What’s in a Word? Day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week

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“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

“The tongue can pierce a heart. ”

“Words can inspire and words can destroy. Choose yours well.”

We have all heard the sayings.  We have also all felt the sting of words.  Words are very powerful.  They have a huge impact on our lives.

Today’s prompt for Day three of Diabetes Blog week, asks us to discuss the power of words.  How do we feel about the word “diabetic” for example?

I always refer to my son has  a person with diabetes.  “Diabetic” is not a word I have ever used around him or anyone that I know living with the disease.  Despite that fact, he will occasionally call himself a diabetic.  Does this mean that he seems himself as the disease? No but this condition has been with him for as long as he can remember.  It is as much a  part of him as his pump, meter and lancing device are.  They keep him alive.  He has a bum pancreas.  He understands that his daily routine is different from others. He doesn’t see it as a major obstacle.  Diabetes, diabetic, person with diabetes….they all just seem to be terms to him–terms that really don’t change much.

Some people are offended by the use of the word “diabetes”.  It is a word that is thrown around by the media and accompanied with a great deal of blame.  Diabetes happens to fat people who don’t care about their health. Diabetes is what happens when you feed your child a diet of chocolate bars from birth to age 12 non-stop.

Can you see the insanity? To me, the solution is not a name change.  The name has been changed–we once had juvenile and late-onset diabetes, and now we have Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.  Another name change personally will change nothing.  The attitude and awareness must change.

No one should be blamed for their illness.  Education must continue.  We should unite in that effort not add to the shaming.  Cartoons that suggest that if Jimmy had twelve cupcakes and ate ten that he would have diabetes are just wrong.  I don’t care that it doesn’t say he will have Type 2 diabetes…it shouldn’t say diabetes period. It is not funny. It is simply cruel and that is wrong.

There are words used in diabetes care that  matter deeply to me.  The words “test your blood sugar” for example.  Those are words  that I have worked to be exceptionally careful with.

“Test” is a word with strong connotations in our society.  It suggests a black and white outcome–pass or fail, success or failure.  Blood glucose readings are often high or low and sometimes even “in range”.  To call the task to get those readings a “test” suggests that the number will show your worth–how good of a pancreas you were.

Yesterday we discussed the mental drain of diabetes.  For me, equating a reading with passing or failing adds to that burden.  It was very important to me, especially remembering that my son has been hearing readings since he was two years old, that numbers be just that…numbers.

I tried to stress that readings were tools.  They were a reference point to move forward from.  A reading that was too high was not a fail, it meant that he needed more insulin and next time we may need to factor in something else when dosing.  A reading that was too low as again something to learn from.  Of course a reading that was perfect was reason to dance, celebrate and pat ourselves on the back for being just plain awesome.

Words are powerful.  They can make you feel strong and invincible.  They can cut you to the core and make you feel worthless.  In life, I try to choose my words carefully. I make mistakes. We all do. I am not hypersensitive to the words that others use. I take my cues from my child and continue to make sure that he is not defined by the word “diabetes” but accepting of a life with this unwanted passenger.

2 thoughts on “What’s in a Word? Day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week”

  1. Yes, numbers are just something to act on-more insulin, more carbs, etc…no good or bad. You are the third D-mom I’ve read today that uses PWD but the child uses diabetic, which I think is so interesting.

  2. I agree with you that the solution is not a name change. The way I see it, I would rather use that time and energy to advocate in other ways.. like you point out. People use various words innocently because they do not, nor will they ever, speak the same language.

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