Crossroads attorney documents life with diabetes in book chapter

Feb. 2, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 1, 2013 at 8:02 p.m.

It was June 1997 when John Griffin first realized something was wrong.

The Crossroads attorney was thirstier than usual and found himself downing glass after glass of water. Those sips were followed by trips to the bathroom, and the pattern repeated itself.

Griffin suspected the culprit, he said, and confirmed his suspicions with a finger stick and doctor's visit.

He, like 26 million people nationwide and 10,000 in Victoria County alone, was diabetic.

With the emotions that followed, the story isn't easy to tell, Griffin said, but it's one he said he hopes will help others.

Griffin was one of 25 men selected to have his story published in "My Sweet Life: Successful Men with Diabetes." The book, a follow-up to one that focused on women, documents the men's experiences with diagnosis, treatment and acceptance of the disease.

"I was shocked I'd be asked to write a book alongside these guys," he said, noting other contributors were well known in the diabetes community. "I was honored."

Beverly S. Adler, the book's editor, said she learned of Griffin through his work with the American Diabetes Association. With his story and others, the clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator said her goal was to encourage a more positive attitude among those with diabetes.

"I'm not a Pollyanna, but, even with complications people can still feel positive in the way they manage their diabetes," said Adler, who was diagnosed nearly 38 years ago. "This is an illness we can live with, and live successfully with."

A portion of the books' proceeds will go to the American Diabetes Association.

Griffin's work for the cause began years before his diagnosis.

With a family history of the disease, he already had some knowledge. In 1994 the diabetes world came a step closer, mingling with his work as a lawyer.

A client - a UPS driver - lost his job when the company learned he had insulin-controlled diabetes, Griffin said. At the time, the company maintained a ban on all drivers who controlled their diabetes with insulin.

With little knowledge regarding both the disease and employment law, he took the case. With help from the American Diabetes Association and those in the medical field, the team saw victory in the federal court after a year-long fight.

UPS loosened some of its restrictions, he said, but still has a way to go. Still, that victory lit a fire under the Crossroads attorney with the smiling eyes, who went on to fight for equality in other industries, too.

People with insulin-controlled diabetes can now serve as special agents in the FBI, he said, while there are still hurdles to surpass with the CIA. Conversations are under way now with the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C., he said, to allow pilots with insulin-controlled diabetes to fly planes.

"Large buildings are built in phases, and this project has been won in stages," he said. "In the federal government, the walls are tumbling down one by one."

Henry Guajardo, executive director of Workforce Solutions of the Golden Crescent, said he and others at the center support Griffin's advocacy efforts.

Although jobseekers are not required to divulge information regarding disabilities, Guajardo said the center has seen an increase in the number of people doing so.

"We refer them as we would anyone else as long as they meet the requirements with their skill sets, knowledge and education," he said. "Everyone has a right to seek gratifying employment."

Griffin's work isn't limited to the legal world.

Although he had volunteered with the American Diabetes Association before his diagnosis, he became further engrained afterward, eventually serving as the national organization's board chairman. While that term has expired, he remains involved.

Today he sits on the organization's legal advocacy subcommittee, as well as the research foundation board.

The world is getting closer to a cure, he said, but must continue the research. It isn't easy, he said, with the difficulty younger scientists face in obtaining funding, but the association is working to raise money for research.

Looking ahead, Griffin said it's empowering to imagine a world without diabetes. In the meantime, however, there's work to be done.

The diabetes community is not as connected as the breast cancer community, he said, noting he would like to see that change. Getting word out about the disease, and increasing people's knowledge, is also important.

He encouraged others to go out there and have an impact.

"If someone like me - from Victoria, with a wife and kids, living a regular life - can make a difference, a lot of people can make a difference," he said.



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