Wil Dubois

Hey, All -- if you've got questions about life with diabetes, then you've come to the right place! That would be our weekly diabetes advice column, Ask D'Mine, hosted by veteran type 1, diabetes author and community educator Wil Dubois.

This week, as we prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving Thursday,  Wil takes an introspective look at all we have to be thankful for when it comes to diabetes. Sure, living with D isn't all butterflies and unicorns, but we can find some positives.

Here's what Wil has to say on that front... Go on, gobble it up before Turkey Day arrives. :)

{Got your own questions? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}


Tom, type 1 from California, asks: You're so negative a lot of the time that I can't help but wonder, now that it's about to be Thanksgiving, if you find anything to be thankful for when it comes to diabetes?

Innovation 2015

Wil@Ask D'Mine answers: Me negative? Surely not! I just call things as I see them, and, well, there are a lot of negative things out there in the world that need light shed on them. After all, the cockroaches are there at night whether or not you turn on the kitchen light, right? I just believe it's better to know the news, even if it's bad, because then maybe you can do something about it. Like call the exterminator.

I'm actually a pretty happy person who enjoys life with all its challenges. Even when it comes to diabetes.

Well, that's my self-image anyway.

Now, a while back a reader—also ironically named Tom, but from the other side of the country—asked me if there was even one good thing that came from having diabetes. Specifically, he was hoping that there was something good that diabetes did for our bodies, even if it was as small as reduced earwax build-up compared to people without diabetes. My answer was no, because physiologically, diabetes doesn't bring any gifts.

At all.

I stand by that statement, but the body is only one small part of being human. We have Smiley Face in Sad Face Haystackminds and hearts and souls, too. And I'm using hearts and minds in the literary sense today, not in the literal sense. I believe that diabetes is actually fertilizer for the heart, mind, and soul.

Here's how I see the ways in which diabetes grows our humanity. The mind: I think diabetes makes us smarter, as we have to find solutions to our challenges. The soul: I think diabetes makes us tougher, because that's what's required to survive. The heart: I think diabetes makes us kinder, as we understand both suffering and humanity better.

I'm thankful that I have a sharp mind, a strong soul, and a kind heart. Maybe I had all those attributes before diabetes, maybe I didn't. But either way, I'm sure diabetes has made all three grow and blossom in me.

But that's not all. I'm also thankful for community. The community of my peers. All my diabetes brothers and sisters. Diabetes brings those of us who have it together. Having diabetes has connected me to the most amazing people that I would otherwise never have had the privilege to know. Sure, sometimes the DOC is a bit like a dysfunctional, squabbling family, but who wants to live in a picture-perfect black-and-white TV sitcom family from 1953? How boring would that be?!

And speaking of families, I think that diabetes can build stronger families, just the way an external threat can unite a country. I think diabetes has the potential to strengthen family bonds. I say potential, because on average, the science doesn't bear me out. Divorce rates for PWDs are higher than for sugar-normals, and I've seen any number of breakups following the diagnosis of a child. Still, among the "survivors," I think we have stronger family ties than "normal" families and couples. I'm thankful that I'm blessed to be in one of those stronger families.

Speaking of strength, I view diabetes like the fire that tempers iron into steel. Diabetes is tough. It makes tough people. Like soldiers in the trenches, we are sometimes bitter, angry, profane, and a bit crude, but damn are we ever tough!

And speaking of soldiers, recently I've seen diabetes turn us into successful fighters. We've taken on the FDA, Big Pharma, and health insurance, rather than just meekly accepting what may come our way. I think we're the tip of the spear for the modern empowered patient movement.

Of course, I'm thankful that I wasn't born 100 years ago. And while I'm mad about how health insurance reform has stumbled, I'm thankful that we are at least trying to move forward as a society. And I'm thankful for my technology, which gets better with each passing year. I'm also thankful that I have a disease that can be self-managed, rather than one of those that puts you entirely at the mercy and skill of the medical community.

On balance, I think I'm healthier as a person, both physically and mentally, as a person with diabetes than I was as a person without diabetes. And I'm thankful for that. I can remember taking my 20-minute lunch break in the middle of my frantic day back in the photo lab days. Surrounded by throbbing machinery, I'd sit indoors and eat a microwave cheeseburger from Sam's Club, a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos, a regular Coke, and a package of Ding-Dongs. At the time I can remember thinking that I really had it made.

Of course, I weighed 250 pounds and couldn't walk 200 yards without losing my breath. I had high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure.

Now I take my 30-minute lunch break in the middle of my frantic day, sitting outdoors in the fresh air with my peers, eating a chef's salad or a lettuce wrap, a handful of grapes, a cup of water and a square of dark chocolate—and I know I've got it made.

I now weigh 170 pounds, I can walk as long and far as I want without losing my breath, aI Am Thankful on Chalkboardnd my cholesterol and blood pressure are normal. I'm thankful that a chronic disease transformed me into a healthy person, rather than killing me. And I bet the same is true for many of you, too. Frickin' ironic, if you think about it.

And on an even more purely personal note, I'm thankful to diabetes for making me the person I am today. Diabetes has given me a unique opportunity to use my diverse skill set and talents to help other people live better lives: Both through my clinical work here at home, and through my writing worldwide. I doubt I would have chosen this life, but I'm thankful it chose me. It's given my existence meaning that it lacked before I had diabetes.

So, yeah, Tom, there are a lot of things I'm thankful for, and it's good to have a day on the calendar to remind us all to count our many blessings. Even the perverse ones from a dark and negative corner of our universe. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Take a moment to ignore your body. Raise your glass. Drink a toast to all the things diabetes has done for your heart, your mind, and your soul.



This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.


Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.