October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Everyone knows about breast cancer. If you are a woman like me, you fear it. Everyone knows pink. Everyone knows about losing a breast, chemotherapy and all of the other nasty things that come along with that horrible word–cancer.
November is Diabetes Awareness month. Very few know about diabetes. Most people think it happens to someone else. They don’t think its serious. They are not sure if the awareness color is blue or grey…and aren’t really that concerned. They know about blindness and amputation but that is not a given so its really not that big of a deal.
Its the ignorance of the disease that is frustrating. The “its no big deal.” and “You worry too much.” comments that kill you. I recently had a teacher ask me if we could arrange my child’s highs and lows around an exam schedule. She was well meaning and very sincere. She thought that perhaps with warning of when a test was coming, that we could make sure that my son did not go high or low during that time. She was told by myself and one of her colleagues that it didn’t work that way.
It is hard to make people “see” what those of us who live with diabetes in our lives 24/7 “see” each day. They don’t understand why we test during the night and deprive ourselves of much needed rest. They haven’t had a friend not wake up from diabetes. They don’t understand how quickly a low comes on even after you have recently tested. They haven’t seen a child pass out in the middle of a playground because they went low and didn’t know how to tell you. They don’t understand why we are so fearful of ketones. They haven’t seen the how quickly they attack our loved ones leaving them weak, frail, and clinging to life and how long it takes to get rid of them.
To most people, diabetes is that disease where you can’t have sugar (I mean its called “the sugar” isn’t it?). Its that disease that Grandma had but she liked to sneak cookies so its no wonder she went blind. Its not like cancer or a serious disease. No one dies from diabetes. Parents who test, hover, and want you learn about that thing called Glucagon are just those overprotective people who need to learn how to let their kids just be kids.
I don’t know how to get the majority to understand. As someone recently said, diabetes is not sexy. It is not a disease about pretty pink ribbons and cleavage. Its a disease that is grey and about blood. There is nothing attractive about diabetes. You can’t see a pancreas. Don’t get me wrong. I am very attached to my breasts and would love a day when we don’t have to worry about breast cancer but after years of being my son’s pancreas? Well, it may not be a sexy organ and it may not have any appeal to the general public but I guarantee it has my utmost respect and I would not want to lose it either.
So what is the answer? How do get more people to understand? We keep going as we are and then some. We advocate. We educate. We communicate. We teach those who want to learn. We tolerate some ignorance and try to help them to understand what this disease is really about. Its a long road. Its frustrating at times but with each person who learns the reality? Well its another person who wants a cure almost as much as those of us who live with it.