Diabetes for Life. But King for a Day.
Thatcher Heldring, freelance writer and author focused on Type 1 Diabetes

Thatcher Heldring

Thatcher Heldring is a freelance writer and author focused on Type 1 Diabetes, environmental education, and other issues related to children and health. He has also partnered with clients working on literacy, sustainable communities, youth leadership development, and health policy. Most recently he was the Director of Communications and Creative Services at IslandWood, the Seattle-based outdoor learning organization. He is also the author of four sports novels for young readers and the father of a 10-year-old T1 and a 13-year-old T3. You can reach Thatcher through his website at www.spitballinc.com.

We survive with modern medicine. It has to be said. Peter and his squad of bad-ass dia-buddies are blessed with insulin, technology and care that have changed what it means to live with Type 1 Diabetes. And, they have reason to hope that the future will bring even better tools and outcomes. We owe this to BRI and researchers everywhere working on better treatments.

But, medicine doesn’t treat everything. Some days what Peter really needs to survive can’t be prescribed or injected. I’m talking about that can of spinach for the soul, that long-acting dose of fighting spirit, that deep store of will he can draw from on the hard days, the sad days, the I-hate-diabetes days.

Of course, you never know when life is going to give you a can of spinach. For Popeye, one seemed to arrive whenever he needed it. But when you get one, you take it.  One magic Sunday back in August, Peter got a can of spinach from the Seattle Sounders. As a member of the Jordan Morris T1D Playmakers program run by the Sounders, Peter was invited to participate in the pre-game ceremony along with 21 other kids with Type 1 Diabetes.

The story starts with Jordan Morris, the Sounders forward who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of nine and has since become a role model and inspiration for kids and athletes living with the disease.  As a member of the Jordan Morris T1D Playmakers program run by the Sounders, Peter was invited to participate in the pre-game ceremony along with 21 other kids with Type 1 Diabetes. 

It was a beautiful summer evening. Raucous crowd. Grudge match against the Portland Timbers. Cascadia Cup on the line. National television cameras.  Men and women in military uniform carrying Peter got inspiration from the Seattle Soundersthe flag. Flames bursting skyward.  All a prelude to a moment I’ll never forget: Peter marching out of the tunnel, clutching the hand of Sounders goalie Stefan Frei, and smiling like a kid only does when he knows he’s king for the day.  

What a gift from the Sounders.  We’ve all seen a child with a chronic or life-threatening illness on the field before a game. It’s nice, and we applaud politely. What a brave kid. But seeing it from the child’s eye changes everything. It’s not just nice. It’s nourishing. In fact, if you believe the body isn’t truly healthy unless the mind is too, these moments might even be life-saving.

Because life does goes on. There are wins, losses, and draws. But there is no quitting. Ask Jordan Morris. No matter what happens in the match, he goes to the locker room with Type 1 Diabetes. Or Peter. No matter what happens at school, he goes home with Type 1 Diabetes. Every day there are more highs and lows, finger pokes, and site changes, all taking a toll. That’s the grind.

I often look at Peter and wonder how he does it. Where does he find the will to put up with all of this crap? And I remember that night, and how he devoured that can of spinach. I am certain now that at some molecular level, his body found a way to convert that moment - something that had no shape, form, or mass  - into storable energy he needs for the grind.

He’ll have Type 1 Diabetes for life, but he was king for a day, and if that’s the deal, we’ll take it.  


Photo Credit: 

Living With A Disease

November 9, 2017

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