National Diabetes Month is observed each November in an effort to focus attention on diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans.
When most people think of diabetes, they picture overweight, lazy people who carry around a bunch of needles with them. However, having diabetes myself and knowing many others with the same condition, I can tell you this is far from the truth.
The old school line of thought was that you got Type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes as a young child and only got Type 2 (controlled by diet and exercise) as an older adult who weighed too much and exercised too little. I got Type 1 diabetes at age 17 due to an auto-immune disorder, with no family history and despite being a sports-playing health nut. Most people are baffled by this, but it is more common than you think. A young kid could be overweight, and his body cannot keep up with the insulin production needed on his own, so he may have to visit the nurse’s office before each meal to get an insulin shot but could potentially be diabetes-free when he’s older. You can have someone like my stepmom whose pancreas stopped producing insulin completely as an adult and never will again.
Just because someone has diabetes, it does not mean you should automatically judge their dedication to their health. On another note, if you witness someone’s insistence on needing sugar-free syrup in coffee or on pancakes, take a moment to consider that the person might have diabetes and may not just be some weird, irrational individual. I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten judgmental looks when I have had to complain about receiving regular Coke versus Diet or asking for a refund on my iced coffee because they were out of sugar-free syrup. It’s not as much of a preference as a necessity for the longevity of my life. Having a little compassion and understanding for each other is so much better than being judgmental due to ignorance. This applies to all aspects of our lives.
Circling back to the needle stereotype, many of us insulin-dependent diabetics have pumps that provide us with a continuous dosage of insulin – sort of an external pancreas, if you will. Please stop making fun of us with jokes that we have stepped out of the 90s with our “pagers”. 😉 In fairness, they do look like pagers, but have IV tubing that connects to our bodies and clip somewhere onto us. I love mine.
Now, healthy diets, life choices, and exercise are beneficial to everyone (not just diabetics), and I meet with my doctor on a consistent basis to evaluate how well I do in all those areas myself. For the most part, I keep up with my condition pretty well, and it is not a source of stress in my life. However, being pregnant and diabetic was one of the most frightening periods of my life. I had twice as many doctor’s visits as a non-diabetic mom-to-be, and I had to be warned about all the risks of what could happen to my baby throughout the gestation process. The biggest fear for me was that she could have been still-born at the end of all my efforts to bring her safely into this world. They actually almost lost both of us during delivery. I am so thankful to be here and be able to share my story with other moms that might be going through the same thing now or in the future. I have a healthy, growing girl who brings me so much joy. The terror and anxiety I felt and the effort I put into managing my blood sugar levels for months was all worth it.
Diabetes can happen to anyone. Here are some of the common warning signs, the same I experienced before I was diagnosed:
- Rapid weight loss
- Unquenchable thirst
- Extremely frequent urination
If you or your child(ren) ever experience this, you should go see your physician as soon as possible. It is a manageable disease, and you can have a completely normal life with diabetes. The rate of diabetes cases continues to grow in the United States, so the more we all know about this disease, the better prepared and the more supportive of each other we can be.