Sunday, November 6, 2011

Can You Hear Me?


Prompt: If money was not an option, what would you do as a health activist.

This blog prompt is so timely.  Something happened just this morning that caused my hackles to rise and my too-sweet blood to pump furiously.  I was, yet again, faced with a stupid comment regarding diabetes from an ill-informed person.  First thing this morning, before the coffee had even hit my blood stream, I saw this on Facebook:  

“Type 2 diabetes often happens to people who feel their father was very critical.” Really.  You don’t say.  AAARRRRRGHHHHHHH!  Here was my response to this idiot: ” No <insert idiot’s name>, you are wrong.  Diabetes doesn’t “happen” to people because their fathers might have been critical.  People develop diabetes when one of the following occurs:    When the pancreas does not produce any insulin. When the pancreas produces very little insulin.  When the body does not respond appropriately to insulin, a condition called "insulin resistance."

I may have developed diabetes because I inherited some bum genes, but that is the only thing about this disease that I can lay at my father’s feet.  Diabetes “happens” to all sorts of people; people who have felt criticized, people who are orphans, people who are generally happy and well adjusted, people who are a mess.  Diabetes is not spiritual, it is physical.  It is a life-threatening, chronic disease that is hard enough to live with without people spouting mis-truths about it.  Do not make statements without first making certain what you’re saying is truth.  You aren’t helping.”

I feel somewhat better.

So, if I had unlimited resources at my disposal, what would I do as a health activist? (That is, after first buying a plane ticket to said idiot’s home and making her sit through unending lessons on how and why people develop diabetes….)  I would want to spread the word.

Diabetes is such a misunderstood disease.  The first, most important, thing is to realize that there are two types.  (At least said idiot realizes that). I feel for my T1 friends because they have to face comments about how they can “cure” their disease if they would just stop eating sugar or if they would just lose weight.  T1s can’t cure themselves.  They have an auto-immune disease.

On that same vein, T2s have to listen to that same crap all the time.  “I don’t feel sorry for you because you did this to yourself”.  “I bet now that you’ve lost so much weight you won’t be diabetic any longer”.  Sometimes people are well meaning but I wonder if they actually listen to what they’re saying.  Sigh. I need to rein myself in here or this blog will go on for pages and pages.  Can you tell that I feel passionate about this?  

What needs to happen?  People need to understand type 2 diabetes; how we develop it and how we deal with it once we have it.  I would love to develop literature and seminars aimed at education about type 2 diabetes.  I want these materials to be easy to understand with real-world ways for people to put their new-found knowledge to work.  In my perfect activist world, people who are pre-diabetic would be referred by their doctor to an organization that would disseminate this information, free of charge.  These patients would have a personal health coach who would walk them through all the ins and outs of understanding this disease.  Maybe, just maybe, they’d “get it” before it gets them.  

Current T2s would have access to the same type of assistance.  They could sign up for a free health coach, someone they could call when they had a question or needed a hug.  It would be something like an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor; someone to call before they fell off the wagon.

I know that people with diabetes are responsible for their own health care; no one can do it for them.  But I just don’t see much information out there that people can understand.  My first doctor never gave me anything to read about this disease or pointed me toward help.  It took me years of my own research online before I truly understood what was going on and what I needed to do and why.  Years when I didn’t have adequate control.  Years when I may have been doing further damage to my body.  I want this to be easier for others.

I know my dream won’t happen so what can I do instead?  I suppose I could amp up my own advocacy by getting the word out.  Live the type of life that a diabetic should live and teach by example.  Maybe I could start a Facebook page dedicated to helping others find information. I feel like my advocacy began today when I sent that message.  Maybe today I helped someone to understand just a little bit more.  

This post was written as part of NHBPM – 30 health posts in 30 days:


  1. What a beautiful, touching post! I agree that people don't understand. I'm working toward college to get my degree in public health and at some point become a diabetes educator. If I come across some great materials, I'll send them your way, because you are doing everyone a great service. I'm an overweight what was thought type 1, but now is realized a rare type of diabetes. It isn't t2, but it is hard to classify. So, I can understand from both points of view. I have to be treated like a t1, but i'm overweight, and get the weight comments constantly. Stay strong. I love your blog! :)

  2. Thanks Aliza. We've got to stick together! :)


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