“Friends for Life … this conference is delicious. It’s like the Woodstock of diabetes,” he said, pacing around the room and smiling warmly.
Meet Joe Solowiejczyk.
According to his bio on the CWD website, “He [Solowiejczyk] currently works for LifeScan, as Manager of Diabetes Counseling & Training and is a faculty member of the Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute. Joe is healthcare professional who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 47 years, Mr. Solowiejczyk has been able to translate his personal experience into patient care.”
To my untrained eye, Joe is the “guy who gets it.” He’s a diabetes nurse educator, and a person with diabetes himself. If he was a member of my personal medical team, he’d be the one I take most seriously because when I say, “It sucks,” he could respond, truthfully, with “I know.”
Joe hosted a session at Children With Diabetes called “It’s Not Just a Numbers Game.” This grabbed my attention because I write constantly about how an A1C is only one part of diabetes management. There’s all this emotional and mental stuff that comes into play.
“Ask me if I like it,” Joe said to the group of us. He paused for a second. “I hate it.”
I was sitting at a table with a bunch of CWD parents (including Bennet and Michelle) and I heard them all chuckle, but I just nodded in agreement. Empowerment is being able to say that diabetes is hard and that it sucks sometimes, but still forging ahead and working towards better health. I was glad to hear Joe telling this group of parents (and adults diabetics) that diabetes doesn’t have to be something we like. We can hate it, openly, and still remain positive.
“I schedule my diabetes depression days,” he said. “I plan them and then I tell everyone I know to call me every hour and tell me how courageous I am.” He laughed. “After about an hour, I’m sick of it and I just want to move on with my day.”
I like Joe. I like listening to him talk and I respect him for managing diabetes for over 47 years. I respect him for saying, “It took years for me to be able to say, ‘I’m having a hard time with diabetes,’ without it being a chip on my integrity.” This statement resonated for me because I think people want to read blogs about diabetes and find a lot of upbeat moments and happiness. But the truth of life is that there is an emotional gamut to be run and we have the right to run it, diabetes or no diabetes.
“You can not like it and still do it. Hating it [diabetes] and doing it are not mutually exclusive states.”
He talked about the daily duties of a person with diabetes, from waking up in the morning and testing to all of the bits and pieces of precision management that are required along the way. The possibility of a cure was mentioned. And while many diabetics say “I’ll eat the contents of an entire Crumb’s Bakery,” or “I’ll drink orange juice FOR FUN,” Joe smiled gently.
“If there’s a cure? What will I do? I’ll sit on a park bench for three weeks and stare at the sky and do nothing.”
It’ll be 23 years for me this September.
I’d love to sit on a park bench and count clouds for a while.
*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*