SixUntilMe: My interview with Kerri Sparling
Intros: I met Kerri at a TCOYD event in San Diego, CA after hearing her speak on her experiences with Type 1 Diabetes (she’s an incredible speaker that will have you laughing so hard you’ll have tears running down your face). She’s the author of a blog called SixUntilMe and she coined the phrase “Diabetes doesn’t define me, but it helps explain me“. Here’s a look into her life and what makes her tick.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what do you do for a living.
My name is Kerri Sparling and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of seven. I've worked full time since the day after I graduated from college (I've been a banker, service writer at a car repair shop, arbitration coordinator, aviation insurance specialist, editor ... diabetes has required me to keep working in pursuit of reliable insurance coverage) but the job I love most is the one I've been doing for the last 14 years, and that's working as a writer and speaker. I like being able to take something tough, like a diabetes diagnosis, and shape parts of it into something I love.
What is your favorite thing about having diabetes?
My favorite thing? Is definitely the respect it has given me for the parts of my body that actually work as designed. With my pancreas being a little less than awesome, I'm very appreciative that I'm still able to run, to laugh, to have created children, to talk a bunch ... it all seems a little more amazing to me.
What is the funniest story involving your diabetes?
One story that sticks in my mind is when I was a little kid, eight or nine years old, and my mom and I stopped at a restaurant for lunch. At the time, I was using multiple daily injections, so she drew up my insulin dose in the car. I was sitting in the front seat, so I rolled up my sleeve and she put the syringe into my arm. We didn't realize we were sitting in front of the restaurant's huge picture window. Where there was a table of adults, staring out the window at us in horror as this mom stuck a needle in her kid's arm. My mom and I laughed and laughed at how awkward it all was. The looks on their faces were intense.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I used to write poems about the cat we had (thankfully, lots of things rhyme with "cat") and I wrote story after story on this old word processor we kept in the dining room. I thought words were endlessly malleable and exciting. I still do.
Having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a very young age, what advice would you give to parents with little ones that have diabetes?
My advice for families with newly diagnosed kids is that they aren't on this journey alone. Diabetes can feel overwhelming at times, and very isolating, but we have the tools and resources now to find our community whenever we need it. The Internet has made the world very small, and with that ever-shrinking globe comes the ability to connect with people who can help make the burden of diabetes feel lighter. You aren't alone. You just aren't. And knowing that can be as important to mental health as insulin is to physical health, at times.
If you could travel back in time, what encouragement would you give to your younger self, and at what age would you visit yourself at?
I’d go back to the day I was diagnosed and slip my seven year old self a note, encouraging her to loosen up a little bit and not indulge her anxiety so much. (I’d draw a little cat on the note, too, because both my fully grown up self and my little kid self enjoy a good cat cartoon here and there.)
And I’d hug my mother; tell her that, 32 years later, I’d be okay. It’s going to be okay. And I’d show her a picture of the two grandchildren I’d give her some day.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself as happy. I'm pretty happy now, and I hope I can hang on to that joy for the next five years. Maybe for the next 50 years. Basically, I'm in hot pursuit of becoming one of those ancient ladies who tell you how handsome or pretty your face is, and they always have pieces of butterscotch candy in their pockets. And Kleenex in their sleeves. And a kind word for anyone who passes by.
If tomorrow you were cured of diabetes:
Part 1. What would be the first thing you would do?
I'd rename my blog "39 Until Me," and then I'd call my mom and tell her this mess was over and done with, and then Chris and I would book a really long vacation and I'd only bring a backpack.
Part 2. How might your life look different?
I'd carry a much smaller purse.
- Kerri, author of SixUntilMe