Friday, April 6, 2012

A Trip to Boston to See a Play about Diabetes

For a few months, I've been silent about my trip to Boston because I couldn't grasp the words to describe it.  And, perhaps even now I don't have the words to capture my feelings, but I can describe the journey getting there.

As you know by now, I feel like the lone diabetic since I don't have any close friends or family with diabetes.  So, when I saw that Robbie McCauley had written the first play about diabetes in African American communities and was performing it as a one-woman production with a talk-back after each performance...I KNEW I HAD TO GET THERE!

So, I searched and searched and thought and thought some more about ways to make this happen.  And as God would have it, it was possible for me to fly into Boston in the morning, catch the 2pm matinee performance, and depart the city on an evening flight.

"Boston for a day," I said aloud to myself.  Some how I needed to hear it.  I wondered if it sounded as exciting in words as it did in thought.  Actually, it sounded ridiculous when I said it aloud to myself.  So, I called my husband, my mom, and my grandma. After telling them that I planned to fly to miles away to Boston, to see this play, I realized that I didn't just WANT to see it, but that I NEEDED to see it.  I heard myself saying, "I think this will be good for me." "I'm still recovering from the trauma of my diagnosis and losing my home in a tornado, I need to do something exciting for myself."  "I just can't help to wonder what it would be like to see another black woman diabetic professor and what types of connections I will made/have/feel?"

By the time I got off the phone, I was solid in my decision. This is would be a big step for me living my motto "Diagnosed Not Defeated". So, on January 28, 2012, I left my home bound for a day trip in Boston.

IT WAS SO EXCITING!!  I hadn't been back to Boston since I lived there 10 years ago. So, I decided to document every phase of my trip.
I'm feeling empowered and I'm wearing my t-shirt as proof

The Sky isn't the limit anymore.

BOSTON: I haven't seen you in 10 years.

I am purchasing a day-pass for public transportation.

And, I got back a bunch of $1 coins, how cool.

I'm taking on the Big City of Boston

Hours before the show...I can't wait.

Can you tell, I'm SO excited about discovering a Farmer's Market? I bought tons of bell peppers

HARD ROCK!!  Yes, I have a thing about visiting these cafes

Singing, "The people are all the same, I wanna go where nobody knows my name"

My walking tour comes to a close, time to head back to the theater...showtime!

SUGAR, the play, was FANTASTIC.  I received more than I could have anticipated. First, Robbie McCauley's simple staging allowed for the audience to zone in on her and the words she spoke.  We could travel down the historical journey of diabetes in African American communities through her perspective as a Type 1 diabetic.

There were two scenes in the play that touched me so deeply that expressing myself through the flow of tears down my cheeks was the only option. The first scene was when McCauley acted out the severe hypoglycemia diabetics experience (usually while on insulin) often called "a low," "a diabetic attack," or "a hypo."  This was the only time in the play she did not speak. The sound of her voice came through a speaker instead, and highlighted that her speechlessness during the diabetic attack did not mean a lack of thought and consciousness. As we heard her inner thoughts asking God's mercy to get to the orange juice in time or wondering if this will be how she dies, her body staggered over the stage. The physical reaction of the hypo was emphasized dramatically and accurately.

I was in awe. Watching her perform MY emotions, MY struggles, and MY reactions on stage was liberating and reassuring.  I don't speak during a diabetic attack, but mind races like a horse. I'm so focused on wondering if this is how I'll die that I have no time for words. I'm so frightened that if I don't get sugar within the next second that I won't make it out of this that I have no energy to speak.  I'm so determined to make my way to something sweet that I have no space to ask for help. I'm angry at my pancreas, I'm upset that I've been chosen to have this problem for life,  I'm wondering how did this hypo happen,  I'm thinking about what I ate or didn't eat, I'm trying to connect with and move my hands and feet, I'm trying to get over the shaking and trembling because I know that this means that a seizure is approaching if I don't get sugar, I'm worried that no one knows that I'm fighting to survive and I have a limited time to do it.  Nothing and I mean nothing else in the world matters, because I am at the brink of death.
When you have all this going on in your head, how can you talk? But, until this moment in the play-I thought that it was just me.

The second scene was when Robbie McCauley sat in a chair in the center of the stage, checked her glucose (we use the same glucometer :-D, cool),  gave herself a shot of insulin, and shared her dream of being able to do this in public without fear of having to endure strange stares from other people.

I couldn't help but think about all the filthy bathroom stalls I visited when it was time to give myself an injection (how unsanitary). I thought about the many corners I stood in, turning my back to others-so that they wouldn't get grossed out or notice me. I thought about how I would plan my injection sites (stomach for home and arms for public places) because I took other people into consideration. I even remembered the first time I had to give myself an injection in public and how nervous I was about it and how I avoided eye contact with everyone while I administered the injection just to make sure that I didn't endure someone's weird gaze. And, as she spoke, I cried at the thought of how much relief I would have had if I could take care of my diabetic needs without thinking about other people's views--like she was doing on stage. What a wonderful world that would be!

During the talk-back following her one-woman play. I shared my story with the audience. I let everyone know that I'm newly diagnosed, feeling alone in this struggle, and how I traveled there to get a glimpse of hope, community, or inspiration to keep going.  The feedback that I received from the audience (mainly a room of diabetics and those who love us) was OVERWHELMING.  It was a space where age, gender, race, sexuality, and religious differences were transcended. I got more hugs than I can count, phone numbers, email addresses, and words of encouragement from other diabetics. And best of all, I got to meet the wonderful Ms. Robbie McCauley and give her one of my t-shirts.

She too, is Diagnosed but NOT Defeated

The Poster

Attending any "WORLD PREMIERE" is an awesome experience


And, no trip to Boston is complete with having a cup of New England Clam Chowder from Legal Seafoods. God really rolled out the blessings for me on this day trip. And, I am thankful!

4 comments:

  1. Wow, tears rolled as you described how the different scenes in the play were telling your story. I'm realizing as a friend, that we can never completely understand what you're going through because we're not in your shoes. But, there has to be a way we can help you to not feel so alone - to support you. I have some personal thoughts about this I'll share with you this weekend. Love you!!

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  2. An excellent testimony!I love the fact that you take the world on with fearlessness and excitement. Navigating the terrain of a newly diagnosed disease might be compared to entering into a big city for the first time. You need a map or a guide. I know that you are familiar with Boston but I like your use of photo to journal the day trip. It's almost like a tutorial for city newbies. Your story is inspirational for many reasons but primarily because you aren't afraid to tell it. I'm sure that your travels will bring about more change in your life and the lives of others as you continue to document the kind of emotional awareness that is missing in our society. Blessings and Love!

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  3. Thank you very much! Peace and blessings to you.

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  4. Dear Dr. P, Thank you for sharing this journey with the world through your blog post. I was so touched to hear your story and how you traveled to Boston and that Robbie's message has reached so many people. I wish you all the courage, strength and support from your friends, family and medical network to plough through this thing like a champion. I've watched a champion survive diabetes all my life and I have faith you will be just as much of an inspiration to others.
    Sincerely, J. Montgomery, Robbie's "good daughter" from NY :)

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