Monday, November 15, 2010

Blue Circle of Advocacy

The little Blue Circle pin glistened in the sunlight, showing off my pride and support for World Diabetes Day from the above-the-heart spot on my blue dress shirt. With only two days before that Sunday arrived, I was displaying my D-colors and doing my part to advocate in whatever small way was possible during my daily routine.

On the way into work that Friday morning, I took a quick right turn off the expressway leading into downtown Indianapolis. My office is located in the heart of the city, but my pitstop was focused on the nearby Eli Lilly Corporate Center to see if they were doing anything to mark the day and month. As soon as I entered the roundabout entrance, my face lit up with a smile. The water fountain outside the corporate center’s front doors was colored blue in honor of World Diabetes Day.

Parking nearby and snapping some photos, I ventured inside to the front lobby information desk. Instantly, the lady at the front desk glanced at my shirt and saw the Blue Circle Pin and greeted me with excitement. She asked if I was with "the World Diabetes Day event," but sadly I wasn’t and hadn't even known there was one. I told her as much.

Nice Lady: “Oh, I just saw your World Diabetes Day pin and blue shirt and thought you were here for the Insulin For Life event.”

Me: Actually, I’m not, but I am a Type 1 diabetic. The simple fact that you know what this pin is all about is awesome and a step in the right direction.”

Nice Lady: “Yes, it is. We even have our fountain colored blue, and we hope more people will be taking part and spreading awareness.”

She paused, and looked at my pin then me again. “So what can I help you with, then?”

I mentioned my curiousity of what the company was doing and that I'd be interested in finding out about possibly touring the Lilly Museum where the history of insulin and company's work is displayed. I had a chance to visit briefly during a past JDRF research event, but wanted to explore coming back to tour or visit. The nice lady said they only allow tours if an employee accompanies someone inside. I agreed to reach out to some contacts there, and then said goodbye and went on my way.

Glancing at the time, I made my way to work and ventured off to the downtown coffee shop for a work meeting with a local attorney. We stepped into the line that had about four people in front of us, and more gathered behind as we waited. The attorney asked about my pin and I explained what it was all about. He mentioned that he wasn’t aware that I was a diabetic, but didn’t seem either familiar or unfamiliar with the Type 1 aspect. When we got up to the counter, he ordered and stepped aside to let me do the same. The girl behind the counter rang up my medium coffee order and then tossed a look at the WDD Pin on my shirt.

Coffee Girl: “That’s a cool little circle pin. What does it mean?”

Me: “It recognizes World Diabetes Day that is this Sunday. I’m diabetic and it’s an important way to raise awareness about diabetes.”

Coffee Girl: “Oh, you have that?” (referencing diabetes, I assumed)

Me: “Yes, I’m a Type 1 diabetic.”

Coffee Girl: "Oh, I’m sorry. I hope you get better soon!”

My teeth clenched. Eyes narrowed, glaring at her. I felt my foot twitch, like it wanted to jump into action. An image of me, jumping that counter and pouring a Latte on her head, came into my mind.

Somehow, magically, I restrained myself. Normally I might use that as an opportunity to educate this young woman. Especially since it’s November and just two days prior to World Diabetes Day. But, it wasn't the time. The person I was meeting with was standing to my left. At least six people were waiting patiently in line behind, and the inside coffee shop was packed full of people. I processed this quickly, deciding that it just wasn’t the time to spout into D-Advocacy. To explain, even in the simplest of ways, what Type 1 diabetes is and why I wouldn’t be “getting better” anytime soon. I bit my tongue and decided to move on, just wanting to sit down and talk to the person I was there to meet with.

Me, smiling and mumbling half-under-my-breath with thoughts of The Cure on my mind: “Me too.”

Suddenly, a man’s deep voice boomed in my ear from over my right shoulder.

“No, he said diabetes. Not the flu. Having diabetes is not like catching a cold and being sick. Part of the body doesn’t work the way it should and right now there’s no way to fix that. You have to take medicine for the rest of your life.”

I turned to see a tall, salt-and-pepper haired man in a business suit. He smirked, glanced at the insulin pump on my belt, and nodded his head before focusing his gaze back on Coffee Girl.

Business Suit Man: “And it’s not something you can get over by exercising or eating better.”

Coffee Girl: “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

Business Suit Man: “No problem.”

A smile came to my face, and I had to shake this man's hand and find out his story.

As he placed his coffee order and we all moved off to the side to wait for our drinks, we did a quick intro and handshake and Business Suit Man mentioned that his wife is a Type 1 diabetic of 30-some years. He apologized for intruding like that, but I assured him it was cool and pretty awesome. Like me, he can’t stand it when the general public displays that kind of ignorance. He pointed to the Blue Pin and I explained about WDD, and saw the interest in his eyes.

So I gave my pin to him, inviting him to give it to his wife. I had another in my desk at the office, so it wasn't a big deal to replace it later that morning. Business Suit Man and I exchanged business cards, him writing his wife's name on the back as I handed him one of my D-Cards. Then, we parted ways. My meeting lasted about 25 minutes and the topic didn’t come up again until the end when Local Attorney wished me well on the D-Advocacy Front, then I went back to work.

All the while, smiling and appreciating the Blue Circle Pin and displaying it even more proudly for the rest of the day. A couple of my co-workers also noticed the pin throughtout the day and I explained what it was all about, with one of the conversations delving into my D-Life nuances and how that does and doesn't impact my workdays. Educational, indeed.

That night, we attended an after-work party with those my wife works with. A few questions about the pin came my way, one person thinking that it was a Support Obama pin (um, no) and then my wife's boss asking about the one on Suzi's shirt. She was also thinking it was something different, and when we explained World Diabetes Day she wanted one so I sacrificed my pin and gave it to her, having some extras at home I could wear. She promised to display it proudly.

So, in the course of that one day, I managed to: Give away two pins; Educate a coffee shop girl about diabetes not being like the flu; Visit Lilly and learn about some great work there; Pass along the message to a local attorney; and Answer a handful of other questions related to diabetes generally or specific to World Diabetes Day.

Now THAT was a productive day of D-Advocacy, all thanks to the little Blue Circle. But it was only the start leading into the weekend. We haven't even gotten to the actual events of World Diabetes Day yet...

2 comments:

Hallie said...

This made me smile. A lot! I can't wait to hear what's next! I'm living vicariously through others- we spent WDD in the ER. A bad pump site left Avery with large ketones and large #'s and some throwing up. Missed the Type 1 Talk event I was hosting and everything else- but it's why we need a cure!
Did you order the pins from the WDD site??? Very cool

shannon said...

Holy wow this was a great post! And told with such a dramatic flair! I felt like standing up from my seat and cheering when business suit man spoke up! YAY!