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What the diabetes community wants you to know

November is Diabetes Awareness Month.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. TNS

My son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in December 2006. He wasn’t yet two years old and most of what we knew about diabetes came from Wilford Brimley commercials. In the 12 years since, I’ve tried to educate and advocate about all types of diabetes. I host a podcast, and with November being Diabetes Awareness Month, I asked my audience: What would you like people without diabetes to know? Here are their answers:

Diabetes is no one’s choice. No one with any type of diabetes deserves it or wants it. Yes, people with type 2 diabetes may be able to control their condition with diet and exercise, but if it were just that easy, everyone would be a size two. There are genetic and environmental factors contributing to diabetes in ways we don’t yet understand. Stop the blame and shame.

Diabetes is one of the only diseases where the individual is sent home to manage it by themselves day to day. People with type 1 diabetes make dosing decisions every time we eat, are active, before we sleep, when we wake up, when we drive — it goes on and on. We may see our doctor two to three times a year for 15 minutes. Other than that, we’re on our own!

Diabetes is just as much a mental condition as a physical one. In addition to all those decisions we make, people with diabetes may bear a burden of guilt from not having “perfect” blood sugars and from the worry we know our loved ones have for our health and safety.

Being on insulin doesn’t mean you’re going to have perfect blood sugars. It’s an everyday struggle. With good days and bad. Just like non-diabetics.

People with diabetes aren’t sick; don’t assume diabetes limits us. Sure, we have to do a lot to manage our condition, but people with diabetes can excel in professional sports, extreme athletics, the arts and in regular day to day jobs.

We can eat that! Don’t be the food police; just like the general public, people with diabetes eat a variety of ways. Some prefer low carb, others go for an “everything in moderation” approach. We even eat junk food sometimes (gasp!). There’s a saying that people with diabetes can eat anything but cookies. Made with poison.

There is no cure for any type of diabetes. People with type 2 may be able to reverse the symptoms of diabetes, but there is no true cure. Women with gestational diabetes will find their blood sugar likely returns to normal after pregnancy, but they are at higher risk for future type 2 diabetes.

We are not your hashtag joke. Stop posting your dessert as “diabetes on a plate.”

You can be thin and have diabetes. You can be heavy, even obese, and not have diabetes. It’s about genetics, environment and bad luck just as much as weight.

The price of insulin has tripled since 2002. Insulin is a hormone that every human being needs to live. One in four people with diabetes has cut back on insulin because of cost — a very dangerous practice. Please consider getting involved, calling your representative and/or following the #Insulin4all campaign to help.

The diabetes community is diverse, robust and unfortunately, growing. Before you assume you know anything about us, please take a moment to get educated. This is a great month to do so.

Stacey Simms is the host of Diabetes Connections podcast and the founder of Club 1921, a new diabetes app launching later this month.
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