"... Courage is what it takes to become a successful diabetes self-manager. Your full, rich life depends on it."
"OKAY, SO I'M A DIABETIC." The teen was trying to sound casual, but it was evident that he was collecting his courage after walking up to me in the crowded hall. For both of us, the place seemed to fall silent. "I hear a lot of stuff at these meetings about how so many things can go wrong," he went on. "So, what's the point?'
I had presented a talk to an audience of young people diagnosed with diabetes and their parents; my subject was, as usual, the safety precautions to be taken by diabetics and their families. Afterward, I was approached by the boy's parents, and I had just finished talking with them when he walked up. Most of his parents' questions had been of a technical nature, but this question from him sounded almost accusatory. The boy and I looked at each other; his parents and siblings waited. I paused a moment, nodding, and repeated his last words as a statement: "What's the point."
"Right," he said. "I don't get what the big deal is about taking care of myself, if I'm gonna die soon anyway!"
The family's eyes were on me now. The faces of his mom, dad, brother, and sister showed they were hoping I had the right answer. I knew my questioner was scared to death, and I knew exactly what that fear felt like. This was a courageous kid. My heart went out to him.
"I've certainly heard your question before," I acknowledged. "Fact is, I used to ask it myself, before I was your age--and since then sometimes, too. You're wondering why you should go to all the trouble of making sure you're healthy every day, right?"
"Well...," he said.
"A friend of mine recently asked me that question," I continued. "A guy about your age. He couldn't see going through all the self-care stuff, either. So, I changed the subject. I asked him if he played sports. So, I'll ask you that."
"I play basketball."
"That's great. My friend told me he was a forward on his school basketball team, and they were in the playoffs. I said, 'Great. I played baseball myself and, when I had an important game coming up, like you I knew I needed to be the best I could be. That meant that in order to go all out I needed to have my blood sugar under control, make sure I hadn't eaten too much, and things like that.' So, I guess that's my answer to you. If you're serious about playing basketball--or anything else you want to do or be a part of--I'm sure you want to beat the odds against diabetes, like I did."