Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Importance of Diabetes Awareness Month


Diabetes Awareness is an interesting conundrum for a unique reason. Everyone knows what Diabetes is. We don't need to tell the world it exists. They know. It just happens to be one of those well known diseases. Like Cancer, Alzheimer's, Arthritis.

My point is that the need to spread awareness about Diabetes isn't because people don't know about it. We need to spread awareness about it because TOO MANY people know about it, but have the completely wrong perception of it.  

Diabetes somehow became a very common punchline, and in the end, for thousands of people who don't know the details about diabetes, that's all they know. 

Although there have been more incidents of Type 1 being portrayed in movies and television, I've seen a meme floating around that says, "The kind of Diabetes I have isn't the kind you saw on TV." Because when society thinks of diabetes, they don't think about forcing yourself up in the middle of the night to treat a low as you're shaking. They don't think about the thousands of needle pokes accumulated. They don't think about the constant math we have to do in our head, when the wrong calculations can land us in the hospital, or even worse, dead. They don't think about the parents of the children who literally have to be their child's pancreas and stay up all night worrying. Because their bodies do it automatically, like they're supposed to. 

Sometimes I wonder what they picture in their mind. Do they picture an elderly person? Do they picture someone obese? Do they just have images of desserts and gluttony in their head? 

This misconception is the reason so many teenagers hide their diabetes in high school. Even though they did nothing to cause it, and even though they know that their body attacked the cells in their pancreas, they feel the need to hide because they worry about what others around them who know nothing about Type 1 Diabetes will think about them. 

By spreading awareness, we show the world that Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Just like Lupus, Crohns, Multiple Sclerosis, and more. The difference? Their diseases aren't a punchline. When people think about their diseases maybe they have sympathy. Maybe they picture a fight and treatments. Maybe they picture a strong person. But with us, a huge group of people think about candy. Cake. Chocolate. Gluttony. Obesity. 

With awareness, I hope this picture in people's minds can change. I hope they can see the little 2 year old who couldn't have done a thing to cause this to themselves. I hope they picture the 5 year old who is giving their injection by themselves for the first time. I hope they picture the teenager who feels different from her friends, because she's always having to go off to do things to take care of herself. I want them to picture the college kid who is busy with school and rationing his insulin because he can’t afford it, so he ends up in DKA and dies. 

If this reaches one person and changes their perception, I've done my job. 

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