How to cure ignorance

Recently there was an uproar in the Diabetes Online Community(DOC) regarding a comedy skit done by a well known comedian.  I did not see the offending piece partially because it was blocked from viewing outside of the US and partially because I really didn’t want to go there. I was told it was exceptionally rude and offensive. 

Over the years I have seen many campaigns by parents of children with diabetes to set the record straight.  In some cases there was success (Disney held off on an episode of Miley Cyrus’s show because of outrage at how a character with diabetes was to be portrayed). In other cases, there was no real change. 

I used to get completely outraged as well until I stepped back for a second. I began to realize that I knew nothing about diabetes before my son’s diagnosis.  I now know far too much.  If I considered myself to be an educated woman and my knowledge was so limited then how could I be so quick to condemn others in the general public who get it wrong? I decided that I couldn’t but I could educate.  So I did. 

Does this give the media a free pass? Was I saying that it was okay for reporters and writers of TV shows to get it wrong? No but again, I had to look at it from a different perspective–did they get other diseases right? Were they accurately reporting on conditions such as autism or MS?  Probably not. They dumb things down.  They simplify things and they get just enough information to make their stories interesting. Its all about ratings and readership but I still would take the time to point out to friends and those who would listen the errors I could see. 

So does my passivity mean that it is okay to use diabetes as the butt of jokes? No but then again, I also do not believe in racist jokes, sexist jokes, or homophobic jokes. I see nothing funny about bullying or putting down another group or individual to make yourself look better. I just don’t find that funny.  

Someone noted that comedians would never dare do a skit about breast cancer but because diabetes has been portrayed as something preventable it is fair game. How do we fix this? Do we just let it go? No.  

I don’t have the answers. I try to pick my battles. I have always believed that if I do not like something–be it children’s programming or the jokes of a supposed comedian, I don’t watch.  If you don’t watch or don’t read, then they do not make money and their point of view becomes unimportant once again. I won’t promote them or name them and have people adding to their traffic and supposed popularity.  

I also believe in the power of standing up for yourself. I am open about our life with diabetes–the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I speak about it whenever and where ever I can. I invite people who live with diabetes to also be vocal–to dispel myths and present facts.  Its a powerful thing. It has been done before and we will do it again.  

Diabetes Mine recently posted an article about the new power of the DOC.  Perhaps with that power, we will begin to see change in how diabetes–Type 1 and Type 2 are displayed to the general public in all areas. Sadly the diabetes community has grown over the years. With that growth, I believe, will come a stronger and louder voice.  


Yes, I am back on the same topic one more time and have brought along our good friend Bob the Builder because “YES WE CAN!” get Mike Fisher, snowboarder extraordinaire and person with Type1 diabetes on The Ellen Show!!!

I had planned to move on to a new and very important topic today that was sent to me by a friend but its equally important for us to keep the momentum going on this.  As I explained the other day, Mike Fisher is a great young man with amazing courage.  He appreciates what Ellen gives back to the community and hopes that by appearing on her show, he too can give even more to the Diabetes Community.  We can help him.

Many of you read and shared my first post.  Many of you have gone to The Ellen Show and asked them to put Mike on stage with Ellen.  Many of you have even tweeted about it but now I want you to do moretweet more! Share more! Get more people involved!!! Let’s make this VIRAL!! In my province, the story of a person with over 100 cats in their home went viral so why can’t the incredible story of a young man who lost his leg in a car crash, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, has become a world class snowboarder and incredible motivational speaker for young adults also go viral? We CAN make this happen!

On our way home from the George Canyon Heroes Tour, my youngest son asked me to help Mike get on Ellen. He said that we needed to do something. I promised him and my friend Sandy that I would do just that. I would blog, I would bother people I knew and people that I didn’t. I would tweet. I would post on my website. I would do all I could to get the word out.

Yesterday I made contact with a person from a major news outlet. I asked that they consider a human interest piece on this wish.  They were game!  They wanted to know how much interest I had generated thus far.  They want to interview Mike.  They want to talk to my son about why he decided that Mike should have this wish.  All is amazing except for the last part. If you remember, my son has sworn off the media.  He did he last photo shoot for a CDA follow up report almost two years ago and he swore that his time in the spot light is officially over. Its going to be a hard sell to get him to talk to the media BUT I want to be able to tell her what an amazing job the Diabetes Community and the WORLD has done to share this (maybe then she won’t notice his mumbles, grunts and attempts to end the interview before it starts).

I have heard that yesterday Barbara Walters did a piece on diabetes that was possibly her worst ever interview. She did a terrible disservice to the diabetes community and has many people terribly upset.  Let’s fix this by getting Mike Fisher on Ellen. Let him educate the masses about the realities not further extol the myths!
Please, please, please, continue to contact the Ellen Show.  Please continue to share this on your Facebook page. Please send it to your support groups and private groups asking them to help us.  Please tweet about it, blog about it, tell your friends and family about it.  I am serious…if a house full of cats can go viral then the desire of one young man to help another see his dream of dancing on the Ellen Show should also be able to reach an incredible number of people as well! 

Let’s show the world what a powerful voice we can be! We can change policies but for today, let’s just change the life of one young man and improve the way the world sees people with Type 1 diabetes with a great ambassador!

All that Sugar gave me diabetes

The other night my son and I were sitting at the kitchen table working on an essay about stem cell research.  My young son would rather have been doing anything else but working on this topic so his mind and his mouth constantly wandered to strange new topics.  In an attempt to steer him back to the subject at hand, we discussed the use of stems cells in diabetes research. 

Out of nowhere he comes up with the idea that people who develop diabetes have had too much sugar and thus “caused” their diabetes.

I replied with my usual “Yes, I force fed you chocolate bars at two and gave you spiked your bottle with nothing but sugar water until finally I succeeded in giving you diabetes.” 

He looked at me a little strange and I finally replied “Are you crazy?”

His response was “Well, everyone says that if you eat a lot of sugar you get diabetes. They must be talking about Type 2 I guess.”

I suddenly shifted gears.  He was no longer just goofing around.  For some reason he was actually thinking this is true.  He asked why “everyone” would say this if there was not some truth in it. I didn’t have an answer.  I gave him my standard spiel on genetics and how it plays a role in those developing Type 2 diabetes. I told him the benefits of eating healthy for everyone and most especially those who could be prone to develop diabetes.

The conversation continued as he noted that his brother’s children could end up with diabetes now that he had added the genetic component to their gene pool. He didn’t think that that was fair.  I explained that nothing was a given in his own children or his brother’s potential off-spring.

We finally moved back around to finishing his paper and establishing his position but the conversation left me a little taken aback.  My son, who has lived with Type 1 diabetes since he was two years old, is thin, has always eaten in a very health conscious manner, rarely eats sweets, and has been educated by his mother on the realities of diabetes and the fact that this is not his fault, had begun to question his role in this horrible disease. That scared me.  If he can be sucked into the vacuum of misinformation, what in the world are we going to do about John Q Public who does not have the benefit of a D-parent?

What I have learned

Its that time of year again. I begin to get reflective leading up to our di-anniversary on the 17th of March.  As February winds down and we look forward to March storming in, I am already thinking back to what I have learned over the past 11 years. This time 11 years ago, I knew nothing about diabetes and now its part of most of our life.  We educate many around us and those who care find themselves seeing insulin pumps and finding test strips where they never knew they existed before. I thought today would be a good day to take time and reflect on some of the things I have learned about diabetes over the years….

Its all my fault.  My son has diabetes because I didn’t breast feed him long enough.  His brother doesn’t have diabetes and I fed him for at least four months longer. I did this to him. Its all my fault for putting him on soy formula when I did.

I also gave him too many sweets as a child.  Yes, the child who prefers cantaloupe to oatmeal cookies and was once caught stealing strawberries because they were “so cute”, was fed too many chocolate bars as a baby and still secretly (so secretly in fact that neither he nor I know it) hordes sweets and treats at every opportunity.  Its true. If you look in his room you will find a pile of candy on his dresser–uneaten and from Christmas but its there!

I also have learned that my son was a couch potato as a toddler. Yes, during the first two years of his life he spent far too much time watching “Dragon Tales” on TV.  That 20 minutes per day that spend bonding with Zack and Wheezie brought the dia-beast to our door.  The other twelve plus hours that he spent chasing his older brother and climbing everything he could see was not important.  It was the fact that he could sit and watch Clifford play with his dog pals or enjoy Zack and Wheezie helping their friends that led to the inevitable diagnosis of diabetes.

I have learned that my son has diabetes “really bad” because he uses an insulin pump.  I agree.  This “diabetes” thing is very bad. It has had me up at 2 and 3 in the morning for eleven years.  It scares me to death when I have to up the amounts of insulin he gets.  It makes me nervous when he is alone or off without me because I am not sure that everyone will understand what needs to be done.  Yep, this diabetes thing is really bad and the pump, giving him life-sustaining insulin every minute, is very much a physical reminder of the disease that we live with.

Luckily he got it so young because now he can outgrow it. Well if he can’t outgrow it at least he doesn’t know any different.  So true! Diabetes has left him unable to see the rest of his family and friends who don’t test, who don’t carry around an external source of insulin and who don’t have to carry a pocket full of supplies everywhere they go.  Thank heavens for small blessings.

Yes, I have learned a lot about diabetes in the past 11 years.  Once upon a time, I knew that there were two kinds–one that Grandma could get and one that people used insulin for.  I knew that those insulin people had to be careful and could end up in a coma if they were not given a source of sugar quickly.  I didn’t know much about how you got it. I didn’t know anything about how you lived with it.  I have learned though…boy have I learned!