Friday, July 8, 2011

For a Lack of Eloquence: Writer's Rant 4

I've been contemplating the fact that the complications of my diabetes have been holding me back from writing my book about growing up as an insulin dependent diabetic, The Suicide Note. I believe the word for that one would be "irony." (That means "like iron," right?) As I often lay in bed, thinking about what I could do if I were able to sit for longer periods of time, my mind would wander to all sorts of writing projects. I want to write a fantasy series that has critics calling it the new Lord of the Rings. I want to crank out a science fiction novel that makes the works of Asimov and Hebert look like amateur hour. I want to write a romance that makes women weep with sorrow and joy. And let's not forget the comedy that has people laughing so hard that they can abandon stomach crunches.

But above all, I want to write that book about diabetes. I don't just want it written; I want it published and circulated, in the hope that somewhere, someone will read what I have to say and think, Y'know, I've been exceptionally foolish when it comes to caring for this illness that will be with me until the day I die. And this guy...this "Rob Meadows"...has definitely got me wanting to turn my life around. It's the idea that if I can save just one life, the book will have served its purpose.

My problem when it comes to this particular piece is that I'm perpetually holding an internal argument about the language to use. It's already a difficult task, as I'm describing medically relevant information in both professional and non-professional terms. An example of this would be the way I answer the most common question, "What is diabetes?" Here is an edited version (with a few unimportant snippets removed) for your consideration:

Within the pancreas are approximately 100,000 regions called the islets of Langerhans. This is where insulin is produced, stored, and released. Each islet has about 1000 to 2000 beta cells. The beta cells are primarily responsible for insulin production.

Other important regions of the islets of Langerhans are the alpha cells and delta cells. Alpha cells produce and release glucagon, which is used to raise blood sugar levels when necessary. Delta cells create somatostatin, a chemical that mediates on behalf of insulin by blocking glucagon. Finally, there are the PP cells that release pancreatic polypeptides to control all of the insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin activity.

“How does all of this work together?” It’s like this…If you intake sugar, the regulatory parts of the brain sends messages to the beta cells by way of the PP cells to release insulin. As the sugar gets broken down, the insulin attaches to various cells to allow the glucose molecules (sugar) into those cells. Keep in mind that sugar is a major source of energy for everything in the body, right on down to a microscopic level. If the cells inside your body can’t get their sugar fix, they will force other substances to become energy. That’s very bad.

Those who are active in sports benefit from the actions of the alpha cells. As you run, jump, sing, dance, or what have you, the alphas release glucagon to give you a much needed boost in fuel.

If there is confusion inside the body, however, and the alpha cells try to raise your blood glucose when you don’t need it, the delta cells will release the somatostatin to block the glucagon, thereby allowing the insulin to do its job.

After all that, it becomes quite simple. If you don’t have any insulin, only a small amount of insulin being produced, or your body is unable to use the insulin in your body…You’re a diabetic.


So...? How'd I do? Was that okay? Was it too much on the technical side? Was it "just technical enough," with the ability for a layman to understand it? This doesn't have to pass a medical review board; it just needs to be understood.

Aside from this ongoing war of language use, there are also those parts where I explain some of why I did what I did. The fact is that I was an incredibly stupid diabetic in my past, and am not much more intelligent when handling it now. I'm infinitely better than I was, but still far from what any doctor would call perfect. But I've had more than enough time to reflect on the subconscious reasons behind my stupidity, and there are times when I want to start waxing poetic to do so. Those parts don't fit the style of the writing before or after them, and it just makes the whole thing look like a mess.

Here's the thing...If I get just ONE thing published my entire life, this is the piece. Will I regret revealing some of what diabetes has done to me? Maybe. Do I expect angry calls from family, wanting to sue me into non-existence? Yes.* But overall, This is the kind of comment I'd like to read as a review: "Robert Meadows tells a gripping, emotional tale of his life in terms that both professional and laymen can understand. It is the gut-punch some diabetics need to start taking their illness more seriously, but it is a punch that is delivered loquaciously."

I have a great desire to be eloquent, but at the same time I know that this piece MUST be understood by anyone from virtually any walk of life.

Well...It's been quite some time since I've let loose one of my writing rants. I feel a bit better for it, thanks. Be well, and DFTBA!

* The names of my family members, and quite a few others, have been changed. So should I start receiving angry calls about family members wanting to sue me, my response is fairly simple. "No one knew I was talking about you until you started jumping up and down and screaming about it. You brought all of this attention to yourself. So...good luck suing yourself, I guess."

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