Hometown: Noblesville, Indiana
Age: 57
Age when diagnosed: 17
Type 1 or Type 2: Type 1

Sometimes people don’t take their diabetes diagnosis seriously at first, or figure, what’s the point in even trying to control this? Rick was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on his 17th birthday, but he was no stranger to the disease. His mother suffered from type 1 diabetes also. Despite her best efforts, she was very ill; She lost her eyesight, kidney function, and constantly faced the prospect of amputation. Rick says, “When I was diagnosed, I simply did not see the point of tight control, as I felt I was destined to repeat [my mom’s] awful experiences.” But Rick’s mother’s fate did not define his, at least not once he decided he was going to take a greater interest in his health, get help, and take a control of his diabetes.

The beginning of Rick’s adult life was career focused. He was able to accomplish all of his work goals, but realized that he was missing out on being with his family and taking care of his health. Once he came to this realization, more than 20 years after being diagnosed, he decided it was time to tackle his diabetes. The first thing Rick did to take control of his condition was find a therapist. He says, “When people think about diabetes, they often overlook mental health. That is easy to do; diabetes is such a physical disease. But for me, the emotional component has really guided my diabetic life. I wish back in 1974 [when I was diagnosed] that my parents had recognized that fact and had been open to taking me to a therapist. I think it would have made a big difference.” It wasn’t until Rick dealt with the depression that he was feeling from living with diabetes and started to overcome some of the mental implications of the disease that he was able to take on the physical challenges of diabetes and “get on the road to being healthy.”

One of the biggest changes Rick has had to make is opening up his life to others and recognizing that he can’t manage his type 1 diabetes completely on his own. He says, “People with diabetes are not usually self-sustaining. We have to rely on doctors, pharmacists, spouses, and friends to get us through life. … When you are a person with diabetes, asking for help must be a given. It took me many years to adjust to that. Even today, I have to remind myself that asking for help from professionals in their field, my wife, or children is all right.” Rick has made a line from Bob Dylan’s song “Forever Young” a mantra for himself, “May you always do for others. And let others do for you.” He says, “When I follow that mantra, I am able to manage my diabetes better.”

Seeking support from loved ones, health care professionals, and the diabetic community is something that Rick is a big advocate for. His wife Sheryl has been a huge support for him, and he even says, “I am alive today because of my wife.” Rick says that before she agreed to marry him over 37 years ago, he made sure that she understood exactly what she was getting into. She has not only helped him with his struggle with diabetes, but also with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondilitis. Rick says, “She has stood with me, not just by me.”

Rick realizes that not everyone has the same support system in their family that he does and even encouraging family and friends cannot always fully understand what it is like to live with chronic illness. Online resources have also been a huge help for him in coping with diabetes. His advice to other diabetics is, “Reach out. Social media can be an excellent help in adjusting to and living with diabetes. I participate with TUDiabetes.org, an online social network for people with diabetes. … [Connecting with other diabetics] lets you know that you are not alone. Interaction on sites can reduce self-ascribed stigmas which diabetics often make for themselves. Reaching out is often unnatural for people with diabetes. Like me, people with diabetes often roll into a shell and think they are alone. If they open up, and let others offer support, encouragement, and knowledge, they can truly find inspiration.”

Rick is happy that he made the decision to take control of his diabetes and live a healthier and fuller life. He says, “A doctor once told me one of the most profound things I have ever heard about diabetes. He said, ‘When you get tired of being sick and tired, you will take care of your diabetes.’ It took me a long time to get tired of being sick and tired, but he was right. Once I took control of my health, I got a new lease on life.”

More Voices of Diabetes:

Overcoming Emotions: Pamela’s Story
The Highs and Lows of Diabetes: Kevin’s Story
No Excuses, No Matter What: Rich's Story