November is a month where we look forward to indulging in delicious food and spending time with family or friends. Ultimately, we look forward to delicious desserts, watching some football and falling asleep on the sofa once the dishes are done. Yet more than 100 million U.S. adults are living with diabetes. That’s just in the United States alone! Is it irony that a month dedicated to planning an epic meal is also Diabetes Awareness Month?
National Diabetes Month:
National Diabetes Month, every year in November, is a month to spread awareness of the disease.
A month where we take a look at how we can control it, live with it, avoid it, or remedy ourselves of it, when possible.
Not all types of diabetes can be avoided.
Some types of diabetes are a lifelong struggle, while others go away or we can more easily accommodate.
Diabetes is not pleasant to live with but through our own choices and actions, we can ultimately live a long healthy life.
With that said, especially in the case of Type 1 Diabetes, it is a daily balancing act and truth be told, a pain in the ass.
Types Of Diabetes:
There are different types of Diabetes. While there are subsets of these different types the main categories are: Gestational, Pre-Diabetes, Type 2, and Type 1.
I have Type 1 Diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes is not something you can rid yourself of through diet or exercise and insulin must be used in order to survive and live a healthy life.
Granted diet and exercise are vital in keeping diabetes in good control, regardless of the type one has.
Type 2 Diabetes can be controlled often through diet and exercise once diagnosed.
Gestational Diabetes happens during pregnancy in women and most often goes away once the baby is delivered.
Pre-Diabetes is a condition in which one is at very high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
If you are told you are pre-diabetic please get in better shape fast!
Diabetes is not fun and if you can avoid it you should.
Exercise and eating a healthy diet is key and a lot easier than managing the illness.
Trust me, if you can not manage your diet and exercise you won’t be able to manage Type 2 Diabetes.
I do not mean to sound like a cruel person, nor shame those who are at risk for Type 2 but I am a realist.
By no means am I perfect either!
What It Is:
In Type 1 what happens is that the body can no longer make insulin.
Insulin is made by the pancreas.
Eventually, the pancreas wears out, no longer producing any insulin at all.
Insulin is what eats up glucose which is in food.
Clearly, we must eat food to survive but that food itself also becomes a killer in those who’s pancreas is no longer producing insulin to break down the glucose.
So that glucose stays in our blood causing high blood sugars.
This creates a huge list of symptoms and life-threatening situations for the Type 1 individual.
Ultimately, every organ in the body shuts down, causing death.
I was diagnosed at the early age of 13 months, which is rare.
If not for my mother being insistent on the doctor continuing to test me to see why I would not stop crying, I would not be alive today.
I have Type 1 which is the most difficult to manage and is a lifelong illness.
The disease does run in families which makes it hereditary.
It can skip generations and seems to have no real pattern in who will or will not develop it.
Back when I was diagnosed in 1970, we did not have nearly the knowledge of the disease that we do today.
To add to that, we did not have the medications or technology we now have.
The insulin I took was by injection which meant a minim number of three shots per day.
I know some of you will easily relate to being afraid of shots.
At an early age, I had to learn to give myself injections.
Snacking, or having a slice of birthday cake was out of the question.
Testing blood sugar levels multiple times a day was the norm.
This was done using one of two methods, both would seem archaic today.
Advancements In Tech:
Skip forward a couple of decades, new amazing ways to manage diabetes came about.
This does not mean managing it was easy by any means, but it sure was better than the old ways.
Synthesized insulin was created.
Before, our insulin came from pigs.
Far better for the pigs and closer to the type of insulin our bodies create.
We learned a lot more about diet and that we could, in fact, enjoy the random slice of cake, as long as we took more insulin to cover it.
The glucometer was invented in 1971 but very few people were able to afford it.
Later glucometers became common in the diabetic household and insurance contributes toward the cost of the meter, and supplies to be used with it.
For those with insurance, this is literally a lifesaver, but we know not everyone has insurance.
This made it easier to test blood sugar, and the results were far more accurate.
Today we have many options when it comes to the management of diabetes.
We have the ability to have our blood sugar tested continuously.
Wearing an insulin pump is an option so that we have somewhat of an external pancreas.
Neither of these options is fun and come with their downsides, yet, the downsides are better than mismanaged diabetes.
The biggest downside is even with excellent insurance, the cost is astronomical.
It’s not just obtaining the tech, but the supplies one must use daily to make them function.
Then there is the fact that in order to receive a flow of supplies the diabetic must continue to see their endocrinologist (diabetic doctor) regularly.
When you are diabetic, a good part of your life is dedicated toward the care and management of it.
Leaving The House:
Now I am sure it is not just the diabetic who has to deal with this.
When you have any type of serious health condition there are considerations to be made.
Diabetes, however, is not one of those diseases that you can ignore, even for a day.
When you leave the home you have to be sure that you have a kit prepared.
This can make actual travel a pain.
In my kit, I have 13 items that are must-haves to take with me anytime I leave the home.
When traveling out of town or state, I have to have all of these items in large amounts depending on how long I will be away.
Air travel can be difficult and sometimes one needs permission to have these items with them.
As I was saying, diabetes is not something you can ignore, even for a day.
If you do not have the necessary equipment, you can die without it.
My daughter also has Type 1 diabetes.
My mother, daughter, and I often discuss how difficult it is to maintain good health.
We worry for those without insurance, and those who have no means to get proper care.
It isn’t the easiest thing to donate supplies.
Check out this Diabetes Forcast page for some insight but really, read the comments!
Heartbreaking and eyeopening!
Not To Sound Like A Cry-Baby But:
What will diabetes get you?
Scars from years of injections and sites.
Calloused fingertips or arms that are scarred, and bruised from hundreds of thousands of pokes.
Unreal amounts of money spent on daily lifesaving medical supplies.
The fear of running low on insulin, strips, sites, etc.
Always having the right foods on hand that are healthy and will help maintain good blood sugar levels.
Travel with diabetes is a pain.
Working with diabetes especially in high-stress jobs can be troublesome.
For that matter, there are multiple things that can make management more difficult.
These things include but are not limited to: stress, illness, even the time of the month can affect our blood sugar levels.
The worry of other parts of our bodies that are affected such as eyesight.
Special eye doctor appointments are key.
Every six months I am tested for a condition called background retinopathy which is caused by diabetes.
We are also at higher risk for glaucoma.
In fact, every organ we have can be affected.
Carrying around a kit full of diabetes supplies as stated above is a pain.
Oh and then there is the insulin pump that one must wear if they so choose to.
That thing hangs on your jeans like an old-fashioned pager, only larger.
A thin tube runs from the pump to somewhere on your person, connecting into the skin.
Often times getting yanked out of your skin where the site connects due to normal daily activity.
That can be painful, and then you have to insert a new site.
The intent of this article is not to have you feel sorry for those of us who have diabetes.
Rather, I want to help you understand the disease.
What those of us with it contend with, and to enlighten you, if you are pre-diabetic, or Type 2.
The last thing I want for any of you is to have full-blown diabetes when it could otherwise be avoided by making a few life changes.
Changes that are simply better for you as a whole anyway.
No, I am not perfect.
I enjoy snacking.
I sometimes forget to take my glucometer with me to run down to the grocery store.
Then there is the fact that I should see my doctor more often.
Still, I have had Type 1 Diabetes for 48 of my 49 years and I am doing pretty well.
Great early management from my mother has a lot to do with that.
Thank goodness she is super responsive and somewhat obsessive about things.
Being diabetic was a godsend for me.
When my daughter was diagnosed I was already prepared to help her manage her diabetes.
Nothing is more painful than watching your child suffer.
When my daughter was diagnosed, we had good ways to help manage it.
Yet when I was diagnosed, we did not.
I have no idea how my mother kept me alive.
You Are At Risk:
Everyone is at risk!
My endocrinologist (diabetes doctor) was diagnosed with Type 2.
Now that is an eye-opener, isn’t it?
Armed with all the possible knowledge, and power to avoid it, it can still happen.
We are not perfect, us humans.
With diabetes, food is both the enemy and the life-saver.
Sure, one can somewhat manage to stay alive for a couple of years without insulin.
If they starve themselves, but in the meantime, every other organ of the body is shutting down.
Take The Risk Test:
The American Diabetes Association has a Risk Test that you can take for yourself or a loved one.
I encourage everyone to take a moment and find out if you or someone you care about is at risk.
Not only do you want to avoid diabetes, if possible for the obvious reasons already discussed but the cost of living with it is not something anyone wants to do.
The cost of health care for those with diabetes is 2.3 times greater than those without diabetes.
Think about it for a moment.
I do not care how much disposable income a person has, no one wants to multiply their medical expenses.
Most American’s are barely getting by financially as it is.
Consider if your medical expenses more than doubled tomorrow.
Even if you are living a healthy financial life, you may find yourself sacrificing doing the things you love to cover your medical care costs.
Then, of course, you are sacrificing doing those things because of the time it will take you to simply manage the disease.
Unless you would enjoy pulling out your testing supplies in the middle of a nice dinner, or a concert to make sure you will live through the event.
Sorry, Not Sorry:
Look, I know you will see plenty of awareness articles this month and every year in November.
The fact is however, I wanted to shed some light on the realities of diabetes management.
Some facts from my first-person perspective.
I do tend to prefer to be more empowering, more love and light here on the blog but in this case, it is far too personal not to be subjective.
Sometimes an article like this one, shown to someone you love can be the eye-opener they need.
If you know someone at risk, share this article with them, please.
I want to confess…
When someone gets Type 2 diabetes it bothers me.
No, it is not always that person’s fault.
I have known people in great shape that get Type 2 diabetes.
It does happen!
However, more often than not, a person who is warned of pre-diabetes, or subject to Type 2 can change it!
It’s like being told by your doctor that you will get cancer if you don’t stop smoking, yet you continue to smoke.
We are adults, we have choices.
No, we do not always make the right choices.
It’s your life, I am not shaming you for what you decide to do with your body.
Yet, I feel it a responsibility to shed the real truth about what living with diabetes is like.
No sugar coating here.