If there's an axiom that comes to mind after reading the book Typecast: Amazing People Overcoming the Chronic Disease of Type 1 Diabetes, it would be that everyone has a story.
This new book was penned by D-Dad Andrew Deutscher, whose young son Gavin was diagnosed with T1D back in June 2009 at 22 months old. The book shares the stories of roughly a dozen people thriving with diabetes, ranging from longtime type 1s, to parents of kids more recently diagnosed at young ages, to a diabetes doctor who's admired and respected near and far.
The mission in gathering these stories was clear: to show his boy that diabetes doesn't mean a life of disappointment and deferred dreams, but can be a force of inspiration for a full and successful life. Gathering the stories took about two years, Andrew tells us, and he collected them building-block style, working from one angle on diabetes to another, to compile a diverse look at various ages and stages.
The official book blurb says it all:
"Winning. Triumphing. Overcoming. If you or a loved one has type 1 diabetes, these may not be words you often hear associated with the challenge of managing this chronic disease. Type 1 diabetes can be endlessly frustrating, surprise us at every turn and cause us to worry on a regular basis. Like anything in life, if we let ourselves, we can focus on the fear. This book is about those who faced that fear, then moved forward. Type 1 diabetes prepared them for life's toughest challenges, and provided the ingredients for them to reach the highest levels of fortitude and success. The stories in this book empower us all to ultimately dominate diabetes."
Living in Atlanta, GA, Andrew actually has a background as a senior sales exec for Sony Pictures. He later worked at a television consulting firm before taking on his current role as VP of Business Development at The Energy Project, where his responsibilities including public speaking on sustainable high-performance energy in major corporations worldwide. He and his wife Tara have two boys, with Gavin (now 7) being the youngest child. They have no other history of T1D in the family, but have become very active in diabetes advocacy since Gavin's diagnosis. Writing the book was an outgrowth of that, he says.
Note that Andrew's book Typecast isn't exactly a new release, as it first came out in paperback in November 2013 and more recently in e-book format in December 2014. But Andrew has been making the public speaking rounds in the D-Community over the past several months, and most recently was named as the upcoming keynote speaker for the popular Children With Diabetes Friends For Life conference held each July at Disney Resort in Orlando, FL.
Andrew tells us his family hasn't been to FFL before, but they are very much looking forward to it:
"I see this being different than other keynotes I deliver as it will focus specifically on the stories and attitudes of how people live well with type 1. My keynotes for large companies are based on a rich multi-disciplinary science of managing energy for performance. I will pull from this content, but in a very focused way as it relates to emotional energy for dealing with chronic challenges.
"We are most looking forward to the community. Gavin is at an age where he really needs some peer support. We are really looking forward to spending time with people who really understand living with or caring for type 1. We're also excited to learn. There are so many great educational opportunities and we are really open to learning how people go about managing this condition."
As turns out, CWD founder and fellow D-Dad Jeff Hitchcock is one of the roughly dozen stories included in Typecast. Jeff's daughter Marissa was diagnosed about the same age as Gavin, and Jeff's chapter tells the diagnosis story, what motivated him to establish CWD, and how that organization and online resources have made a difference in the diabetes universe over the past 20 years.
One thing that I very much enjoyed about Typecast is that there are some fresh new stories mixed in with some of the familiar fixtures like Team Novo founder Phil Southerland and his mom Joanna, D-Dads Tom Karlya and Jeff Hitchcock, and golf pro Kelli Kuehne. You'll also read about Insulet exec and longtime type 1 Robert Campbell, and young Kamaal Washington who, after being diagnosed at age 9 in 2003, with his brother and dad created the Omega Boy vs. Doctor Diabetes comic book series.
For me, it was also interesting how Andrew tied the stories together, sometimes harking back to past chapters when referencing how one of the featured people influenced another -- like how Phil Southerland's mom Joanna met another woman at a local pub in Tallahassee around Christmas 2005, and it turned out that woman had a teen daughter named Morgan Patton who was experiencing diabetes burnout at the time. The two instantly connected, and Morgan eventually became an athlete and program manager with Team Type 1 (now Team Novo Nordisk). That helped motivate her to take better care of her diabetes, and really changed her life, according to the book.
Throughout the chapters, Andrew also weaves in personal tidbits from his family's own experience that relate to the particular story being told.
"A shared sense of community is one of the most empowering ways to deal with the disease burden and carry on with a purposeful spirit," he writes.
He also talks about his mindset in writing this book, and one early paragraph caught my eye in particular about how much times have changed since I was diagnosed as a kid back in '84:
"I've never seen any facts around diabetes that would make a person feel inadequate or that they can't accomplish everything they set out to. In fact, we have seen just the opposite with great people doing amazing things despite type 1 diabetes being a chronic condition to manage. It's those stories or the outgrowth of these facts that need to be shared, communicated and screamed about so we truly see how insignificant type 1 becomes when we put it in the right framework."
This inspiration is just the norm now, it seems -- and these stories showcase how there should be no doubt about what we can achieve despite diabetes. I love this "no limits" mentality that offers a new sense of hope and inspiration for people thrown into this world of diabetes so suddenly and unwillingly (aren't we all?).
While some parts of the book do seem to stretch the melodrama a bit, the overall sense is a good one and Andrew does a great job tying it all together to cover topics ranging from new diagnosis, dealing with a sibling's diagnosis, teenage burnout, and just handling athletics and regular life with D.
So what was his son Gavin's reaction? As Andrew tells us, Gavin was just 6 when the book came out so he didn't have a real understanding then. But when Andrew spoke at recently his son's school, he felt that Gavin "really got it" and is proud of his dad -- as is the rest of the family.
"(The book) has provided a bit of a manifesto for how we want to live and what we aspire to, so I think in some ways it's strengthened our family unit," Andrew says. Wow. Worth it right there.
Before you brush this book off as just another collection of familiar success stories that you can just thumb through and not even bother reading the final pages, I'd warn you against that. I'd also tell you not to flip to the last page before reading anything else, because it won't have the same impact -- except that I'm about to give it away. It's after reading all these stories that Andrew, quite powerfully, asks the reader to look inward.
For anyone who hasn't read yet, here's the spoiler... Yep, the last line of the book is a question:
What is your story?
Oddly, that simple question is what made the whole experience of reading worthwhile, for me.
With that, Andrew does something that makes the book even more meaningful -- broadening it beyond just the dozen featured, and even beyond his own family's D-story. He's essentially saying, "This is your story too. How are you going to write it?"
That was kind of the capper for me to recommend this book to anyone who's craving not only some inspirational stories about life with diabetes, but some descriptive wordsmithing combined with insight and reflection about navigating this condition.
Definitely worth a read, especially if you're planning to attend the Friends For Life Conference this summer. You'll want to read Andrew before seeing him speak in person!
Now, here's a chance to get a copy of your own...
A DMBooks Giveaway
Interested in winning your own free copy of Typecast: Amazing People Overcoming the Chronic Disease of Type 1 Diabetes by Andrew Deutscher? We're giving away THREE free copies -- two print editions signed by Andrew, and one e-book version. Entering this giveaway is as easy as leaving a comment below:
1. Post your comment below and include the codeword "DMBooks" somewhere in the the text so we know you'd like to enter the giveaway.
2. You have until Friday, April 10, 2015, at 5pm PST to enter. A valid email address is required to win.
3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org.
The contest is open to all. Good luck!
This contest is now closed. Congrats to our three winners Julie Bestry, Laurie Cook, and Kathryn Cooney.