Actually, I confess. Before I tried giving this particular beast away, I did try to sell it. You know, so I could buy something more useful. Like an elephant.
So let me tell you why I decided to give up on being a tiger tamer. Well, actually, to tell that story I guess I’d better tell you why I joined the circus in the first place.
Once upon a time… (the scene fades to black and white for that ol’ tyme look)…
Confession: while I’ve had a number of really funky jobs in my nearly five decades on the planet, working for the circus is actually not one of them. I was, however, the guy who cleaned the piranha tanks at a tropical fish shop, a security guard at a nuclear power plant.. and at a rodeo… and for one (horrible) day a laborer for Ready Man Labor. I was also a Colorado Licensed Fur Trapper for the Ft. Lewis College Psychology Department (we were trying to trap a coyote and put an radio telemetry collar on it for an animal behavior study); trust me on this, these critters live up to their reputation as wily. I also fed 100 head of cattle every morning before dawn in return for free rent, but the place literally had no insulation. I could see my breath in the morning while brushing my teeth. Besides, the only thing I really like about cattle is eating them.
Oh yeah. And I was a bouncer at a nudie bar. Actually, that job wasn’t so bad…
And why, you might wonder, would a stable, up-standing citizen like me have so many different jobs? Well, because the jobs were not what I did. They were how I kept from starving while I did what I really love to do: write.
CafePress has a coffee mug that sums it up perfectly, but I can’t afford it right now:
I also like the one that has the word “Author” warped to look like the Superman logo and the one that says “What came first? The writing or the drinking?” But that’s just me. They had one that reminded me of my sister, too. It says “Will write for chocolate.” She’s a professional playwright and has also had some interesting jobs in her life. But I digress.
Writing seems to come easily to my family. We don’t generally suffer writer’s block (although I frequently write my way into a corner); nor do we find it a torturous process. Quite the contrary, we find it joyful.
So it simply strikes me as natural that when I see a problem, I want to fix it by writing about it.
(The scene fades back into living color)…
Of course, all of that was before diabetes. As you know, diabetes changes everything. But for me at least, many of the changes were for the better. For instance it gave me better focus. Oh, and that whole small, but steady, paycheck thing.
That said, for the last five years I’ve been guilty of making a huge mistake in my life. I made the mistake of thinking of myself as a medical professional who also just happens to write.
That’s wrong. And nothing could be further from the truth. For lots of reasons. Yes, I work at a clinic. And yes, I’m a de-facto diabetes educator. But I’m not a doctor, or a physician’s assistant, or even a nurse. I have knowledge, and a hell of a lot of it, but I have no license. No certification. I’m just a lowly community health worker with about as much clout in medicine as the janitor.
In the medical world it really doesn’t matter how much you know. All that matters is what initials follow your name. Several of my better pedigreed colleagues readily admit that I know more about diabetes than they do, and are modest enough to seek out my council. But that doesn’t mean that they even for one microsecond think I’m part of the fraternity.
The problem is that men, including even testosterone-lite ones like me, define ourselves by what we do. It is both genetic and cultural. And believe me, even if it sounds silly to you females, it is powerful and impossible to escape. What we do is who we are.
Working for years in medicine, I forgot who I was. I, like Incurs, flew a bit too high and got my wings singed.
It serves me right in retrospect because I not a medical professional, and never will be. My name ends with the last letter of my last name. Nothing follows it. But who the fuck cares? The real truth, that I was slow to recognize, is that I’m a Writer who also just happens to work in medicine.
I let a certain lack of respect for my knowledge weigh more heavily on my soul than I should have, simply because I miss-defined myself. Now that I woke up and remembered who and what I am, the little shit doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m on a pretty shaky foundation when it comes to being a medical professional. But as an Author, I’m on a pillar that’s not so easily toppled.
So for those of you who were worried about my mental health. Worry no more. I remember who and what I am, I’m sleeping great at night, my back isn’t bothering me, and I’m not buying Pepto-Bismol in bulk anymore. And for those of you who’ve been with me for a while, know that the “human tumor” can’t touch me on the ground I’m standing on now.
Does all of this mean I’ve given up on helping my fellow d-folk in the arena of medicine? Hell no! I may not be a medical professional, but as a medical journalist I’m still in a heck of a good position to take the messages of doctors and make them understood by patients, and take the messages of patients and make them understood by doctors.
So I’m still an advocate. Maybe a better one for having gotten my head out of my ass.
And thus we get back to homeless tigers.
As a Writer who works in medicine, I’m a bit of a war correspondent. I’m stationed on, and reporting from, the front lines of the diabetes epidemic. More than 4,000 Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every day. And just last week, the CDC announced projections that by 2050 (which is much closer than it sounds), one in three Americans will have diabetes.
Oh. My. God. That’s 33% of the country. If this keeps up, we’ll be the majority. Can you imagine. An entire country of chronically ill?
Anyway, last summer, back in 2009, before the whole 1 in 3 thing, I could see that things were bad. Every week we were diagnosing someone with diabetes, generally Type-2. The emotional effect was devastating on the patients. They were terrified. Here in northern New Mexico they carry the family legacies of bad outcomes. They remember grandparents who lost their sight, their limbs, their kidneys, and their lives to diabetes.
They were also sick. Months and even years of hyperglycemia typically proceed an diagnosis of Type-2. It is a slow, creeping killer, wreaking havoc and damage before it reveals it’s face. The fast progression to the ER in Type-1 Diabetes is actually a blessing in comparison.
I was privileged and blessed to be on site at the moment of diagnosis to help these folks cope. To let them know it was not the end of the world. That they’d be OK.
But the math was bad. One of me and 4,000 a day of them. That would give me 21.6 seconds per patient, per day, if I never slept, ate, or drank. Not going to happen.
So I knew what I had to do.
I had to write.
About it. For it. For them.
And it had to be simple. Just the basics. Just what you need to know in the here-and-now. And it had to carry a positive message, because even though it doesn’t seem like it on the day it happens, a diagnosis is diabetes is probably not the worst thing that will ever happen to you.
In short, what these 4,000 people a day needed was a first year survival guide.
So I wrote one.
Now I’m not a complete idiot. A partial one, perhaps, but not a complete one. I knew that no one who was newly diagnosed was going to go to Amazon and buy a book. They just want to go home, go to bed, and pull the covers up over their heads. Forever.
I had innocently assumed that I could get some sort of grants to pay for books that could be given to doctors to give to patients at the time of diagnosis. The problem is that my publisher is not a non-profit. Well, they aren’t making any money whatsoever, but they are not technically a non-profit. Hope springs eternal. Anyway, most grants only go to official non-profits. Besides which, the grant wells have gone dry in this economy.
With great reluctance I turned to the deep pockets and questionable ethics of big Pharma. I contacted every company in the United States who sells diabetes drugs, meters and strips, or gear.
I started by offering them awesome discounts. No takers.
Then I offered books at cost. Still no takers.
Then I offered the high-res printing files for free. Still no takers.
By now I was getting… frustrated. Several hundred books were out in the world, mainly ones I paid for, and a small CDC grant to my clinic got the book translated into Spanish. To avoid conflict of interest no one made a penny, of course, but my publisher got to keep the rights. I think they have sold exactly one copy of the book in Spanish. Ever.
But what few copies were out in the world generated tremendous feedback. The little pocket book was really helping people through the diagnosis experience.
But not for enough people.
Finally, I had a light-bulb moment. If no one else will give it away, I will. Of course, as noted above, I have no money. But in this modern world of bits and bytes there is a way to give a book away without spending a penny.
An eBook can be a free book.
So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve created a low resolution PDF appropriate for reading on screen. Why low res? Well, because charity only goes so far. I put a lot of time into writing the book. Just because it is small does not mean it was fast or easy. In fact, writing concisely is often harder than going on, and on, and on.
Ummmmm…. Not quite sure what that says about my habit of writing very, very long blog posts…
But ignoring that for the time being (and probably forever), let us not forget that Red Blood Cell Books has put a lot of time and money into this too. To just let anyone print it doesn’t seem right. I also worry that various printed versions might be of low quality. That reflects on both my image and my publisher’s image.
So download it for fee. Read it for free. But if you want a physical copy, get out your damn wallet.
Which brings us back to the stray cat. The files are good to go. All the permissions are in place. Anyone can take them, download them, read them, post them. The rules of engagement are simple: make no money; charge no money.
There’s a link embedded in the black logo box at the top left of this column. It’ll take you to a page at the Red Blood Cell Books site that has the PDFs and the art work. Please help yourself. Or you can link to the page I just directed you to. It has been isolated from the rest of the Red Blood Cell Books web site to make it as un-commercial as possible.
Post it. Email it. Twitter and Tweet it. Facebook it. Please spread the word.
Because I need your help to get this little book to 4,000 people per day. Whether you are a patient, a medical professional, an advocate, a Writer like me, or if you are the other kind of writer (quoting now from another CafePress coffee cup):
“Writer. (ri-ter). Noun. Person who spends all day drinking coffee and posting on Facebook while pretending to write a novel.”
I need your help spreading the word. ‘Cause I hate marketing and I’m no good at it. Because:
PS: Special shout out to the following who are already helping spread the word: PS: Special shout out to the following who are already helping spread the word: