Me, a Hand Model?


In the days that immediately followed my diagnosis with Type 1 — almost 20 years ago, in February 1992 — my mind was fixated on all the things I would never do again. This kind of thinking may have been a by-product of how people with diabetes were treated at that time: Don’t eat this, Avoid that, and Be careful. All the messages could be boiled down to this: Shrink those expectations, that hunger, your plans.

A master of taking a grave situation and making it light, my husband Jimmy suggested we make two lists. One list was all the things in my life that would stay the same (my address, my job, friends, family, love of reading and coffee, etc.). The other list was all the things I probably would not do because of diabetes. We laughed as we composed it because the things I would never do were not things I ever planned to do anyway: get a pilot’s license, drink a half-gallon of Kool-Aid at one sitting, and become a hand model.

Professional manicure, a rare treat. Image credit: Lydia Guterman, 2011

Become a hand model? How did that come in? I am, and have been since Day One, an eight-times-a-day blood glucose tester. That means a lot of finger sticks, which translates into a lot of bloodied and callused finger tips. The situation was worse in 1992, when the lancets were not as fine a gauge and when a bigger drop of blood had to be milked from one’s finger to smear on the test strip. (In 20 years, the technologies have been refined.)

Finger sticks and calluses, not so visible. Image credit: Jane Kokernak, 2011

I have not become a hand model, and yet I am capable of dwelling on my own hands. I am also fascinated by the hands of others: how are they shaped? how do they move? what can they do? Once, my son Eli and I were discussing what we notice about other people, and we discovered that we don’t study the eyes so much as the hands.

Volunteering my manual labor at work. Image credit: Melody Kuna, 2011

Yesterday, Riva Greenberg posted her bucket list of things she is grateful for right now. Her list made me think of my hands and everything they help me do in my life to work and enjoy and even to sustain life itself.

Insertion set needle. Image credit: Jane Kokernak, 2011

“Ode to Hands.” Now there’s a poem I need to write. I have a lot of material. Dear Hands: thank you.

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