Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Revamping Tradition: Diaversary Gifts

I have weddings on the brain, as mine is in (gulp) approximately three months. I started thinking about traditional anniversary gifts (which are sort of silly in their own way) and thought: well, shouldn't diaversaries have their own traditional gifts? If a wedding anniversary is a celebration of life and hard work, so is a diaversary, even if you usually choose your partner and not your diabetes.

Year one: Paper. Instead of paper, why not have the traditional diaversary gift be test strips? They're some of the most expensive "paper" out there, and all people with diabetes need more. Message: may you experience better numbers and fewer Errors Fives in life."

Year two: Cotton. Clearly, a whole bunch of swabs for wiping away blood, because the farther you get from your second diabetes anniversary, the less you're going to actually care about things like wiping your fingers before and after testing.

Year three: Leather. This is the year you give some nice fresh lancets, because they should be changed at least annually to avoid changing the skin on your fingers to, well...tough leather.

Year four: Fruit. I think this calls for grape our sour apple glucose tabs. Aren't anniversaries supposed to function as a pick-me-up, anyway?

Year five: Wood. Five is a special year, because it's the year most of us were told would bring a cure. I imagine that no gift-givers have that at their disposal, though most would like to give it. If that's not a possibility, instead of Wood, I think I'd like to call it "Would" instead. For the diaversary, ask "what would you do if you didn't have diabetes?" Then, try to make it happen anyway (safely).

Year six: Candy. This is easy. You could go back to glucose tablets, but I think really this should be actual candy. Something the PWD really loves. Something that acknowledges, yes, you can eat that.

Year seven: Wool, or Copper. Don't try to pull the wool over a PWD's eyes as a present (see: cure in five years). Instead, maybe a knit pockets for a pump, or a nice, shiny penny from the diagnosis year (harder to find in Canada), to be used to twist open the pump cap to replace the battery.

Year eight: Pottery, or Bronze. Nice as it seems, most PWDs won't quite appreciate you bronzing their insulin pumps. Since we have so much on our plates, though, maybe we'd like a new one as a present.

Year nine: Willow. If your PWD is me, this means get me something Buffy-related or bring me my kitten. But most people aren't me. The bark sap of the willow contains salicylic acid, which is an important part of aspirin. PWDs could use a stock of painkillers. Willows are also known for "weeping," so this could really be an opportunity to tell your PWD to let it all out. Bring tissues. The chance to vent and cry once in a while is an essential gift.

Year ten: Tin or Aluminum. Curses, foiled again! You know what often comes wrapped in foil? Really good chocolate. It's much better than the tin ear most of the D-police have when they try to prevent us from eating really good chocolate.

Year eleven: Steel. What do you get for the world-weary diabetic who has everything? Boxes of infusion sets. The needle is made of steel, and it'll cost more than a nice dinner for two at a semi-fancy restaurant.

Year twelve: Silk. All those needles are hard on the skin, so something silky to wear or silky lotion sounds pretty good.

Year thirteen: Lace. The teenage years are hard, and many of us start to feel like we are also a pattern or design made mostly of holes. For the thirteenth anniversary, lace up your running shoes and join a fundraising run or walk for diabetes, to show solidarity.

Year fourteen: Ivory. Obviously, you don't want anything from an elephant. That's wrong. Instead, think about what might make your favourite PWD smile, and make those ivories flash.

Year fifteen: Crystal. Around this year, I really started to think about the future and get better control. A crystal ball as a gift signifies a few things: we want to be able to see into and predict the future, even though we really can't. In terms of complications, sometimes what we do matters, sometimes it doesn't. Good care doesn't mean good things, bad care doesn't automatically mean bad things (though it's much more likely to). A crystal ball may seem clear, but the future isn't, really. If this is too heavily symbolic for you, just get a nice wine glass, because she probably needs a drink.

Year twenty: China. A great gift would be to make a lovely (or many lovely) meals that have exact carbohydrate information, so that there are no surprised and your D-sweetie knows exactly what to do. Or perhaps you have the magic formula for not going high after eating Chinese food? Then share that.

Year twenty-five: Silver. Silver tells you how much you have achieved (twenty-five whole years!) but at the same time tells you that you still have a ways to go. You're not 100% on top and you can't rest on your laurels. Silver is great, and it's something to be proud of, but it's not time to retire just yet!

Year thirty: Pearl. Pearl jewelry reminds us that often irritants create something beautiful. Without diabetes, you wouldn't be who you are today. This is for better or for worse, but usually for the better. Resilience is developed, along with maturity. Friends have been made, and art created. We've made pearls with what we've got.

Year thirty-five: Coral. If you've lived with D this long, it's time for a celebratory trip. Just make sure your pump is cool and waterproof when you go snorkeling. Or maybe the gift won't be coral, but oral (say, oral insulin).

Year forty: Ruby. Let's say (conservatively) four tests a day, 365/366 days a year. That's around 58,440 blood tests. A faceted ruby looks like a drop of blood. You've earned it.

Year forty-five: Sapphire. A round, blue jewel is the perfect symbol as we reach the height of life achievement.

Year fifty: Gold: After 50 years, a PWD deserves a gold medal. There is actually a program in place by Joslin to give them one.

Year sixty: Diamond. Anyone who can survive diabetes for 60 years is tough as nails - or tough as a diamond - so this is appropriate. Diamonds seem rare, but are less rare than we think, and that's where diabetes care is leading us: a place where 60-year diabetes survivors aren't rare. If you don't want to support the diabetes industry, a lab-created diamond is also appropriate: we're alive because of synthetics, but that doesn't mean we sparkle any less, even if some doubt our worth.