A voice for living well with Type 1 Diabetes

I watched The Grammy’s last weekend and was amazed at the talent and creativity present in the room.  The music and energy created in Las Vegas made their way into homes across the world, including ours.

As I watched, I thought about how artists make and perform their music. About their journey and what they go through. Then I wondered how their methods compare to our ways of managing diabetes. Turns out we have a lot in common. Here’s a sample:

We are creative

Musicians are innovative, resourceful, and experimental. Living with diabetes engages these same skills.

We are unique

The same sheet of music sounds different when played by different musicians. Marlene Shaw’s version of “California Soul” is different than the one by The 5th Dimension. Same sheet of music played differently by unique artists.

Living with diabetes comes with established methods, meds and tools, but their influence is different on each of us. One unit of insulin lowers my blood sugar by 50 points, for a friend it’s 30.  Red wine for me … I dose.  My sister-in-law … no way.  Our diabetes is played differently.  Same sheet of music played differently… because we’re unique.

We team With Others

Musicians rarely play solo. Why? Music is better with a bass line, percussion, rhythm and lead sections. They each have roles that make the music whole.

Same with diabetes. I could try and manage my diabetes by myself, but in the U.S. I need a script to get insulin … yep, need a medical doctor for that. And some of my best methods of controlling blood sugars have been learned in conversations with others living with diabetes, endocrinologists, nurse educators and clinical specialists. That’s my diabetes band. With them, my diabetes performance is better.

We are a Mix of Art & Science

Music is built on principles from math and science. Musical scales have eight notes, harmony is formed by relationships of certain numbers (and now we’re into the science of physics). With math and science principles as a foundation, notes in the scales are selected to make music. But music comes alive with interpretation and expression … different styles, syncopation, genres and timbres. That’s why “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” sounds so different when played by Bachman Turner Overdrive and Burton Cummings (their former bandmate).

As for managing diabetes, we have our math as well:  insulin to carbohydrates ratios, insulin sensitivity ratios and more. But like musical genres, carbohydrates and insulin behave differently in each of us.  So while we manage our diabetes with numerical principles, they require individual creativity and interpretation to make them work. That’s our diabetes blend of art and science.

We Have Gratitude

Where would musicians be without those before them? The Beatles appreciated Elvis because he opened their minds to blues and rock and roll. Today’s female musicians are thankful for artists like Ann and Nancy Wilson that opened doors for women to play leadership roles in the rock genre. Each year the Grammy’s honor influencers with provide lifetime achievement awards.

Those of us with type 1 diabetes are grateful that insulin was discovered just over 100 years ago. Without it, we wouldn’t be alive. And how about a gentleman named Al Mann? 40 years ago, we were fortunate to get his time and talents to develop a wearable pump that could mimic insulin delivery of a functioning pancreas. Blood glucose meters and continuous glucose monitors empower us to make on demand data driven decisions about our treatment. We are grateful for those that have invested in diabetes and paved a path for living better.

Others Have Opinions

Beauty is in the eye of beholder and such is the life of a musician. They put their heart and soul into creating something for others to enjoy. Their work product may be critically acclaimed, but it isn’t always well received. Artists must have a mental toughness and resilience to accept feedback but continue their journey and craft.

We type 1s also receive feedback – many times unsolicited – from others. It can come from loved ones (that truly care), misinformed people and medical professionals that believe they have a right to assess or judge our diabetes performance. We the people of diabetes must absolutely have a filter and operate with resilience to push on.

We Aren’t Perfect

Although the Grammy’s sounded pitch perfect, how many times have you been to a live concert and heard notes off key or see a band get out of rhythm ? It happens.  As hard as they try, musicians aren’t perfect.

When pancreatic beta cells are gone, blood sugars won’t stay in a perfect range. No matter how hard we try, our blood sugars will vary when we eat, exercise, get sick, and stressed. It’s reassuring to know that being imperfect is 100% ok.

About Choice

One thing we do not share:  choice.

Musicians choose their vocation.  Type 1 diabetes chose us.

But difference is not a disconnect.  It would be too easy to ignore our similarities (and what we can learn), just because our lives unfolded in different ways.  For those of us without choice, it’s enlightening to know we have much in common with those that do.

Are there people that thrive with both music and diabetes?  Absolutely!  Check out this link to our friends at One Drop:  https://onedrop.today/blogs/blog/musicians-with-diabetes-grammys-2020