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What Makes A Patient “Successful”?

A while back I received an invitation from a medical professional to participate in a project involving “successful diabetics” who had an “inspirational and uplifting story”.  I asked if they had ever actually read my blog, they hadn’t and after doing so, we quickly agreed that I probably wouldn’t be a good candidate on the “inspirational and uplifting” part, LOL. But I digress.

In this project, success was defined as having no (or few) complications while having a life of family, career, etc…  You know, just like those non-pancreatically challenged folks do.

But that definition of success seemed to center on how many complications a person had, seeming to further perpetuate the stereotype of a person being defined only by his or her medical condition.

I’m sure the end result of this project will be valuable to many people.  I’m all for that, but how do you define “success” in your lives?  Where does diabetes or whatever condition you may have fall into that equation for success?  Does your definition of success change over time?  Change because of events in your life?

I’d like to hear what you all think about this

** This post is my December entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival.  If you’d like to participate too, you can get all of the information at http://diabetessocmed.com/2011/december-dsma-blog-carnival/

© 2011 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and http://StrangelyDiabetic.com

  • Jaimie

    Living successfully with diabetes definitely should not be defined by few complications. It is unfortunate that diabetes is one of the only diseases that the patient is held responsible for their complications or looked at as ‘unsuccessful’ if complications develop. Many complications can be genetic or out of a patients control. There is always a possibility some complications are brought on by the patient themselves but you don’t know what the underlying circumstances were… Maybe they were too depressed to even take care of themselves for a period of time… Maybe they find juggling diabetes with their lives too overwhelming… Maybe they were just uneducated..

    What if someone lived with a high A1c for many years that resulted in complications but now has learned a powerful lesson. He/She now lives ‘in control’, taking care of themselves and educating others. I would define that as successful. Learning and growing = success…not being perfect…
    Living successfully with any chronic disease should not be defined by the least amount of complications, symptoms or disabilities…

    • http://strangelydiabetic.com Scott Strange

      Learning and growing = success…

      I love that, Jamie! Thanks!

  • Kelly Rawlings

    Great topic, Scott. Thanks for starting the conversation. Jaimie, I really like your words on the subject!

    I wear my complications (some background retinopathy, macular edema that I reversed by tightening my control) as a badge of courage and a reminder that living with a chronic disease Is Not Easy. They are part of my 3+ decades of diabetes. They may be due to my self-management (or lack thereof), genetics, or simply the toxic situation that elevated blood glucose creates for the body.

    I do believe that people diagnosed later than me (with meters, pumps, cgms, and a whole host of better insulins and type 2 blood glucose-lowering meds available) have a better chance of avoiding complications—IF they have adequate access to health care, can afford meds and supplies, have a support network, etc.). That gives me hope. But so does living well, on my own terms, with complications. I hope we find new and better ways to prevent and treat complications. I hope fewer people have to live with them. And I really, really, really hope we find cures while you and I are alive so we can have lots of conversations that begin “Back in the day ….”

    • http://strangelydiabetic.com Scott Strange

      “But so does living well, on my own terms, with complications.”

      Kelly, I think that is a critical point that many people miss in everyday life, let alone when dealing with a chronic condition. And you’re right, access to care is also critically missing for so many.

      Back in the day, I had to test my pee! Walking up-hill… in the snow!

  • Mike Hoskins

    Great discussion, Scott. I agree with both Jamie and Kelly on this completely. There’s so much that goes into my definition and perception of “success.” So much of it goes back to the judging and self-criticism, from the numbers game to how you’re feeling and dealing each day. I’d say in a sense, no complications could be a success. But it’s one part of the formula, and may or may not tip the scale to one side or another. Some of this takes me back to the Joslin 50-year Study Medalists, who are pretty much “rewarded” and praised for living so long with Type 1. Many of them responded pretty modestly to all that recognition, and seemed to reiterate that it’s just something they’ve had to do and it’s not been anything special for them. Sometimes, or maybe quite often, I think we put too much weight on ourselves (doctors don’t help) by trying to figure out if we’re a “success” or not. One day at a time is the only way to go.

    • http://strangelydiabetic.com Scott Strange

      Thanks Mike, I think you’re right; we do often put too much pressure on ourselves about success and especially numbers. I think General Patton once said something similar to this “I don’t judge a man by how far he falls. I judge him by how far he bounces back up.”

  • http://flyingfurballs.blogspot.com/ Jamie Naessens

    Being a successful or “good” diabetic is totally subjective, just like having a good or bad A1C. If we allow the stereotypes to define us, we can easily get sucked into the void. I am not a successful diabetic or even a good one. But I am not bad either. Just a few minutes ago, I saw a notable D blogger lamenting an A1C, where I was celebrating that very same number a couple of weeks back. It’s in the eye of the beholder.

    If I were a “good” diabetic (I’m not), rocking an awesome A1C (not technically), and if I then am diagnosed with some neuropathy, does that qualify me to go stand in the corner all of a sudden? I should think not. But I feel like it because I might see (real or imagined) health care professionals, family members, waving their fingers at me. They are fond of sharing the stories of a beloved grandma, who never tested, 20 years ago, had something bad happen to her. It serves nothing, except perhaps play into our own phsycologically insecurities.

    It is in the eye of the beholder, and we have opportunities to dispel these myths on what is good and bad whenever we can – with our health care providers, friends, colleagues, and especially the media whenever we can.

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