LifeAfterDx--Diabetes Uncensored

A internet journal from one of the first T1 Diabetics to use continuous glucose monitoring. Copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

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Location: New Mexico, United States

Hi! I’m William “Lee” Dubois (called either Wil or Lee, depending what part of the internet you’re on). I’m a diabetes columnist and the author of four books about diabetes that have collectively won 16 national and international book awards. (Hey, if you can’t brag about yourself on your own blog, where can you??) I have the great good fortune to pen the edgy Dear Abby-style advice column every Saturday at Diabetes Mine; write the Diabetes Simplified column for dLife; and am one of the ShareCare diabetes experts. My work also appears in Diabetic Living and Diabetes Self-Management magazines. In addition to writing, I’ve spent the last half-dozen years running the diabetes education program for a rural non-profit clinic in the mountains of New Mexico. Don’t worry, I’ll get some rest after the cure. LifeAfterDx is my personal home base, where I get to say what and how I feel about diabetes and… you know… life, free from the red pens of editors (all of whom I adore, of course!).

Saturday, May 08, 2010

The death of the doctor who’s not a doctor

The cancer had metastasized before I even knew it had hit me. In hindsight there were symptoms, I just didn’t feel them in time. I didn’t understand what they were. They were quiet whispers behind the scenes. Flitting motion in the shadows. Dark wings flapping in the night, assassins stalking.

Oh, don’t panic. This cancer isn’t in my body. It is in my work place.

But just as human cancer starts in one organ of our bodies, then spreads to others; so too can work cancer start with one bad apple and then infect another in a work place, and then another, and then another.

In medicine we know that the best way to survive cancer is to catch it where it starts. Cut it out. Remove it from the body. The poison the site with toxic chemicals and radiation so that it can never come back. You have to strike quickly to win against cancer. But organizations rarely recognize the source of a work cancer and cut that person out in time; before the spread starts. Decent people who want to communicate and work together in teams are no match for a human tumor.

The cancer that got me was a relatively new employee. One of those people who believes that the only path to knowledge and wisdom are credentials.

When I started building the diabetes program at my clinic I barely made minimum wage, I was in a small place in one of the poorest parts of the country. No one gave a shit about credentials, talented warm bodies were in short supply.

Don’t get me wrong. There was nothing shoddy. Nothing careless going on. We had to earn the right to do the things we were allowed to do. It was not simply granted because a certain chain of letters followed your name.

But no good deed goes unpunished in medicine. We grew from 30 diabetes patients to 260; the growth for other types of patients followed the same path. We grew from one nurse to eight nurses. From one doc to three. Then four.

And number four was the cancer. I was a marked man before I even knew it. I was too busy doing my job to realize the well was being poisoned when I wasn’t looking. It is amazing how one person with ill intent can so quickly destroy what took years to build. It is amazing how one vicious soul can so quickly devastate more gentle ones. Some of us just don’t have the skills for a knife fight.

I’m still too shell shocked by lies, twisted truths, half-truths, and the lack of support from people I worked side-by-side with for years to even fully understand, much less relate to all of you, all that has happened over the last months, weeks, and days—accelerating to a terminal velocity today. My soul is too bruised to tell the story in the detail that you all deserve. Maybe in time. But not today.

I tried to stand up, to fight this cancer, but I was not quick enough, nor powerful enough, nor sneaky enough to win. I was mowed down. Now instead of bruised, I’m bloodied and the cancer is that much bolder and stronger.

Back spasms from stress cripple me for days on end and riddle me with pain. Insulin has no more effect than water. Sleep is a stranger to me. The daily stress of the last three months has rocketed my A1C from 6.9 to 9.2 making my blood toxic to my tissues. My kidneys are at risk. My eyes.

I dread getting out of bed in the morning. My joy at driving to work has been replaced by anxiety and fear. My stomach churns. I’ve become paranoid, not knowing where the cancer has spread. Who is still my friend. Who is my enemy. My safe and warm nest is now cold barbed wire.

I eat lunch alone in my tiny postage-stamp office; the laughing and chattering of my coworkers a distant echo down a long hallway.

It sucks but I am too tired to take care of my diabetes, two hundred and sixty other people’s diabetes, a ten hour day with a two hour commute, plus get into a virtual daily knife fight with a coworker. For months I ignored the growing slights. The increasing nasty little side comments. The petty changing of meds just because I thought they were a good idea. But then this person, this demon, this cancer, did something that risked a patient’s health just to get back at me.

But in medicine, credentials always win the day.

I’m not strong enough, wicked enough, clever enough for this fight. Good does not always triumph. Sometimes the folks with the back hats have the last laugh.

So I’m walking away. It kills me. It rips my very soul from me. I would cry, but I have no strength left to generate the tears. Just yesterday an old woman told me “I thank God every day that he called you to our village.” I used to believe that. I used to believe I was on some sort of mission. That I was called to help our kind to thrive despite of our disease.

Now I don’t know what to believe.

I cut my hours to the bone to keep my insurance for now. I have to work a little while I figure out what to do next. It is the worst economy ever, at least in my lifetime, to look for work. But I can’t stand another day like the ones I’ve been living through . . . well, I guess dying through would be more accurate.

The cancer has infected the work place. It is moving from person to person. Teamwork is dying before my eyes. I’ve become bitter and disillusioned. To try to save myself I am removing myself from the source of the disease; but it may be too late. When I’m with my patients I feel full of life and wisdom; love and understanding. I can help, teach, guide. But then I have to interact with the tumor, and all that good feeling is erased and I feel not joy, but sick at heart.

With bitter sadness beyond describing I know I have to leave. And even if I had the opportunity to do this job somewhere else, I don’t know if I have what it takes anymore. The cancer has infected my soul. As I couldn’t cut the cancer out, I should have tried to escape sooner, before it made me sick.

And what is the next act? What will I do now?

I do not know.

But I think I need to find a field far from medicine. A field with no licenses. No credentials.

A field where it is your name that matters, not the letters that follow it.


Blogger meanderings said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Araby62 (a.k.a. Kathy) said...

Oh, Wil, I understand where you're coming from. I work with a couple of human tumors too. What is it about public health that attracts the jerks of the world?!

No suggestions today. Just thinking of you and wishing you strength.

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This breaks my heart. I am so sorry that such a good person has been driven out of the diabetes medical world. We need more people like you not less. I am so angry and sad. I hope things look up again soon for you. You deserve so much better.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wil, I am so sorry. You are such a gift to so many people, both through your work there and through the wonderful storytelling here.

You scared the hell out of me talking about cancer getting you. I'm glad that you are alright, but I too am saddened that you had to go through that crap.

9:32 AM  
Blogger meanderings said...

Your posts have always, always impressed me with the care you have for your clients/patients. How sad that they will lose you.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Val said...

Ditto what Scott said. It's too bad that one piece of human sewage has made things so miserable for you, but I think you are making the right choice.

Dealing with high stress from day to day is toxic to your soul, let alone your blood sugars. Rest, recuperate, find something temporary if you can, and then decide what you want to do.

Sending hugs and good wishes your way.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Jonah said...

I'm sorry to hear what you're going through. I think you are doing the right think reducing your hours. I hope your next job will be every bit as meaningful but much less stressful.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Crystal said...

Oh, Wil.
I am So sorry to hear this. So very sorry.

I wish you the best in the coming days. ((hugs)), love and prayers

12:01 AM  
Blogger Journeywoman said...

I'm delurking to say how very sorry I am. I hope you find something else very soon.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Penny said...

I am so sorry about this Wil. You are a caring man, who has helped countless number of people with diabetes in your area. Please know that. I am sending waves of faith that in the end, it will all be well with you.

11:55 AM  
Blogger dallasgirl said...

Can't sleep tonight after reading your blog @@. I can literally hear the pain in your words. As one of your patients I know first hand as a diabetes educator you are insanely capable, knowledgeable,loving,caring,and patient. Anyone who knows you knows this to be true. Someone needs to open a can of whoop ass on the idiot. I'm only 5'2" so... Sending you my love and a hug. MT

11:45 PM  

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