Motivational speaker, Ken Ellis, has successfully managed type 1 diabetes for more than 53 years, and continues to stay motivated through maintaining an attitude of gratitude for the positive things in life. For the past 25 years, rather than bemoan his fate, Ken facilitates hospital and community diabetes support groups, helping hundreds of people.
When I was diagnosed in December of the first grade, I spent several days of my Christmas vacation in the hospital before being released on Christmas Eve. When I woke up the next day, I was excited, for it was Christmas and there were presents. The day held a different kind of excitement when my dad said, “Kenny, it’s time for your shot.” What size needle did he use? A 26 gauge needle, and it hurt when the insulin was injected! I used these 26 gauge needles for several years, and they were used many times before being discarded.
Over the years, the needles have become increasingly thinner and more comfortable when injecting. By the time I started using an insulin pump, the Paradigm 512, I had given myself more than 42,000 injections. One factor that motivated me to start on a pump was its convenience for giving insulin doses compared to using a syringe and needle.
How were blood glucose levels determined? Your blood would be drawn at a hospital lab, and results would usually be available in days, not minutes. What I used at home for twenty-one years was tes-tape, which is glucose analysis from the urine. The tape, when urine was applied, would change from yellow to a light, medium, or dark green, depending on how much glucose was present. It was neither a current, nor accurate, result and would only show results equal to or above about 175 mg/dl.
Now glucose meters are available, which uses a tiny amount of blood, and gives results in five seconds. My first glucose meter was an Ames that I purchased in the summer of 1981. For a glucose check, you had to be near a sink. You would draw a large drop of blood to place on a strip, and then press a button on the meter to being a one-minute countdown. Once the minute elapsed, you would apply a high-pressure spray of water from a small bottle to the strip. This washed away any blood that had not absorbed into the strip cloth. The strip was then ready to be inserted into the meter for another one-minute countdown. Finally, after following these procedures, which took over two minutes, the result would be displayed. Unfortunately, there was no memory in the meter for record keeping.
I am so thankful for glucose meters evidenced by the fact that I’ve now checked my blood glucose more than 95,000 times. And now, I am thankful for the use of my continuous glucose monitoring system (CGM) with the MiniMed 530G system. I am thankful I don’t have to use the inaccurate glucose monitoring with tes-tape like I did for 21 years, or cumbersome blood glucose meters that I used for many years. Today, user-friendly glucose meters and CGMs are available .
Gratitude for what is available can make a motivational difference. More than twenty-five years ago, I was recovering from surgery in a wing of a hospital that was exclusively for individuals with diabetes. The young man in the room next to mine was only 27 years old, blind, and had been in and out of the hospital with diabetic ketoacidosis. He blamed anything and everyone for his situation instead of accepting responsibility. Instead of using the button at his bed to summon a nurse, he would rave like a madman, sometimes banging on the wall while ranting. When a nurse came into his room to help, he would scold her for not coming sooner. I believe most of this could be prevented if he had gratefully used what resources were available then.
It has been said, “When it gets dark enough, you can see the stars.” When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, or a complication from diabetes, it may seem dark. Remember the stars are always there, and we just don’t notice them in the daytime of life, when everything seems to be going well. We take them for granted, just like so many other good things in our lives. We do not always focus our gratitude on what we already have. Instead, we often look for what we don’t have. Let’s focus on and use all that is available to help us outsmart diabetes now. A proverb from King Solomon states that “Good news gives health to your body.” The natural response to good news is not to complain and feel deprived, but rather to be thankful and excited!
The Way of Wisdom offers an insightful, inspiring, empathic voice of support. There is a need for more uplifting and encouraging examples that help build a positive attitude for confidence to meet the daily challenges of living with diabetes. My intention is to build a greater sense of hope for better health and well-being, which is why I wrote my book, ‘The Way of Wisdom for Diabetes‘. The book provides some of these examples from real people, as well as humorous and heart-breaking stories, and impelling guidelines for diabetes management, such as timing of insulin, carb counting, portion control, and movement with a great motivational tool – the pedometer (I use one and average 11,000 steps each day). The Way of Wisdom is written to provide motivation, not for just a day, but for a lifetime!
Let’s all maintain an attitude of gratitude! It will help keep our focus on the brighter side of life and contribute to the motivation we need for self-management. It’s helped me to live well with diabetes for fifty-three years and still counting!