1. They’re not Diabetics anymore. They are People With Diabetes. Calling them Diabetic is akin to calling someone a retard. They’re in a lifelong struggle to define themselves in any other way but diabetic.
2. People with Type 1 Diabetes can’t make Insulin. Insulin, in people without diabetes, is a hormone made in the pancreas. It allows glucose in the bloodstream to enter red blood cells for use in the body as energy.
3. Excess glucose in the bloodstream damages body systems and is the root of diabetic complications. Having too much, or too little glucose in the blood is dangerous and can ultimately cause death. Keeping blood glucose levels within normal levels is the ultimate goal of people with diabetes but can be affected by food, exercise, illness, stress, and a whole bunch of other annoying, unpredictable events.
4. They are not allergic to sugar. They balance what they eat by testing their blood glucose levels and taking insulin through injections. Yes, injections and finger pricks often hurt. Insulin does not come from animals or other people. It is genetically engineered using the E. coli bacteria and is biosynthetic.
5. Type 1 Diabetes is occurs when the Islets of Langerhans (insulin-producing cells in the pancreas) are attacked by the body. A lot of people ask why people with diabetes can’t get Islet Transplants. This is a relatively new therapy but requires massive doses of antiretroviral medications, which often have worse effects than living with diabetes.
6. Nobody understands why their bodies attack themselves. They did not get diabetes from their mothers who gained too much weight during pregnancy, from eating too much sugar, from exercising infrequently or from any other known reason. Not to be confused with Type 2 Diabetes.
7. They hate it when you offer the rest of the room cake and tell them they can’t have it and offer them a diet coke instead. They know you mean well, but you make them feel alienated and inherently different. Let them refuse cake if they want to, and let them eat cake if we choose. They know more than you about what they’re living with.
8. There is no such thing as ‘having diabetes really bad’. People with Diabetes choose to take care of themselves or not, or somewhere in between. Your uncle who ‘had diabetes so bad’ chose not to take care of himself and he lost his leg or went blind as a result. That being said, even the most tightly controlled diabetes reduces life span.
9. In Canada, people with diabetes get no support from their government or healthcare system. They pay out-of-pocket for the basic healthcare that prevents them from dying early. The cost of living uninsured with diabetes can easily be 400 dollars per month or more.
10. Preventative healthcare and education are the ideal weapons in the fight against diabetes. Having reached epidemic levels, diabetes is the fastest-growing disease in recent history. By 2030, the incidence of diabetes will have doubled. Encourage your political representatives to make diabetes education and prevention a top-of-mind issue, consider donating to a diabetes charity.