If you read my posts on Facebook you know that last month I was on vacation at Disney World with my mom. We’ve vacationed together each year since 2002 to celebrate our birthdays, which are 4 days apart. Over those years airport security has increasingly become an adventure, as Mom has had more pins, screws and replacement parts added. She lights up a scanner! This year was our first trip since I added the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to my Type 1 Diabetes management, and I warned her ahead of time that I’m now the bigger problem for the TSA. She was shocked to see I was right. First, I sent 3 insulin pens through the x-ray machine – which got my tray pulled for further inspection on both ends of our trip. There are 2 different responses when I explain that what they’re holding is insulin. The first is an understanding nod before handing them back. The second is total confusion and seeking out other TSA agents to get help. Fortunately, that second level has always let me through without further question. The bigger problem is that I can no longer go through the scanner, because Dexcom doesn’t know how the sensors will respond. This is the part inserted in my arm, where I make sure to have the sensor inserted every time I travel so that it’s easy to reveal to security without getting undressed. That means that I have to opt into the pat down every time I fly. I don’t mind it (free massage!), so far everyone has been respectful and to an extent even apologetic. I’m the one choosing the hassle, so I can’t fault them for doing their jobs. But for the first time in a long time, now Mom is the one waiting on the back end of security while I get 2, 3, and sometimes even 4 levels of attention. All she could do was laugh. We’ve been traveling long enough that we’ve gone from a senior citizen threat to national security to a middle-aged diabetic gumming up the works. Bear with me if you’re ever stuck in security behind me, I’ve become the person you usually curse at.
There’s an overdue blog post that ultimately needs to happen about vacations, family and food, but this isn’t that post. What I want to talk about are the people I encountered while we were out of town, and a recent decision I’ve made. The numbers I see online are that there are either 1.5 or 3.0 million people living with T1 in the United States. As someone who analyzes data, I find that range ridiculously large and it tells me that we really don’t know other than…it’s not a lot of people as a percentage of the population. Yet I seem to run into T1s or people affected by T1D everywhere I go, and I had 3 of those experiences on this vacation. On our trip to Hollywood Studios I wore my “T1D Looks Like Me” shirt and a gentleman approached me out of nowhere to ask if I have T1. He explained that he was a bike mechanic and supports the JDRF fundraising ride every year in Grand Rapids, just an hour or so from where my family lives in Michigan. The second T1 run in was one night at dinner. As I was injecting insulin before desert, a young server walking by exclaimed “I use that kind of insulin too!” That was a first for me. And finally, on the day we went to Universal Studios, a security guard going through my purse pulled out the cold pack with one of my insulin pens. He had no idea what to do with it, but his partner quickly said it was either insulin or an EpiPen. She knew about the insulin because she also has T1D. I told her I was diagnosed just a couple of year ago, and as we walked away she said “it gets easier.” I told her it already has, and we headed off to the park. It fascinates me the number of T1 people I run into. If there are so few of us, why do I meet these people so frequently? We didn’t go to the Magic Kingdom on our trip this time, so I’ll spare you any “It’s a Small World” puns and just leave that ear worm out there for you to enjoy.
That last line from the security guard is something I’ve thought about a lot. For me it has gotten easier. T1 is changing me in ways beyond the physical, and it’s all positive. This is never easy, but most of the time it’s as significant a part of my routine as brushing my teeth. As I’ve said in a previous post, I had to learn about managing T1 largely on my own and from strangers on the internet. So when I got an email from the local JDRF chapter looking for people to volunteer as mentors to newly diagnosed people, I realized this may be a chance for me to help someone starting their T1 journey. I’m generally not a joiner, so this is outside of my normal reaction. But having T1 is so outside the norm that I feel like I have to go outside my comfort zone for this one. So I’m heading to the JDRF office after work this Thursday for mentor training. I’m hoping to be paired with recently diagnosed adults rather than the parents of recently diagnosed kids. Not that I can’t talk about T1 with parents, but I can’t accurately relate to their experience. I don’t know what will happen, who I’ll meet or how it will go, but I’m giving it a shot. If nothing else comes of it, hopefully I can help some people believe that eventually, after you get through the denial and fear and confusion and all the other myriad emotions that come with a T1 diagnosis, it really does get easier.
I tortured my mom while we were at Disney and demanded she cooperate with a few photos. Fortunately, she humored me a couple of times. This is soon after we rode Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom. Thanks, Mom.