"Drugs Are My Life"
"Mommy, come up here. I can't do this anymore." My daughter Kathleen's voice was shaky—not with fear, but with anger. "I hate this. How much longer am I gonna have to do this?" Kathleen was 8 years old then and despised her insulin injections. Thirty-five years later, she still hates them, but she has come to accept them. She knows her disease is different—not like surviving cancer or recovering from surgery. If you have diabetes, you have diabetes for life.
Kathleen wears an old baseball cap to and from work, when she is out for a walk, at the supermarket, on the golf course—almost everywhere. It has gotten so much wear and tear that the words have practically worn off. "Drugs Are My Life," the cap reads. People who do not know her might find her message offensive. I know that brave would be a better way to describe it.
Now 43, my daughter truly has made drugs her life. Not just because of her daily kidney medications and years of insulin injections, but because of the occupation she has chosen: veterinary pharmacist. Kathleen bought her hat from a street vendor in Boston, when she was attending the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. After graduation, her life revolved around the dispensing of drugs in the wee hours of the morning. She would begin her four-day work week at 3 a.m., with 30-mile commutes to and from the basement pharmacy of a Boston hospital.
When 35 candles appeared on her sugar-free cake, she took on a challenge. A new profession of compounding and flavoring medications for animals had caught her attention. Making drugs palatable for pets helps ensure they take necessary medications. Kathleen took a course to learn more.
The lonely hospital basement and long commutes became a thing of the past. But drugs did not. Kathleen bought space in a strip mall near the harbor of a New England coastal town, and she stocked her lab with hundreds of vials of tasty liquids to add to the bottles of medications on her neat shelves. She built her business from scratch.
Pet owners now wait in line for flavored medications for their dogs and cats. Veterinarians sing Kathleen's praises. My daughter's work week has grown to six days. Through it all, her own medications are always on her mind. "Gotta take care of myself so I can take care of my clients," she says.
In 2005, the local Chamber of Commerce named her Entrepreneur of the Year. It was hard for me to believe that this was the same person who 35 years ago cried, "Mommy … I can't do this anymore."
I have thought of buying my daughter a new baseball cap with a freshly printed "Drugs Are My Life." But she doesn't need it. The old one has done her just fine—serving as a reminder to keep up her sense of humor, and as a symbol of the perseverance that got her where she is today.
Kathleen Taylor lives in Madison, Conn. She is the mother of eight adult children, including two with diabetes, Ned and Kathleen.