BENEFITING: Joslin Diabetes Center
To start, Ellen has been one of my best friends for 12 years. We met when we were 14 and she celebrated my 26th birthday with me this weekend. The first thing she said to me was that she liked my shoes (which she later confessed she hated them, and said that as a conversation starter to make new friends). Ellen and I have shared a lot of memories together. We’ve grown up together. Have seen each other at the very worst and very best. Between the two of us, Ellen is the softer one. She’s the type of person who cries over MSPCA commercials regularly, but continues to see the world as a magical place, filled with optimism and good people. You can usually find her frolicking in a backyard (always shoeless), playing with any available animal, or talking to the shyest stranger in the room; making them feel as if they're just as special to her as any one else in her life. When I’m worried, she’s not. Everything is always going to be ok. Everything is always going to work itself out. Everything happens for a reason. She has told me this countless times. I once told her this is why she has diabetes and not me. Between the two of us she’s the one that could handle it.
Diabetes is a small, but very important piece of Ellen. Ellen has had Type 1 diabetes since she was 8. I've never known her without it. Although the brutality of the disease is often masked with a friendly face, it's a looming demon that she battles with every day. She didn't tell me that, but I know it's true. I use the word battle because that’s what it is, a battle. I’ve seen her inject herself with needles countless times, always worrying about the effects of the literal highs and lows of the illness. A fight against her own body to keep her stable, normal and functioning. She always says when her number is off it's like the flu. Getting the flu at any moment, several times a year, from the age of 8 years old onward.
When we were 15, I went with her to a diabetes appointment at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. We left school early to go. Oblivious to the importance of the appointment, Ellen and I spent the afternoon cackling together in the back of her moms car. Taking double chinned selfies and talking about how boring history class must be for all who got left behind. Unfortunately, I remember the mood taking a sharp turn about 2 hours later. The doctors told Ellen her A1C test results were alarming. It showed dangerous spikes in her blood sugar over the past 3 months. The doctors reminded her that diabetes takes an gargantuan toll on her vital organs, causing them to age twice as fast. I remember her explaining this to me in-between sobs. She told me that at the age of 15, her vital organs are similar to a 30 year olds. As she got older they did too, only times 2.
That’s when I really understood my best friends illness. I became familiar with the tools and terminology. I could identify a good number and a bad number, or a good day and a bad day. I remember thinking it wasn’t fair. I was worried about my Dad yelling at me for the poor grade on my Geometry test while she was worried about her health. We were 15. That wasn’t fair.
Fast forward 12 years later Ellen has evolved into an inspiration to her friends and family. She recently received a continuous glucose monitor. It’s a small two piece device that is attached to her arm, taking her blood sugar every 5 minutes. The arm piece sends her data to a beeper-sized monitor that she carries with her, allowing her the freedom to check her blood sugar whenever she wants without the painful prick of a glucose meter. Although the monitor is visible, she rocks it. She’s always happy to explain what it is to anyone who is interested. It’s a badge of honor. Similar to a battle wound, only more high-tech.
Ellen told me recently that the continuous glucose monitor has changed her life. Conversations like that is what motivated me to want to raise money for Joslin Diabetes Center, the same institution we went to for that appointment 12 years ago. I’ll be running the Chicago Marathon in Ellen’s name, and every dollar donated will go to Joslin. The money will help the institution work on more projects like the continuous glucose monitor, as well as other treatment options for diabetes patients. I hope hearing this story inspires you the same way it inspired me. Every bit donated is wildly appreciated, and I’m so thankful you took the time to read this and hear Ellen’s story. We love you!