By: Kathleen Blandin
Diabetes is prominent on both sides of my family. I, however, do not have diabetes. Everyone from siblings, aunts, uncles and even grandparents sporadically have taken the title and considerably demanding lifestyle that diabetes forks over. Diabetes can be caused by some factors like bad diet and/or pregnancy and sometimes just natural genetic selection.
National Diabetes Month
All my life, diabetes has been prevalent. Yet, despite this ongoing presence, it took a certain life event for me to realize my ignorance of the disease. Since November is National Diabetes Month, I thought now would be a good time to share my experience.
When someone becomes comfortable with a concept that is ‘the norm’ they may not realize how oblivious they are to the finer details. Not until my sister was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 14,did it really open my eyes to the severity and seriousness of the disease.
The difference between growing up around diabetes versus seeing firsthand how one must change almost every aspect of their life while adapting to their diagnosis was truly eye opening. You don’t realize that some diabetics need to take a shot of insulin in order to sleep through the night without worry, or how much effort and calculation goes into eating a slice of pizza.
Growing up, I just obliviously thought that it was a generic process. You give yourself this much insulin every time you want to eat. Sadly, it is not that simple.
As a child, I watched my younger sister struggle as she was told she couldn’t just go eat candy with her friends, and it really made me realize how much more serious diabetes was than I thought. I spent my childhood, probably the same way as a lot of other kids, eating more candy than any small child should (sneaking candy or not). I’d go to sleepovers or birthday parties and eat pizza and, ‘carby’ foods until I couldn’t move; all without hesitation or second thought. To watch my own sister miss out on these “being a kid” type of things was disheartening.
Day to Day
One thing, besides the food aspect, that I believe gets overlooked is how many times you must hurt yourself. Every couple of hours you need to prick a finger to check your blood. Then, before or after you eat, you need to calculate your blood sugar levels and prick yourself again with insulin. This is what diabetics have to do in order to keep blood sugar levels in range. Then, of course, after you eat you must remember to double check your sugars a little while later to make sure you calculated correctly. Please keep in mind too, that even if you are not eating—you must still prick your finger again to be able to keep a good record of where your blood sugar levels are throughout the day.
Tired and ready for bed? You must prick yourself again to check your levels. Depending on your doctor’s advice, you may have to give yourself a shot before you go to bed. Seeing my sister struggle through adolescence, puberty, and even now, diabetes is A LOT of maintenance, to say the least. Thinking of how overwhelming it is as an outsider made me realize how much more tedious as well as physically and mentally demanding it must be as a fourteen-year-old.
Awareness for Loved Ones
My sister is now eighteen years old. She has learned to manage the trials and tribulations of this disease with courageous triumph. She has opened my eyes to the struggle, the truth, and the raw reality of diabetes.
If you know someone who has diabetes, be mindful. November is the time to become more aware and more knowledgeable about all things diabetes. Ask a friend or family member that has diabetes if they want to talk about it. Diabetes doesn’t have to be kept hushed. Let’s be more open to all things diabetes. There is no reason to sugarcoat (there had to be a pun added, right?) or look over this disease that affects millions of people worldwide.
If you have a story about a friend, a family member, or yourself that involves the real truths of diabetes, whether it is the day-to-day struggle, the transition that was overcome, or things that still seem to be a burden; please share in the comments below. Awareness and knowledge is power.