Why I chose service

Several years ago I was asked to participate in the TUDiabetes quilt project. I had my name placed on the quilt with one word that best represented how diabetes affects me. I chose the word service. And today that quilt is displayed at various events around the country with my name and that word.

Service ?

Service may be an odd word to use to represent diabetes and some people over time have commented on the word. Always asking why I would chose such a word. Most of the words on the quilt represent personal struggles with diabetes and frankly that would have been an easy thing to express. But I just could not do it.

Things Changed

I was 17 when diagnosed with diabetes in 1974, and frankly, I thought my life would be short and full of hardship. I thought that I would have little control over the disease. Think of it and the complications as random. They just occur, regardless of how well my blood sugar was managed. I was wrong about that of course, but that was my thought, and I lived my life with that attitude.

What I knew at 17 was that I wanted to make an impact in the world. I dreamed of a career on a national stage, in politics or government. I wanted to make the life of those around me better. Diabetes focused my thoughts. I thought (wrongly) that if my life was to be short and full of complications, then I had to move fast. And moving fast meant changing my goals and ambitions. I felt that the one way I could have that impact was to enter service at the local and state level. So I pursued a career in local politics and local public administration. I recall making that choice clearly. I recall where I was and when I made it. It was an abrupt decision.

I, of course, had a successful career and made a good life in my new endeavors. I worked in a local city hall for 17 years as a city comptroller, development director, labor negotiator, and yes political operative. I was then fortunate to transfer to school administration where I served as a director of finance in two public school corporations. All total my career spanned more than 30 years, and while not everything I did was successful, I did get to serve.

So the choice of the word service is very representative of what I am and the impact that diabetes had on my life. I hope that I continue to serve my communities as well. Today I work with some activities at TUDiabetes and CreakyJoints and I am so happy to work on RABlog week each year. I hope I continue to serve.


The Black and white picture above was taken at the Joint decisions summit by Steve Rosenfield you can see his various pictures he takes for his I am not my project. His pictures are stunning. I have an official picture from the Joint Decisions Summit that has already been released. That picture titled “I am not too many pills” represents my statement about how others feel when they see my collection of daily pills. These pills go along with treatment of three chronic conditions. I think most of my friends who have RA understand the message because we all feel personally that we wish we wouldn’t have to take so many pills, and that often we are judged by others that we do take so many. To check out the joint decisions project photos it is necessary to move a little down the Facebook link and look at the “What I Be” sub project. All twelve photos are presented in that photo essay. It is worth the effort.

But before Steve took the official picture I asked him if he would take a separate picture for me of the word service. I am very proud of that picture. It is both a reminder of where I am, where I have been and where I hope to go. I hope with this explanation you will also understand the importance of the word to me and how diabetes impacted my life.




The quilt is displayed every year at the Friends for Life conference.

(quilt arrives at DHF office)

(label on the back. For those who didn’t know her, Sandy Barragan was our TuDiabetes giant, we lost her in 2009)


All bright blessings to you and yours, my dear friend. I was also honored to have a square on the quilt…

Mine, unfortunately, hasn’t changed…

But your life of service has evolved so beautifully and organically, that you are impacting more lives than ever now…I’m proud to have known you from “way back when”…

Loving you, as ever…Judith in Portland…

1 Like

Wow! Thanks for sharing this. I was diagnosed at 7 and could never imagine myself older than 30, likely due to the diabetes. So, like you, I figured I had to tackle my bucket list early on and it led me to a number of amazing adventures that, while challenging, turned out to be feasible as a T1D. When I did turn 30 a few years ago, it was a head-scratcher for me… Kind of one of those, well…I guess I made it…now what? I attribute my major life decisions and the leadership track I’ve been on since a young age directly to having lived with a chronic condition for so long. Yeah, us!


Yeah us indeed. Becuase we are here to talk about it and that is one heck of a good thing.


Thank you so much @Rphil2 for sharing your story and @MarieB for bringing this beautiful project to life :heart: This absolutely brought tears to my eyes when I first saw it at Friends For Life…