I have been married for 39 years. My wife and I have had ups and downs, and we have made it together, which does not imply we are perfect. Marriage and family is hard work. It is messy, complicated, and often it results in difficult situations where there is no road map for the future. But it is also worth every minute of the investment we make.
I had been a person with diabetes for a few months when I met Sheryl, and it was two years later when we started dating. When I asked her to marry me, I immediately had misgivings, not about being married, but about being married with diabetes. Today I look back on the life we have and what we have built, and I know I was foolish. Sheryl is the rock of my life. I cannot imagine living without her or my two sons. Over the years my family has helped me face job, health and financial issues. Not once have any of them ever asked me to be perfect or even better than I was. They only asked that I be me. It is the greatest reward a human can have to be loved. Not for what we give, but for who we are.
I describe my family, but I will wager that almost everyone who has a chronic condition would use similar words to describe their family as well. I believe I can manage Diabetes and now RA by myself. But I know I manage it better when I work with Sheryl. Family (however you define it) is just like that. It gives us strength when we feel weak and hope when we are forlorn. I know I have been at the lowest depths. When I lost my job due to RA, I lost my identity and my purpose. I had to toss in the towel on who I was even as I lost hope for the man I might someday be.
Recognition of little things
It seems odd that we recognize families for the extraordinary things. In truth, the real recognition belongs to our family for the little things. Those times when we sit outside and watch the clouds, or take a walk, it is those things that give us the foundation so we can keep going. In my life today I am blessed with grandchildren I love a great deal. My work is about helping to make a world where living with RA or Diabetes is easier than today. I cling to the hope that someday our grandchildren or their children will not face these conditions.
My mother (also a person with diabetes) said once that diabetes is a family issue. Yes, it is personal in that one person is diagnosed, but it is also a family issue because everyone must adapt to the reality of living with it.
Never is this truer than when the true heroes of the type 1 community (parents of young children) face this condition. These caring warriors support the youngest members of the community with dedication and persistence that is not often exhibited in other contexts. Likewise, the dedication I witness by the parents of children diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis is beyond compare. They care for and about their children’s wellbeing in ways others cannot fathom.
We owe our families a great deal of gratitude for what they do for and with us. Our families are certainly a blessing to those of us with chronic conditions.