Yes, I Can
“My friend’s dad is a doctor. He says you’ll die before you’re 35.” I was 10 years old when I heard this. “I will not!” I replied.
“You have diabetes. You shouldn’t have children. You should be sterilized,” a public health nurse informed me. I was 19 years old. “No!” I said. I now have two intelligent, beautiful—and healthy—daughters.
“When your kidneys fail, we have a dialysis machine here,” said the diabetes doctor I was seeing for an initial visit. I was 25 and had just moved to Fairbanks, Alaska. He tried to put me on a strict low-sodium, low-protein diet. “No thank you,” I replied. My kidneys were fine then and still are.
“You are fragile. Your application to go to Antarctica with the National Science Foundation has been denied.” Fragile? The people at the foundation making that decision didn’t even know me. Luckily, my advisor in the engineering department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was not only an engineer but an attorney as well. He appealed the decision, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act, which had recently been passed. I went to Antarctica. I was 27 years old.
“Your application for a nursing license is being reviewed. You have diabetes. This can be dangerous when you are working with patients,” a representative of the Washington State Board of Nursing told me. I had graduated—with honors—with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and had passed the nursing boards without difficulty. I reminded them of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I had my license within a week.
“You shouldn’t run a half marathon.” I did.
“You shouldn’t scuba dive.” I have.
“You shouldn’t…” I will.
I want to thank all of the endocrinologists and diabetes educators I have worked with who have said, “Yes, you can!” They’ve helped me and continued to work with me to reach my goals. I also want to thank my husband, Jim Seida, who doesn’t know the word “can’t.”
Last year, I celebrated 50 years of living and thriving with type 1 diabetes. As part of my celebration, my family and I rode the 62-mile American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure® in Southern California. People have asked me, “Why did you do that?” The answer is simple: Because I can.
We create our own diabetes stories through our attitudes and actions. Life is too short to let other people define who we are.
Amy Wolk, RN, CDE, is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator at Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Long Beach, California. She works with children who are newly diagnosed with diabetes, and their families, to help them learn the skills they need to manage and live a healthy life with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
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