For the masses, November =
But for diabetics, November holds much more weight. It’s the official diabetes awareness month and boy do we need awareness. Yesterday, I was talking with a friend about why I often feel hesitant to tell people that I’m diabetic (which seems counter-intuitive since I have a blog about it, but whatever), and I was actually able to pinpoint the exact reason I fear revealing my T1D status.
[See the picture on the original post] I unveiled this stamp while in the hospital the day after my diagnosis. I was on the news in my pajamas!
Just a month after my diagnosis in fifth grade, I had an encounter with a classmate that clarifies why it’s so important to spread awareness. After learning about my diabetes, my classmate looked at me and said,
“You got diabetes because you ate too much pie.”
No matter how much I tried to counter her assumption, explaining that my diagnosis had nothing to do with anything I did wrong. I tried to tell her about the 2 kinds of diabetes and that one is an autoimmune disease and the other is more commonly associated with diet, but my 10 year old reasoning skills didn’t convince her. She simply said,
“No, you ate too much pie. I know because my grandma had diabetes before she died.”
I felt stunned, like all the wind had been knocked out of my lungs and the backs of my eyes started to burn. I remember wondering if maybe I did do something wrong. Maybe I’d eaten too many cookies the month before and I’d brought the whole thing on myself. Of course I know this isn’t true now, but back then, I felt devastated.
It’s been over eleven years since that short conversation in Mrs. Helm’s classroom, but I still remember every detail, including that we were lined up to go to lunch and that the teacher had just turned the lights off in the room. I remember that my classmate was wearing a pink shirt with a yellow Tweety on the front. I remember that her hair was in braids and we were standing in the middle of the line, she right in front of me. She had turned around just to tell me that I ate too much pie.
That was the first time I encountered somebody that had been misinformed or unaware about type 1 diabetes, and if it isn’t obvious, it affected me more than I realized at the time. So when I found out that November had been designated as diabetes awareness month, I felt a real sense of duty to educate others about my disease.
My objective this month isn’t to raise funds for research or to convince others how badly we need a cure. My objective is to inform others about what diabetes is at it’s simplest explanation. If more people understood the differences between type 1, type 2, gestational, and even type 3 diabetes (that one’s very different and rare), then theoretically maybe there would be less instances of bullying or ignorance-related communication failures, like the one I experienced in elementary school.
So here’s my first step:
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease caused by the destruction of insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Doctors haven’t quite pinpointed the cause, but it’s clear that type 1 diabetes is not caused by poor diet or eating too much pie. People with type 1 diabetes must manage the disease through wearing an insulin pump or taking injections and must test their blood sugar as many as 12 times a day through pricking their fingers. Insulin is not a cure and type 1 diabetics can go through roller coasters of blood sugars, emotions, and potentially face severe complications if blood sugars are not well controlled (or even if they are). Once diagnosed, the patient will have diabetes the rest of their lives, unless a cure is found.
For more information about National Diabetes Awareness Month and ways you can help, visit the JDRFs website here.
With that, I will once again leave you with my music video, Diabetes the Fun Way, which I made for the very purpose of promoting diabetes awareness. Spread the word! [See the video on my blog]