s huge. And they represent a wide world: childhood friends, high school buddies, college roomies and other friends, ex boyfriends (to which my husband said, “Well of course they donated – you are still friends with all of them!” ha ha), former and current co-workers, JDRF friends (Even the JDRF CEO!), D-Moms and Dads I’ve met on-line, folks I have never even met before but who heard about what I’m doing and felt motivated, beach club friends, yacht club friends, US Senators and our State Senate President … it goes on and on. Look – we all have a huge network of support in our lives and may not realize it. How many people get to see it first hand? I have, and I am so lucky to realize that.
*500-plus people have signed on to be part of my “Virtual Ride Support Team.” These folks are my cheerleaders; the people who are going to send good vibes my way on ride day. And they shared their stories in a way that is just humbling. Check out the site and see if you can read it without being profoundly moved. I’ve had folks I barely know stop me and tell me they are on my team and then say “Darn it – I read that page over and over and cry every time.” Yeah, me too. How lucky am I to have all those vibes coming my way ride day, as well as to get to know all those faces and stories. They will be with me not just ride day, but also the rest of my life. Lucky, I tell you.
And then there is this. A card came in the mail a few weeks ago, from a dear friend of Lauren’s and of mine named Caroline. Caroline and her sister Caitlin were both life-long diabetes camp buddies of Laurens, and Caitlin in particular was a help to Lauren and to me. When I was struggling with Lauren’s teen years, Caitlin would always listen and share with me what it felt like to be inside the mind of a teen with diabetes. Since she had been Lauren’s camp counselor, she served as an older role model. I watched her go through Georgetown with glee. When I was asked by the International Diabetes Federation to choose a young adult from the USA to represent our nation at the first World Diabetes Summit, I didn’t even hesitate. Caitlin. I knew she’d do our nation – and the world – proud. And she did.
I’ve not spoken about this in public yet because it wasn’t something I wanted to share with the world, but today I will: Last spring, on her 26th birthday, we lost Caitlin.
And I miss her terribly. Every day, every hour. I hate that I cannot message her or call her or just peek on her Facebook wall to see what is up. I’m devastated that I won’t see the twosome of Caroline and Caitlin on the Clara Barton Camp grounds again. While training, I think of her and her family every single time.
So in the card was a pin: The World Diabetes Day pin Caitlin wore that year I sent her to represent our nation.
I’ll have it pinned on my shirt ride day, close to my heart and near my shoulder. How lucky am I to have Caitlin with me again? Because she will be on ride day. I’m going to feel that pin and visualize her at her happiest and healthiest; guffawing laugh; even snorting sometimes. I’m going to try, try to only have tears of joy for her and for all she brought to my life. She meant so very much to Lauren, and to have her with me will mean the world to Lauren too.
How lucky am I to be able to honor her?
Diabetes sent my family into a dark place 15 years ago. This week it will send me to a hot, bright, arid place where I’ll pedal hard, sweat a ton, probably freak out a few times and hopefully go the distance.
But no matter what, I’ll be the luckiest mom alive. To each and every one of you, thank you from the bottom of my heart, Lauren’s heart and the entire diabetes world’s heart.
Because thanks to your generosity, support, friendship and kind words, no matter what the next phases of this life with diabetes bring us, I get to be lucky enough to know one true thing:
We are absolutely not alone. Far from it.