And Then There Were Many.
“United Nations, please.”
I couldn’t help but grin as the cab pulled away from Penn Station early yesterday morning.
Although many people believe the first United Nations recognized World Diabetes Day has been months in the making, I know different. This event has been years in the making, going all the way back to a summer in 2001 in the Rosenfeld’s kitchen in Eugene, Oregon where the seeds of this idea were sown.
And now I was here, in Manhattan, on my way to one of the dozens of events in honor of World Diabetes Day.
Emotions swirled around this event as we gathered in the courtyard of the United Nations, overlooking the East River. We were anxious, we were excited, we were hopeful. We were proud
It was a Who’s Who of events, and a friend and I joked it was much like a small conference. In attendance were Jeff Hitchcock of CWD, Nicole Johnson and Mother Love from dLife, Zippora Karz (a former ballerina for the NYC Ballet) and Phil Southerland (lead cyclist for Team Type 1). I also saw Kim Kelly, and had my picture taken with Charles Renfroe and Dr. Fran Kaufman. I saw my friend Noah Moore and Clare Rosenfeld, the co-creator of the Unite for Diabetes Campaign. We huddled together for a group hug and photo.
After the blue umbrellas were passed out, we were lead down to the UN Rose Lawn for a speech by the Ambassador of Bangladesh and a performance of the “Promise to Remember Me” song by Elliot Yamin and a group of JDRF youth advocates. I enjoyed listening to the song, though I’m embarrassed that I don’t remember a word of the song (though in my defense, it has been six years).
We circle together with our umbrellas held high overhead, the United Nations looking down on the blue circle forming in their backyard.
Our march along First Avenue was comical. Led by a procession of bagpipers, we marched from the United Nations to the rally venue at Guastavinos under the 59th Street Bridge. Despite what the itinerary may say, it certainly took us more than 246 steps to walk the fifteen blocks uptown! As we marched with our umbrellas raised, people stopped on the streets and stared out of apartment windows. It was hard to differentiate between normal New York City honking and World Diabetes Day honking, but I’m pretty sure a couple cars joined in the fun!
At the rally, my diabetes radar was in full effect and I managed to spot Seonaid from across the venue (thank you Facebook photos!). We toured the upstairs exhibit area, where I spoke with a representative of the Inspired By Diabetes campaign and picked up a miniature version of the Changing Diabetes bus. I also chatted with some representatives of the AADE and met Christopher Thomas from DiabeticRockstar.com.
Of course, I took dozens of photos and you can see all of them in my World Diabetes Day 2007: NYC Edition Flickr gallery.
That night, as I returned to Penn Station, I stood on the street corner and completed the day with a viewing of the Empire State Building glowing in our blue.
When I came home, I started downloading the photos I had taken that day, clearing out and deleting the fuzzy photos or the one of Seonaid’s and my shoes. I also link-hopped through the blogosphere to see what buzz was made about World Diabetes Day. I think we had more posts than we did on D-Blog Day!
Despite the excitement of the actual event, reading the blogs were very sobering. Today is another diabetes day. So is tomorrow. And the day after that, and the day after that.
It doesn’t seem like World Diabetes Day should have anything remotely close to the word “happy” attached to it.
I am not happy that I have diabetes. I do not like diabetes, nor have I ever. I am not happy that every 10 seconds a person dies from diabetes-related complications or that in the same 10 seconds, two new people are diagnosed. I am not happy that no one knows there are different kinds of diabetes or how to tell them apart. I am not happy that in Mozambique, if a person were diagnosed today, they would most likely not live to see next year’s World Diabetes Day. I am not happy that in poor countries, a family can expect to spend one-quarter of their entire income on medication. I am not happy that diabetes not only takes lives, but takes quality of life away from so many people.
I am not happy about diabetes.
But I will tell you what I am happy about. I will tell you who I am grateful for. I will tell you what I celebrate.
I am happy that there are people who care enough about this to make it change.
I am grateful and oh so proud of my friend Clare Rosenfeld and her mother Kari for thinking of this idea and have the generosity and fortitude to make sure it happened.
I celebrate that children around the world could see the blue shining in their home country and know that there was someone out there who is trying to help them.
Just like how we all stare into the same sky, dreaming about what could be out there, we all stared at the blue yesterday and dreamed about what could be out there: a diabetes-free future.
I am grateful for the doctors in these nations who work tirelessly to help people, with such little resources.
I am happy that, 85 years after Dr. Frederic Banting created man-made insulin, I am not only alive but I am living, that I have supportive friends and family, that I have the opportunity to help make a difference.
I celebrate the excitement and hope that so many of my friends and colleagues share. We haven’t given up. That is something to celebrate.
Happy World Diabetes Day. Welcome to a new beginning of doing great things.
More photos from World Diabetes Day, as well as more statistics about global diabetes, can be found on the World Diabetes Day website.