Diabetes Awareness Month is finally here! I’ve stocked up on blue apparel and drafted, re-drafted, deleted, expanded, and re-visited my Facebook status updates, tweets, and so on for World Diabetes Day on November 14. Being new to the diabetes blogosphere/social media arena, I feel the importance of November, and specifically November 14, more so than I may have in the past. This is our day and our month. I’m clearly biased here, but I do not believe that diabetes gets its fair share of attention in society and in the media. Take a gander at my diabetes rant if you want my heated feelings on the matter.
I am truly happy for other organizations and causes that garner lots of fanfare during their designated months and days. Seeing the State House lit up in pink for breast cancer awareness month in October as a simple gesture of solidarity for the cause always puts a smile on my face. My siblings’ delight in dumping ice water all over me for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a fond memory for our family, and it is also a reminder of those very brave individuals who battle an insidious disease every day.
As human beings, we all suffer. Lots of us have health conditions; others, financial troubles; some, relationship issues; many, a mix of a multitude of things. Connecting as human beings to support one another in our moments of pain and in our moments of triumph against such pain is all part of the human connection. It is time to make that connection happen for diabetes, and the diabetic online community is certainly capable of moving mountains to do this.
There are various creative diabetes awareness efforts going on right now. I am all for anything that supports diabetes in a positive way, and I truly enjoy participating in various efforts when time permits me to do so. However, we are also a bit fragmented as a group- not because we want to be, but because the options are too vast and our passions for advocacy too wide and multifaceted. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It speaks volumes about us as an intuitive, determined community. We are always salivating over new and improved ideas for advocacy.
Rather than making things more complicated and diluting the already-expansive efforts to raise awareness, I’m going to put a simplified twist on an old diabetes advocacy message. We have all seen those posters outlining how many injections, pump site changes, finger pricks, etc. that a diabetic has endured over his or her lifetime. Those posters always knock the wind out of me- no matter how old the person holding up the sign may be. There is a universal truth to these visual aids: One shot is one too many. If we cure diabetes, there will never be another “first shot” of insulin for so many out there whose islet cells may one day rebel. Sadly, as we all know, the shots are sometimes the “easiest” part when it comes to diabetes. Again, #1ShotIs1TooMany.
We can live in a world without diabetes. It is a matter of hard work, advocacy, financing, and research. As the doc, we already know the ropes when it comes to informing others about our daily lives with diabetes. But those who do not live it firsthand- who do not wake up at 3:14 am to change failed pump sites, who do not feel the burn of injecting into scar tissue, who do not wipe their child’s tears during a bad low blood sugar- have perhaps not been exposed to the reality of diabetes.
My tactic is simple: “Shock and awe” is good, occasionally. From a marketing perspective, tease your social media followers a bit. Engage them by throwing out the line and seeing if they will bite. I plan on posting my picture with the blue diabetes awareness circle etched in using the World Diabetes Day app. In Paint or a similar program, I will then write in blue the number of needle pokes I have endured over 23 years as a type 1 diabetic.
As an anxious person, there have been times in my life where I would perform blood glucose tests upwards of 25 times per day, so my number of pokes is quite large, and it is most likely an underestimate. To figure out my number, I scribbled crazy mathematical break-downs to include “hundreds of shots in this timeframe, then switching to the pump during this year, then testing more or less, etc.” The final number- 166,650– is my very best educated guesstimate. What are your numbers? We are all so much more than the daily pokes and prods, but they have also permanently marked us as strong individuals. Let’s celebrate this concept with others, and let’s vow to find a cure so that the next newly-diagnosed person is not sentenced to years of replicating our needle tallies.
When people chomp at the worm on the end of the hook, I will clue them in as to what diabetes is all about. I will explain how it is not caused by cupcakes, how much it pains me to see the worry on my friends’ faces on the bad days, and the other ins and outs of taming a sadistic autoimmune beast every day. Then I will tell them about the good stuff: the #doc, #dsma, the doctors and nurses who have refused to give up, the fact that it is not too late to work towards a cure.
When it comes to advocacy this month, do what works for you; support the message that resonates with your own diabetes struggle. If you hear a diabetes joke at the local ice cream shop, politely inform the misguided comedian that his material is outdated based on modern science. Foster a conversation about diabetes with someone who may be misinterpreting what it means. Wear blue. And wear your heart on your sleeve while doing so.