I never really thought of myself as “challenged to win.” I mean, when I was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes in 1969 at age 14, I was confused, scared, and certainly sorry for myself. But from day one, I also knew that I was not about to let my no-longer-perfect health stand in the way of my dreams of becoming a writer and a magazine editor.
In that respect, I suppose I could say that I had a touch of the “true grit” with which Nancy Shugart has tackled most of her life – which is the best way I can think of to describe the stubborn courage that she rallied when her eyesight began to fail at age eight and likewise, some 25 years later, when she accepted the unwelcome news that she had developed diabetes.
Like Nancy, I too refused to be defined by my disease. My diabetes, like Nancy’s blindness, was not going to become my calling card. And also like Nancy, I had to decide who to tell about my condition and when, which only compounded the inherent struggles of adolescence, high school, college and, eventually, my work life. Because, like it or not, chronic health conditions, the same as tragic accidents and other overwhelming challenges, set us apart from others. But they do not and should not define who we are or what we can accomplish.
I know that I was luckier than a lot of people, because my bosses at PARADE, the national Sunday newspaper magazine where I have spent most of my working life, viewed my diabetes as “no big deal.” I daresay, they considered my compliance with my diabetes regimen, which involved trying to maintain normal blood sugar levels at all times while meeting the job’s daily pressures and weekly deadlines as some sort of evidence that I had “the right stuff.” For their confidence and encouragement, I am eternally grateful.
Mind you, all of this cockeyed confidence and positive thinking doesn’t mean that you can’t get bummed out every now and again by the “curve balls” – be they physical, mental, financial or otherwise – that life throws your way. After all, you are – we all are – only human. So, take an hour to mope and moan. Take two! Sometimes, you might even need an entire day to mourn for yourself. Just don’t let the “woe-is-mes” become a habit. There is far too much goodness in the world to absorb and too many life-affirming adventures to explore!
I also want to tell you this. During the darkest periods of my life, whether I was nursing a diabetic body, a broken heart, a lost pregnancy, or a parent taken too soon, I sought comfort in prayer and found solace in God’s grace. Don’t believe me? Give prayer a chance. It works.
If you have any doubts about the truth of anything that I’m saying, just ask Nancy Shugart. Better yet, turn this page and begin reading her book. Challenged To Win: Turning Overwhelming Challenges Into Unbelievable Results is engaging, uplifting, and remarkably empowering. Start reading it – right now.
Nancy, you are my hero!
Love, Peace, Joy!
– Fran Carpentier
New York, N.Y.