I met David Lazarus years ago when he worked for the San Francisco Chronicle. Two years ago, he moved south to join the Los Angeles Times. And shortly thereafter, he became one of us. This is his view from ‘the inside’…
A guest post by David Lazarus, business columnist for the LA Times
The day I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October 2007 at the age of 46, I could see my fear reflected in my then-6-year-old son’s eyes. I put on a brave face. We got out the crayons, sat down together at the kitchen table and drew a picture of a monster.
“That’s diabetes,” I said.
Then we drew a cage around the monster.
“That’s insulin,” I said. “That’s how we’re going to keep the diabetes monster under control.”
A year and a half later, the monster’s still in the cage. But it isn’t easy, as other type 1 types know all too well. The carb counting, the dosing, the daily calculations and adjustments, the all-too-frequent frustrations — I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.
But you manage. And I’m sure I’m not the first person to find in this strange disease some unexpectedly positive outcomes. I’m more fit now than I was before. I eat better. I pay more attention to what my body’s saying. And the most surprising aspect of diabetes has been an almost Buddhist awareness of living in the moment, of being conscious of what’s happening to me and around me throughout the day. I find I don’t stress as much as I once did about big-picture stuff like my career and whether we’ll have enough to retire on and how on earth I’ll ever pay for my son’s college education. I still fret about all that, make no mistake. But when you live your life on a meal-by-meal basis, somehow it all seems to take care of itself.
Not that I don’t get pissed — I do. Like when my numbers climb into the 200′s because I got careless with a snack. Or when, despite my best efforts, I totally missed on the guesstimate for the Chinese food I had for dinner. Or when I read about the seven to 10 years less life I’m supposed to have because of this stupid condition, and I grit my teeth at the statistical unfairness of it all.
And I get royally cheesed when I deal with insurance companies, which view me as a liability, and when I deal with drug companies, which view me as a profit center. I think about the pricing of test strips — a roughly 900% markup over the manufacturing cost, as best as I can tell — and I marvel at the shamefulness of such a thing. The global market for glucose meters and test strips was estimated at $6.3 billion as of 2005. It undoubtedly tops $7 billion now. And we’re thinking the pharmaceutical industry is working to cure this thing? You could argue that they have a financial obligation to shareholders to prevent a cure from ever coming to light.
Sorry. I don’t mean to be cynical. If anything, diabetes has taught me to be more flexible and resilient, and to appreciate all the little things that make life special. And I’m proud of how I handle myself. My A1c is in the 5′s. And now that I’m on the pump — I started on the Ping a few months ago — I feel like my control has never been better.
That’s not to say things won’t ever go wrong. My dad’s also a type 1, has been for about 50 years, and he’s dealing with a bunch of bad stuff on the complications front — eyes, feet, gums. I have better tools than he had for much of his diabetes life. But I also know that to an alarmingly large extent, it’s all a crap shoot.
So I do what I can. I take care of myself. I try not to let my disease define me. And I count my blessings. Every day.
Recently, my son was asked by an acquaintance what his daddy does.
“He writes for the newspaper,” came the reply. “And he’s on the radio and on TV. And he has diabetes.”
I can live with that.
Thank you David; you speak from my soul!