Why I Advocate: Vickie Riggle

I’m Vikki Riggle, a Type 1 diabetic diagnosed late in life, at age 41.  People are quick to tell me that I’m mistaken, that Type 1 is “juvenile” diabetes so I must have the other, adult-onset Type 2.  “Nope,” I tell them, “I’m a Type 1.” Then I explain how I know this to be true.

About a year ago, I even had to prove my Type 1-ness to Medicare to get them to pay for the supplies I’ve been using for 25 years.

I also have to see my physician at least every 90 days to keep my Medicare benefits active. My physician and I try hard to laugh about Medicare and their onerous, unnecessary requirements but honestly, it’s a waste of my time and their money.  I’m fond of telling people that I find dealing with Medicare frustrating and often confusing even though I hold a Masters degree and have 40+ years of administrative experience. What, I ask these people, do less savvy people do? I suspect many of them don’t do well at all. I suspect they don’t use the most up-to-date technology.  I suspect they don’t have access to diabetes education. I worry they may not even know about the various insulin therapies or the biologicals that now exist. I wonder how they manage to pay for their care if they live on a limited income. I envision the elderly, struggling to take care of themselves and living lives harder than they need to be living.  

This is what brings me to advocacy.  I am in constant educator mode. When I encounter a person who will listen, I tell them what life with diabetes is really like.  I wear my medical jewelry and technology with pride, hoping someone will ask me about it. In the olden days, when I was still on the needle, I never hid to take my mealtime injections. I checked my sugar and injected my medicine, discretely, right at the table.  Once in a while I would encounter a needle phobic person who invariably would say, “I could never do that!” My answer was always the same: “Oh, I don’t know. If it was the only way you had to stay alive, I bet you could learn.”

Now that you know I’m not a shrinking violet, I can tell you that my days of advocacy go all the way back to high school.  The causes I’m actively involved in may change somewhat from time to time, but my passion to educate never fades. Things are easier now, with email and social media instead of hand-written letters and phone calls.  It’s easier to learn who to contact about an issue. It’s easier to find the CEO of a company and to reach that person. It’s easier to do the research to create a position statement. Unfortunately, it’s not easier to impact people’s opinions.  

Sometimes, I think it’s harder in the divisive world we live in, but it’s just as important as it ever was. So I keep on keeping on. I want to be the bee in the bonnet, the stone in the shoe. I want to get the attention of people who think they don’t care and I hope, really, truly hope, that I can find the magic words to have an impact on that person’s attitude.  This is why I advocate, to bring the realities of life into the view of those who have the power to do something about it. Won’t you join me?