Walking through the exhibit hall at a diabetes conference earlier this year, I came across a little white puffball of a dog who immediately captured my attention. I learned that this multi-poo (cross between a maltese and toy poodle) is a 12-year-old blind diabetes alert dog named Elvis whose owner was greeting people at a nearby display table.
This was at the annual Friends For Life conference in Orlando, and everyone who passed by immediately fell in love with Elvis, for obvious reasons. He's the most adorable little pup you've ever seen, and he totally stole the show!
Not surprisingly, his owner, longtime type 1 and FFL regular Trisha Porretti has her own incredible story to tell.
As it turns out, the Philadelphia native has already put her story to paper in a 138-page book called The Sweet Blessing: My Adventures in Diabetes. This self-published paperback was released in May 2015, but it was pretty much under the radar until its debut at FFL this past summer. It's a quick read with a lot of self-disclosure, and we think it's one of those timeless tales well worth the sharing and reading.
The back cover description puts it this way: "Diabetes is no laughing matter... But while reading The Sweet Blessing you will find yourself laughing out loud. With humor and candor, Trisha shares her experiences with type 1 diabetes."
No doubt the book delivers on that front.
From the very start, you get a full rush of Trisha and her South Philly, Catholic family personality. You can tell she can hold her own, and isn't afraid to say what's on her mind. In fact, Trisha's a natural humorist who used her experiences with T1D to transition from bartending and selling auto parts to actually working as a stand-up comic on stage in Atlantic City for a time. Later she moved into nursing and eventually became a certified diabetes educator (CDE), pump trainer working for Animas, and motivational speaker traveling the world to share a positive message about diabetes.
She was diagnosed in April 1992 with LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) in her early 20s, a young single mother of three at the time. A good amount of the book is devoted to her diagnosis -- with the typical signs of thirst, weight loss and hunger -- and those early days of coping. I had to chuckle at her description of the "nightmare hospital hotel" where an educator taught her how to do an insulin injection. Since insulin is liquid, Trisha asked if she could just drink it, and was told NO. She then tried to pay the nurse $20 to do the injection for her, stating that as a bartender "I pour shots, not give shots."
From there, she went on to pursue her nursing education, working in a pediatric endo's office and volunteering at Camp Coral for Kids in Florida, and eventually becoming a CDE -- with the letter notifying her of that new educator certification arriving in June 2002. The next year, Trisha went on to take a clinical manager job in South Florida at insulin pump company Animas, which at that time was still independent and not yet a part of Johnson & Johnson.
She began traveling the country speaking to people in the Diabetes Community, tapping into her funny bone to bring laughs while presenting about pumps at meetings, support groups, and continuing education sessions for fellow CDEs.
Interestingly, one of the most fascinating parts of The Sweet Blessing is where Trisha describes her work for Animas, and how that evolved once J&J acquired the company in 2009; the work eventually "wore her down" and she decided to leave the company.
"The culture of the company was changing," she writes in her book. "The paperwork became more formal, and we could not just throw a PPP (Powerpoint presentation) together anymore. It had to be reviewed and approved, slide-by-slide, by a committee. The committee required changes to my PPP starting with the title," she writes.
Her stump presentation before J&J had been "Laughter Can Lower Your Blood Sugar," but the J&J committee revised it to "Can Laughter Lower Blood Glucose?" This, Trisha wrote, posed a scientific question requiring evidence and research, and references for each slide. It was approved eventually, a day before she was set to present it. Along with that, Trisha described how her geographic territories of responsibility were growing and how a favorite part of her job -- pump training and patient education -- was taken away and handed off to certified pump trainers. This also meant she couldn't travel to speak at conferences as she'd been doing.
"My wings had been clipped," Trisha wrote, adding that she was forced to drive hundreds of miles around the larger territory areas. "Something had to give. My dream job had morphed into a nightmare."
She left just after Christmas 2010, continuing pump trainings on her own as a self-employed CDE, becoming a sort of case manager for patients. She also became a certified yoga instructor at that time. Of course, Trisha also kept up volunteering at the D-Camp she'd been with since 2001.
There too, Trisha used laughter to get the kids’ attention and to help show them what positives could be found in diabetes life. The theme one year was the "Diabetic Yellow Brick Road" a la the The Wizard of Oz. Then Trisha thought of a friend who didn't like the word “diabetic” so she instead volunteered to be "Dorothy with Diabetes."
The name stuck, and when her little five-pound multi-poo Elvis was cast as Toto, someone even brought a small basket for Trisha (er, Dorothy with D) to carry him in.
From what Trisha writes in this autobiographical book, we understand that little Elvis is going to be the main character in a future children's book she has in the works. We can't wait to see that!
Dog cuteness aside, everything Trisha writes in her book is about spreading positive vibes about life with diabetes and making people smile.
”Laughter has been proven to be a safe, effective and healthy coping mechanism. It has always worked for me," she writes. "I have researched both laughter and the power of positive thinking. They both can make your life better and brighter. I keep repeating that if you have a more positive attitude about diabetes you will then have a better chance of managing it."
You can find The Sweet Blessing on Amazon for $11.39.
But before you click over to buy it online, here's your chance to win a copy of the book for free...
A DMBooks Giveaway
Interested in winning your own free copy of The Sweet Blessing, by Trisha Porretti? Entering the giveaway is easy!
1. Just post your comment below and include the codeword "DMBooks" somewhere in the text so we know you'd like to enter the giveaway.
2. You have until Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, at 5pm PST to enter.
*NOTE: Our comment system does require login via Facebook or a few select email platforms. If preferred, you can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header "Sweet Blessing Book."
3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org.
4. The winner will be announced on Facebook and Twitter on Monday, Oct. 24, 2016, so make sure you're following us! We'll update this post with the winners' name once chosen. Please, be sure to keep tabs on your email and Facebook messages (even the "other" folder) because that's the only way can reach winners.
Good luck, Friends!
This contest is now closed.
Congrats to Sandra Rowe, who was selected via Random.org as the winner of this giveaway!