Sometimes as a diabetic it can seem as though you are living in a world that doesn't quite get you, despite the best intentions of the majority of folks blessed with a fully functioning pancreas.
It isn't your fault. People with a happy pancreas just can't relate to the stress and angst produced by blood sugar tests, the finger sticks that every diabetic should take multiple times a day to determine just how high - or low - their blood sugars are.
A normal reading is between 70120, but those are elusive, magical numbers to a diabetic, especially when they are achieved over an extended period of time. And by that I mean hours.
The blood meter renders a judgment in 5 seconds, often delivering a verdict that belies common sense, or heck, any sense at all. ''What did I do to deserve this reading of 280? I swear, I didn't eat any simple sugars! I didn't touch the pumpkin pie! Yes, I may have flirted with the chocolate ice cream but I kept my hands off of it, I swear!''
But sugar justice is swift and unconcerned with feelings, explanations or excuses. ''You are 280, and perhaps even worse than that,'' the sugar judge declares. ''Who knows how high you'll go next time. No treats for you, no carbohydrates and don't even dream about touching the chocolate ice cream. You are banned from the kitchen. Not only are you a bad diabetic, you are a bad, bad man.''
It is a stunning and wrenching verdict delivered in millions of diabetic households multiple times a day: You are out of control. You are a terrible diabetic example. You are a failure.
But this summer, this sometimes wayward diabetic learned a very important lesson: You can rise above a bad glucose reading and sugar justice, and still be a productive citizen and, thankfully, a good example to other diabetics. A flashing number in one instant on a glucose meter does not, and should not, define me.
My diabetic awakening began with a trip to San Diego in June, where I was sequestered with dozens of other type 1 diabetic athletes attending a weeklong series of seminars about managing diabetes while training for endurance events like full-distance Ironman triathlons, marathons or even those crazy ultramarathons. Those ultra guys should have their heads examined.
The reason for my trip? In February I was selected as a regional captain of Triabetes, a triathlon club managed by Insulindependence, a non-profit based in San Diego that pushes diabetics to take a more active role in managing their diabetes. And they take the ''active'' part very seriously, which is why I was attracted to this group to begin with.
All week I was surrounded by other very healthy, very athletic human beings who just happened to have an unhappy pancreas, just like me. And time after time I was reminded of just how special this group was and is to me.
As we sat listening to one lecture after another about the interaction of exercise and blood sugar balance, the room would suddenly fill with the wonderful sounds that only other diabetics can appreciate: the beeps and buzzes that dozens of meters, monitors and pumps make to indicate a sugar reading, a rising or falling glucose rate, or a time to refill the pump.
It was magical. For the first time in my adult diabetic life, I was in a room with people who completely understood what I was going through, how frustrating and maddening it is to try to manage your sugars, and how elusive true sugar balance is. These people got it, and we didn't have to say a thing. The instant we heard that beautiful wind chime of diabetic devices whistling in the background, we knew we were among friends.
Beyond all of the research and science behind diabetes management we learned, the biggest takeaway of the week, by far, was the notion that we are much more than a number on a meter. We are diabetics, yes, but we are also human beings capable of doing some extraordinary things. Equipped with the latest research, training and positive attitude, this group just might inspire a whole generation of diabetics to take a much different approach to managing their condition.
I didn't have to wait long for the inspiration. One of my new diabetic buddies, Jeff Temple, completed Ironman Louisville, a long-distance triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run. Jeff completed his race in 12 hours, 53 minutes, and maintained terrific blood sugars throughout much of it.
Another friend I made, Coloradoan Roy Cardwell, ran the Leadville 100 trail run in 24 hours, 40 minutes, and finished 84th overall out of 850 runners who toed the starting line. An amazing accomplishment, especially when you consider he battled erratic blood sugars during much of the race. How's that for diabetic justice!
And on a very hot, humid day in July, I delivered my very own form of diabetic justice. I completed the Burning River 100 trail run, which follows the Cuyahoga River and the trails that traverse the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I finished in 25 hours, 23 minutes, 55th out of over 300 who started.
12:53; 24:40; 25:23. Those are the numbers I'll think about the next time sugar justice tries, in vain, to hold me back.
Kennedy is a Cortland resident and former Tribune Chronicle community columnist.