A long list of thoughts that are all diabetes related- because it is Diabetes Awareness Month!
As you know if you’re a blog fan, you know I could talk about diabetes for days on end. It is such a unique, complex, and personal disease that there is so much to talk about. I’d like to start by pointing out diabetic role models. This is important to me because we all need good, positive role models, especially when dealing with a lifelong struggle (in this case, diabetes).
At this point I’ve lived with diabetes for 19.5 years. The most notable type 1 diabetics I can name you are Gary Hall Jr (an Olympic medalist who was a swimmer), Mary Tyler Moore (God rest her soul), Nick Jonas (you know, of the Jonas Brothers), Bret Michaels (the musician), Crystal Bowersox (from American Idol), and one that I just recently learned Sonia Sotomayor (a US Supreme Court Justice). I know there are more- but these are the ones I KNOW.
Is that a problem? If you’re a celebrity, professional athlete, or someone in a position of power- as a diabetic, I feel like I should know. I should be able to list a solid 25 in my opinion. I say this because you should be using your voice! I’m a small town nurse and I educate and reach more people in a year than some of you are and you’re on a national stage! COME ON! I’m calling you all out (assuming that one day everyone in the world will become interested in my blog, right?).
I honestly really had a lot of high hopes for you, Nick Jonas. I appreciate some of the publicity you brought to diabetes and your fundraising skills… but we need something else. We need you (and the rest of the popular diabetes community) to step up and educate. Use your platform. All of you can be writing songs, TV episodes, movies, TV characters, and even wearing World Diabetes Day Blue or the gray awareness ribbon ALL MONTH LONG. Especially those of you who are athletes! We see pink EVERYTHING all October- lets see the diabetes awareness blue and gray ALL November!
Be proud of diabetes. Don’t hide it. No matter how hard you try to stifle it- it is part of who you are. Like it or not, it also isn’t going away. Drug companies, insurance companies, and anyone else in the healthcare industry makes far too much money on diabetes for anyone to be motivated to cure it. So rock what you got and show some of these young kids what people with diabetes CAN do! Show them what actually taking care of yourself can lead to and how to get there.
With all of this being said- it is time for a show and or movie that is kid friendly that has a diabetes focus. I’m tired of my only movie reference to diabetes being “DRINK THE JUICE SHELBY!” Steel Magnolias and Panic Room really don’t paint a great picture of diabetes. They aren’t positive and they don’t even make sense as far as diabetes is concerned.
Let’s make a Disney Princess that is a badass like Merida from Brave or Rapunzel from Tangled. We also need her to show that while diabetes is time consuming and you have to take care of it- it is totally possible to lead a normal badass princess lifestyle. Give me a few more minutes and I’ll figure out a better movie plot- but you see where I’m going with this. It can’t be that hard. More than 1.25 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes and I’m betting ALL of them would watch this and take at least one non-diabetic friend. Not to mention the other 20 million or so Type 1 diabetics who are adults and would take at least one other person with them. It doesn’t even have to be animated- if just has to be entertaining.
If someone picks this up and you’d like further input- let me know. I’ll even act in it if you’d like.
Moving on… This part is for all of my diabetic friends and parents of diabetics out there reading…
EVERY person with diabetes will experience “burn out” or feel like they’ve lost control and want to rebel a little bit when it comes to diabetes. Most people hit this time in their mid to late teens and even early twenties assuming they were diagnosed as a child. I will admit I hit this time between 17 and 21. For a couple of years I only checked my blood sugar 1 to 2 times a day.
At that time I felt like I didn’t need a machine telling me how I felt. For some reason my Hemoglobin A1C (basically a long term average of blood sugars) was still really really good so I never felt like I needed to change anything. And then one morning I woke up and decided I needed to do better.
For one thing I was in nursing school and realized how bleak my life would be if I didn’t get my shit together (I wanted to be able to drink alcohol without the fear of dying and I didn’t want to lose any organs or limbs). The other thing was, I needed to be setting a good example to the people younger than me that I knew/know with diabetes. Those things were knocked into me by a friend and I will forever be grateful for that.
So if you’re diabetic and reading this- let me be the first to tell you “I get it.” But let me also be the first to get real with you and say- get it together sooner rather than later. Seriously, the longer you are not in tight control the worse and sooner the affects are going to be. Do you want to lose kidney function? Do you want to be blind? Do you want doctors to slowly amputate away your legs? It starts with a toe and the next thing you know- you’re a below the knee amputee. If you’re a guy, do you really want to face the possibility of being impotent? If you’re a lady, do you really want to face the possibility of not being able to have kids/struggling to conceive/miscarry? THEN GET IT TOGETHER IF YOU ANSWERED NO.
I know this is easier said than done. I know that you need to have control of something happening to you. I GET IT. I feel for you. But let me be the person right now who is standing behind you, being a positive diabetes role model! You CAN have a great career and a job that you love. You CAN drive a car. You CAN be an athlete. You CAN have babies. Don’t ruin all of those things for a few stupid couple of years of being in “control.”
Parents- I feel for you. Teenagers can suck. Now add a chronic illness and I don’t know how you do it with a few of them. They need to go through this. They need your support as parents, not a constant reminder that they have diabetes and need to take care of it. Test them in their sleep if you have to but remember- they’ll figure it out and it may be scary getting to that point, but they will. Let them experiment with treatment, let them figure out how to be independent, but be there for them as a safety net. Find other moms that know what you’re going through for support. Compromise. If your child won’t test at all and they’re still in high school- get their nurse involved, you’ll at least get a lunch time reading that way. Ask that they test at bedtime so that everyone can make sure they’re going to get a full night of sleep. Ask that they test in the morning so they know they’re safe to drive to school. Get their friends involved. Peer pressure can sometimes be a really wonderful thing!
We’ve all got this. We’re all in it together. Diabetes is a community. It has to be. We get each other through everything, every day. I’m fortunate enough to have a great diabetes support system and community. I urge you to find one as well.