Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Guest Post: Spring Rains . . . .

Every year during Diabetes Blog Week I get to meet a few members of the DOC I hadn’t had an opportunity to interact with - and I love it!!  This year one of the people I got to meet was Rick Phillips and I’m so glad to have made his acquaintance.  When he offered to write a guest post for me I jumped at the chance!  I think you’ll enjoy getting to know Rick just as much as I have.

*** First let me say what a joy it is to be a guest blogger for Karen.  I caution I am not up to her high standards but it is nice to swing the bat in the big leagues of blogging every once in a while.  (No worries, Rick, my blog has low standards and isn’t big league, but if it was you’d be up to the task!!  -- K.G.)   I hope you will indulge my ramblings this one time, even though I know nothing about knitting. ***

I used to love spring rains.

I especially loved the gentle water falling that would soak my yard and that sound so pleasant on the roof.  This was especially true as a boy when I would camp out.   There is something dangerous yet tamed about being inside a canvass tent with the gentle rain falling on the fabric.  It was soothing for my spirit to hear those rain drops.

In 1973 and 1974 I had the privilege of backpacking in New Mexico the first year for 12 days and the second for a full month.  (People who know my history probably find that interesting since I was diagnosed with diabetes about 1 month before I left for a 30 day high adventure in New Mexico)  Today we would never allow a kid to do that but my mom and dad sort of had an evolutionary approach to child rearing.  I know what they were thinking, if he dies we have insurance so it’s ok.  LOL  In the mountains in New Mexico it rained every day and that was a special time for me. 

Yes I loved spring rains until I was placed in charge of a city sewer system.   After that every spring rain brought on a slew of hateful calls. As sewers would flood basements I would receive more and more angry calls. My mother (a wonderful person) could never have done all those things she was being accused of by the callers.  Likewise my father and his mother (my beloved grandmother) could not have done those things he was being accused of.  Certainly I was not guilty of the offenses I was being accused of.  Those offenses ranged from causing rain to making people want to move oh if I had that power just once I knew I could use it to good advantage.

The thing is it took less than about 3 months to cure me of loving spring rains.  By the time I was 29 I had come to dislike spring rains which was different than a poem I had written in in high school celebrating the romance of the soft noise of rain beat on the roof.  Instead around age 29 my love affair with spring rains was over.  One might say I had grown up and put a childish indulgence behind me.

The same in a way happened with my diabetes.  Some 40 years ago I was wide eyed and wanted to learn all I could about diabetes.  I really drank it in after I was diagnosed.  Even with my mom being a type 1 diabetic I still had lots to learn.  I practiced the exchange system learned about the wonders of the clinitest and the fabulous promise of the fasting blood sugar.  I learned it even though I had lived it because it was new.  In a way it was a romance of youth, I wanted to beat this disease and besides I only have five years to hold out.

I suppose that was sort of the problem.  I realized soon after release from my week in the hospital that I could not successfully live the way I was instructed.  I am certain the educators meant for me to pick and choose what I could live with, adapt what I could not live with and over time became a ‘better’ diabetic.  Trouble is I threw all that knowledge away.  I decided if I cannot do it all, I am not going to do any of it.  It was obvious to me almost immediately the clinitest was not a good measure of anything except failure.  The fasting blood sugar was a ridiculous test.  Let’s face it one could easily manipulate the fasting blood sugar.  Finally I decided to bank on the 5 year cure.

Therein I think lays the issue with diabetic education.  We tell new diabetics to change their life immediately.  Certainly change is for the better, we can feel better, live longer, and still be productive if we follow the path of total compliance with this new set of rules.  But following those rules is an onerous burden if one has to follow them all at once.  For that reason I believe a different form of diabetic education needs to be practiced for new diabetics.  One that accounts for behavior as well as the practical changes that are required when we are told we have this disease.  In particular this is true for children and parents of children with diabetes. I see way too many fail not because they do not have the tools to do it, rather because it is next to impossible to make a sudden 180 degree shift in lifestyle.

Dieticians, doctors and CDE’s never seem to give practical advice, like how do you explain to a date you need to test your blood sugar?  Or what is that thing with a tube coming out of you.  Or my favorite question, (probably because it was mine), what should I do when everyone goes for pizza at 10 PM after the football game?  I know we can preach the science but we also have to give strength for the practical and accept the failures as part of growth

When the practical is not addressed, more often than not people (kids are my main concern) throw the baby out with the bath water.  They simply reject the concept of meaningful change and put it off until bad things start to happen.  So I ask how do we allow people to enjoy the spring rain, and be as healthy as they can be at that moment?  There has to be better ways than our current take it or leave it diabetic education system.

*** Lawrence ‘rick’ Phillips Ed.D.  is a 40 year type 1 diabetic who blogs about diabetes, life and films at TUDiabetes.org.  You can also find him on twitter @LawrPhil.  He is a notorious misspeller of words, and sometimes he tells humorous stories.  He has been married for 37 years Sheryl and has two sons and three grandchildren which he will tell you about ad nauseam if you let him.  You can contact him at rphil2@yahoo.com. ***


  1. Great post, Rick! Love the spring rain analogy you've used here. I did that when I was a teen, pushing aside my D management until the times when it got most scary and I faced complications. Same in my 20s. So often, we sidestep until we are forced to obey what we should've been doing all along. I continue to think DOC or peer support channels like D-camp are best, and hopefully the educators and endos listen and give us the tools we need most when we need them - even if we dint know we need them at the time.

  2. I like your perspective Phil. I feel like I have burned myself out with diabetes. I used to care and now there is too much life for perfect diabetes discipleship. I'm trying to maintain moderation but some days I fail in one way or another. Then again, don't we all?

  3. Thanks for the post. I think it was really spot on!

  4. Thanks for keeping it real Rick. It's been wonderful getting to know you on TuDiabetes. Proud to call you my friend!



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