Kerri Sparling, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 27 years ago, recently spoke with me about her new book Balancing Diabetes: Conversations About Finding Happiness and Living Well (Spry Publishing, 2014). Like many people with diabetes, she often felt alone with her disease. So she started a blog called “Six Until Me,” which helps people from around the world connect and support each other. Reading about her dedication to helping people with diabetes might just inspire you to seek out a community, as well. Just having supportive friends – even online friends – has been shown to reduce the stress and loneliness that can come alongside a chronic disease.
How did you cope with diabetes as a child?
My mother took charge of my care when I was growing up, and she focused on making sure I lived a life without diabetes as an anchor. She helped me view it more as a giant balloon, raising me up and giving me a way to look at the world that, for better and for worse, helped shape my life. And now, 27 years later, I can say that diabetes doesn’t define me, but instead helps to explain me. I can also say that diabetes befuddles me, frustrates me, and confuses me. It’s a puzzling disease.
How was the DOC (diabetes online community) involved with your book?
While it may also frighten and unnerve, honesty and community can validate, empower, and inspire. This is where the DOC shines, because the community is filled with people who tell it like it is and who support one another. Whether a writer reaches one person or thousands, the community goals remain the same: change one life, change the world. I’m very thankful that many of my friends in the DOC allowed me to share their thoughts in Balancing Diabetes, because their stories are so, so valuable. I am thankful for the gift of their words, and their trust in me to share them.
Do you have any advice for people who feel as if they can’t balance their life with diabetes?
Okay, so let me come clean: there is no true balancing of diabetes. No magic bullet, no secret sauce, no one-size-fits-all when dealing with a disease that is unique to each person. Every person with diabetes needs a certain set of guidelines and support networks during their journey, and those needs change with time. My advice for someone who feels overwhelmed is to think about the kind of support they need, and not be afraid to go after it.
You seem to travel a lot for work! How do you balance your diabetes and work life?
Is it okay to say that I don’t? My work involves quite a lot of traveling, writing, and speaking, and the topic du jour is often my life with diabetes. So there’s a weird blend of “work” and “life” going on, as they often look the same. But I’m so, so thankful for what my job has given me, and for the people I’ve had the honor of connecting with along the way.
Did your daughter affect your decision to write the book?
My daughter wanted me to write a book about her cat. I hoped that if I wrote a book about diabetes and it was published, I’d have a better chance writing about her cat.