Less than a week before International Women’s Day I sat at my office desk trying to finish some work. At some tables across the room two of my most dedicated volunteers, and good friends, discussed social security benefits and retirement. One mentioned she would try to wait until age 70 to take her social security benefits, the other had already started. They discussed aging and hoping for a good long life expectancy and then turned the conversation to me.
“How about you, Meagan?” one asked. “When do you think you’ll retire and take your social security benefits?” I thought for a moment. I’m only 41 now but I have had Type 1 Diabetes for more than half my life. I also have celiac disease and thyroid issues. I quietly said “I don’t know. I really don’t know how long I’ll live with all that is wrong with me. I don’t think I’ll get to be really old”.
Instantly they sprang into protective mode. One sweet volunteer pulled out her phone tapped away wildly and exclaimed loudly “Hey! Mary Tyler Moore (who also lived with Type 1 diabetes) lived to be 80! She passed away from causes that could have happened to anyone, not from her diabetes. You could easily have more than 40 years left!” The other volunteer chimed in and pointed out that when people live with chronic illness, they usually take far better care of themselves than the rest of the population does, adding that it could mean a much longer life.
I felt so overwhelmed by their sweet pep talk and caring. Here, I just assumed my life would be a shorter one because of my autoimmune illnesses. They have a beautiful point, perhaps all my hard work – my daily exercise, carb conscious food choices, and frequent blood sugar testing could lead to a great long life.
I couldn’t be more thankful to these two amazing people in my life. They do exactly what women should do for each other – they build you up when you are down. I strive to always be there to support these two during their hardships and worries too. They make my life better each and every week and I feel blessed to work with them. Who knows, with any luck when I do retire I can volunteer alongside these two incredibly inspiring people.