As an enthusiastic eavesdropper, my ears perked up when a woman seated behind me at the beauty salon started talking blood sugars.
“266 this morning,” she told her hairdresser. “And 344 the day before that.”
As anyone with diabetes knows, those are some impressively high numbers. Waiting for my color to banish my grays, I tried to return my attention to the New Yorker, but it was tough.
Should I swing around in my chair to share my expertise as a fellow person with diabetes? How should I tell her that the numbers were much too high, that she might find help and advice online, and that I knew the names of several excellent endocrinologists in the neighborhood?
But before I made my move, her next sentences stopped me cold.
“It might have gone higher,” she said. “But we’ll never know. During the night, the sensor slipped off, even after we had shaved her back.”
Without turning, I watched as the mirror before me reflected the two exchanging sympathetic nods. Thrown off by the back shaving, I listened for a clue. Neither woman said anything for a few moments, then the hairdresser sighed.
“Poor, poor kitty,” she said.
Cats. They were talking about a diabetic cat.
Chagrined, I returned to my magazine. My expertise and advice, after all, applied solely to people with diabetes. But once the timer for my hair color had buzzed and my head was shampooed, conditioned, trimmed, and blow-dried, I couldn’t stop thinking about the women’s words: How they showed such empathy and concern.
How willing the owner was to give the cat insulin shots, to keep her on a special diet, even to shave her back to ensure that the blood glucose monitor might remain in place.
I’m not a cat person; I much prefer dogs. Yet, as I left the salon, I contemplated how well we nurture our pets. Pet stores are stocked with foods for special diets; we pay to have their teeth cleaned and breath freshened. We treat their arthritis, anxieties, and cancers.
All of this, while many of us with chronic diseases like diabetes resist taking care of our own health, in denial about the importance of taking our blood sugars or following a low-carb or low-calorie regimen.
Why is it so easy for many of us to lend our empathy, intelligence, and care to another creature’s well-being -- be it a pet, a husband, a child, or a friend -- and so hard to take care of our own?
During my brief walk home from the salon, I didn’t arrive at an answer. But I wondered if how we almost instinctually treat other people and pets might help those who struggle with their type 2 diabetes care.
For example, if you find yourself frustrated about taking your blood sugars or sick of considering what to eat, might it help -- for a moment or two -- to imagine what you might tell someone experiencing the same issues?
Might you advise them to give up? Would you want them to call their endocrinologist for advice? Would you recommend an occasional diabetes vacation? Would you tell them that an order of french fries won’t kill them, or remind them that french fries drive their blood sugars sky-high?
There are no right or wrong answers to any of these questions. The general idea is connected to the old maxim to treat others as you would treat yourself, with a caveat: Treat yourself as you might treat your diabetic cat (or dog).
Before I left the salon, the cat’s owner received a call from her vet. The cat was fine, and her current blood sugar was 133.
Which I guess provides me with a happy ending to this “tail”!
Photo Credit: Mikhail Reshetnikov / EyeEm via Getty Images
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