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August 23, 2016
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A Walk in the Park

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We met because we have diabetes. Our lives became linked by pump tubing and test strip trails, by the difficulty of lows and the joy of staying stable and feeling healthy, by the words we used to describe the struggles and the victories. But we became friends because we have so much more in common. A love of words and books and strawberry tea, an appreciation for twisted or immature humor, and goofy cats that drive us crazy. We would like one another, even if we didn't share diabetes. But diabetes bonds us as tightly, if not more tightly, than any of our other commonalities. So, when Kerri from Six Until Me invited me to join Team Six Until Me at the Providence JDRF walk, I was, of course, on board.
Team Six Until Me included Shannon from Mom Wants a Cure, her husband Jeff and their kids, Kerri's bestfriend Batman, her fiance Chris, her mom,two aunts, and two cousins, and her future sister-in-law and cute as a freaking button future niece. And what a team we had. Charging through Roger Williams Park, chatting and laughing, stopping to test when we needed, and being a part of a sea of people who know exactly what this disease is like. The weather was sunny, the light coming through the trees and projecting the orange gold green red of the leaves onto us. I popped candied orange slices and posed as a bug for Batman's camera (I'm pretty sure I'm going to regret that last). It was a simple walk in the park - except that the reminders of diabetes were everywhere.
We talked quietly about how pained we were when we saw a toddler in a stroller with his family gathered around trying to get him to take juice for a low. We talked about how unfair it was to see a team in pink shirts that said "Melissa's Team" and an infant in a pink onesie announcing "I am Melissa." We watched as a boy no older than three, with an Ice Blue Cozmo clipped to his hip, posed near one of the characters at the walk. We saw a line of teenage girls wearing "Molly's Team" t-shirts and tried to guess - unsuccessfully, I might add - which was Molly. We marveled at just how many children there were in the sea of walkers - and just how many insulin pumps. We didn't bat an eyelash when we passed walkers at the side of the road with their test kits out or when we saw a family standing as a lone child in their midst sucked on a juice box.
And I couldn't have been prouder of our team, of the people that diabetes has found me crossing paths with.
But today also reminded me that type 1 diabetes is a sneaky beast. It lives in most us, quiet but dangerous. It lurks and waits for us to let our guard down. But to look at many of us, you would never know that we live our lives in a fight to stay healthy that's become so everyday, we barely notice it. And certainly, not many others notice it. But just because it is virtually invisible, doesn't make it any less threatening, any less dangerous.
This disease needs a cure. Because a toddler shouldn't be forced to have juice to save his life. And a mother shouldn't have to test the bloodsugar of her infant daughter. And a teenage girl shouldn't have to worry about telling her friends she has diabetes. And little boys should pose with characters at Disneyland, not at a walk to raise money to cure their chronic illness. And none of us should have to fear the complications that might be waiting around the corner.
I hope someday I'll be a part of a sea of people who know what it WAS like to have diabetes in their lives. And I hope I walk, alongside the friends diabetes has brought me, to celebrate our cure.
Until then, I will take every opportunity I have to move us closer to that glorious day - and that walk in the park I dream of.

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