Author, Inspirational Speaker, Huffington Post Columnist, Certified Wellcoaches Health and Wellness Coach
I was a college freshman in 1972 when I came home from school on an unexpected winter break. I woke up the next morning with the leg cramps that I’d been experiencing, and ignoring, for months. Rushed to the doctor's office by my mother, we soon discovered my blood sugar was 750 mg/dl. My doctor informed us I was two weeks away from lapsing into a coma. The official diagnosis: type 1 diabetes.
I returned to college, shocked, in denial and loaded with vials of insulin and syringes. A half-size refrigerator moved in like a third roommate. My affair with diabetes began badly, but over the years diabetes has gone from 'uninvited guest' to just a part of who I am. For over the years, in moving from denial to acceptance, I learned how to live with it, and I do that well now.
In many ways diabetes keeps me far healthier than I would be otherwise. It has improved my diet - I eat healthy foods and low carb - and weight - it's dropped significantly over the years - and some would say my daily walking reflects a woman possessed. Also, getting married for the first time at 48 years old, my motivation to hang around for the long haul – and in good shape – surged.
Having enjoyed a successful career, and lived in Tokyo, Sydney and Hong Kong, at almost fifty I was undergoing a career transition, diabetic frozen shoulder surgery, a wedding, and a revelation.
Seeing a diabetes educator for the first time, I realized how much I knew and wanted to help others live better with diabetes. While I've won professional distinctions and awards in my former life as a Madison Avenue advertising copywriter, executive change communications consultant, greeting card entrepreneur, (featured in Artist’s Market, 1986), author of my first book, The ABC of loving yourself (Random House, Australia) and personal growth facilitator, this is the greatest achievement of all, being able to help others who live with diabetes.
In June 2006 I became an A1c Champion® and began traveling across the country educating and inspiring others, as a peer-mentor. I continue to do this work, and also give my own workshops and presentations to both health care professionals and patients on helping patients shift their mind-set to one of strength and resilience confidence and hopeful - from "coping" with diabetes to "flourishing" with diabetes. As my diabetes educator said to me, "Each one must teach one.” And that's what I'm doing.
Toward that end, I'm developing a diabetes platform which you can read more about by clicking here. Meanwhile, my advice to others with diabetes is to look at what you're doing well and look forward to the vision of how you'd like your life to be. Figure out a few small steps you can take to move in that direction.
Someone once said to me, "I enjoy taking care of myself," and I thought that such a beautiful thing to say and to do. We tend to look at taking care of ourselves as a burden, but to see it as a gift we give ourselves changes everything.
They don’t give medals for all the work diabetes takes, so give yourself the recognition you deserve each day just for doing your best.
Riva is a columnist with the Huffington Post, Advisory Member of Diabetes Hands Foundation, a peer-mentor with the A1C Champions and a member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.