I wanted to be an lawyer when I grew up, but I never grew into one. I did something better instead--I grew up. That wasn't something a lot of people expected from a diabetic child thirty-five years ago. As a matter of fact, a lot of people still think that way. I have another way of looking at it.

I was just a kid when I went into diabetic coma and, possibly because of my young age, I learnt that diabetes need not stop me from doing anything I wanted to do--even driving police cars and booking suspects. Any of you kids reading this want to be police officers? Do have a yearning to be in Law Enforcement? There are opportunities available to you that you may think do no exist.

I won't sugar-coat it (no pun intended), a lot of police agencies and municipalities do prohibit insulin-dependant diabetics from the beat. That does not mean you cannot work as a Crime Scene Investigator, a Forensic Specialist, a Records Officer, a Community Services Officer or a School Resource Officer. The field of Crime Scene Analysis is open for all levels of instructors and the same for all areas of Forensic Sciences, should you decide to become an instructor. You can also certify as a Firearms Instructor, insulin-dependant or not. Forensic photography is fascinating, I love it and I'm good at it, and diabetes need never stop you from pursuing this type of career.

I work for a small police department where we have one sergeant who is diabetic; our CSI is diabetic; our Records Officer; myself and one other Patrol officer. We are half and half--half are insulin-dependant and half are not. I am in the first half, a Type I diabetic. It has NEVER impeded me in the performance of my duties. Why not? Because I carry my kit (monitor, insulin, glucose tabs) with me at all times and test my sugar before duty, before meals (no donut shops in our town!), and during a strenuous call, such as: schlepping heavy road barricades across roads during 100 mph wind gusts. That can be a little trying at 135 pounds and 5'5". When we have severe weather, I have been called upon to remove fallen tree branches from roadways, fill and place numerous sandbags and stand outside in that mess for hours on end telling people, "Go away, will you? The road is flooded out."

Whilst on extended day road closures, I have been known to entertain those held captive by breaking into an Irish Slip Jig in the middle of the intersection with my unit's music system turned up to something from "Riverdance." It's great exercise, by the way, and it breaks the monotony.

I did grow up, I got married, I gave birth to four healthy children and the worst complication I have had is some retinopathy, which was laser corrected over the past four years. Diabetes is not the end of the world. It is liveable and I often wonder if I am in such good shape because I "came down" with it so young.

We are forced to monitor ourselves in a manner that most non-diabetics do not. We eat regularly, more healthful foods, and we get more exercise--if we are smart.

I Irish dance with my youngest daughter, eleven-year-old, Caitlin and I put her through her paces, which are strenuous. We go to the gym often and use the stationary bike and the treadmill, then hit the Jacuzzi and the lap pool. My husband is a fireman as are our two eldest sons. Life is good, Busy, but very good.

What I'm trying to tell you is that diabetes does not mean the end to your dreams or your hopes. Catfish Hunter, one of the greatest baseball players, in my view, didn't let it stop him. Halle Berry doesn't let it stop her. And my sergeant, CSI, Records officer, the other Patrol officer and me haven't let it stop us.

As well as you can, make a friend out of your diabetes. Help it to help you. You may well live longer and healthier than a lot of non-diabetics simply because you exercise control over your life, habits and diet.

What once was a death sentence and an instant ticket to a handicap placard is now a minor annoyance to so many of us.

Don't let diabetes become a thief, I cannot take it into custody for robbing you of your dreams. Don't let it steal your future or your happiness. Don't let it assault your blood vessels and organs, keep that sugar in balance, and don't let diabetes steal your dignity. I cannot prosecute that.

You are not handicapped unless you allow it. Tackle it young and aggressively and you will live well and comfortably. You have a wonderful life ahead of you and I was only fourteen when I stepped out into mine. I decided early on who was going to be the boss, who was going to control whom--me or diabetes. I am. I even wrote a poem about it whose last two verses I will share with you:

"...I am the one with the choices to make,
I am the one with the tools.
I chisel out how my future will be
and I am the one with the rules.

I own the deed to my very own self,
it's me who lives without fear.
You go be the Captain somewhere else.
I am the Captain here."

Be the boss and control the diabetes, you can do it.

Maureen receives e-mail at m.cait [@]

Maureen in her police car

Published October 20, 2002

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