When I was asked if I wanted to nominate someone for the Boots UK Health Hero Awards (information at the end of this post, and disclosure information here), I really didn't have to think for long about who I would put forward. In fact, it was one of the easiest decisions I've made (and I'm an indecisive person!) and I hope you'll see why by the end of this post.
I met her when I moved into student accommodation in my first year of university (September 2010). Turns out we were to be flatmates. She introduced herself using her first name. I don't think I've called her by said first name since September 2010! I opted for the name "Shep" very early on, and that's the only name I use for her on this blog.
I was diagnosed with type one diabetes six months prior to starting uni, and as you can probably imagine, my Mum was terrified of leaving me there. She made sure that those I would be living with were made aware of my condition. I was kind of hoping I'd have the chance to tell them my name before I mentioned the fact that I was harbouring a non-functioning pancreas, but Mum's stern utterance of "TELL THEM!" whilst we were all sat at the kitchen table meant that some of them knew of my diabetes before they knew my name was 'Vicki'.
Over the course of the first couple of weeks, many a question was asked about my diabetes: "Does it hurt when you do that?" "So does that mean you can't eat...?" "Hey, can I check my blood sugar?!" But the questions Shep asked were different. It was more "What does that number mean?" "Why do you weigh your food before you cook it?" "What's the difference between this orange pen [my NovoRapid at the time] and the green on [my Levemir at the time]?" When this was happening, what she was doing didn't click. But when I look back, I realise that she was learning all that she could...and when we were both on a par when it came to diabetes-knowledge, she learnt with me.
After Christmas break of our first year, we started cooking dinners together. She knew that I weighed out my portion sizes when I was cooking for myself, so she did this when she was cooking for me too, and she'd tell me what she'd done, for me to then carb count. A month down the line into this new routine, and I came home late from uni one day to a bowl of dinner in the fridge with a post-it note on it. She's not only weighed out the food, but she'd worked out the carbs. I'm almost certain I cried a little bit. It was a small gesture, but one that meant a great deal. Since then, we've always joked that the way to my heart is through my pancreas.
My first diabetes anniversary was courtesy of her and another flatmate, Lopez. We had dinner. We dressed nicely. And we went out. It's one of my most memorable nights at uni.
After my first year of uni, I went through a huge bout of diabetes burnout. I stopped taking my insulin injections, and was just in a really bad place. Shep was one of the first people I told. I was expecting her to shout. Maybe hit me. Tell me I was an idiot. She did do all those things. But she hugged me tight first. Then let rip. It was what I needed.
December 2011 (so in our second year of uni), I had my first experience of DKA. I don't remember much of the night, but I do know that Shep was a real-life superhero that night. For the first couple of nights after, I slept in her room. That experience shook me to the core.
We both did a year abroad for our third year at university. Halfway through the year, I was omitting my insulin again. She was the first person I told. I started this blog around the same time. Again, she was the first person I told. Even though she was in Alabama and I was in Spain, she supported me as best she could.
We moved back in together for our final year, along with a few other friends. She still carb counts my meals when she cooks, or will leave the packets/wrappers at my place at the table for me to read the labels. She's handled many a low blood sugar, and panicked with me when my blood sugar's high and refusing to budge (after the aforementioned DKA experience, we both panic!) She'll join me in my pity parties, and is the first to offer words of encouragement when I've just had enough with this disease. And she didn't get mad when I went running up to her room, banged on the door (and subsequently woke her up) because my letter had arrived telling me my insulin pump was due to be delivered!
She's not just one of my best friends, she's extended family to me. And I kid you not when I say that 90% of this Buzzfeed list applies to us.
This is why I'm nominating her.
Who would you nominate and why?
* * * * * *
Boots UK, in partnership with the Daily Mail and This Morning, has launched the 2014 Health Hero Awards. The Awards celebrate heroes of healthcare - the thousands of people who make a difference to our lives every day. You can nominate anyone you want, from a best friend who has supported you through a tough period of ill-health or your family doctor. Each of the five finalists will receive an all-expenses paid VIP trip to London, staying at a top hotel, with tickets to the Health Hero Awards Gala Dinner. The Health Hero that's made the biggest difference to someone's life will be announced at the celebrity gala dinner and they'll receive a well-deserved family holiday up to the value of £5,000. To nominate your health hero, you need to visit www.boots.com/healthheroes or pick up a leaflet from a Boots UK store. Nominations close Tuesday, May 20th, 2014.
And, Shep, if by some miracle you actually go ahead and win this, can I please remind you that you have said before that you consider me family, and I therefore would like to be included in the family holiday prize. Please and thank you ;-)