Wil Dubois

What a special day this is for us, as today marks the 200th edition of our weekly Ask D’Mine diabetes advice column, penned here by the esteemed Wil Dubois, a fellow type 1 himself, author and clinical educator. We’re delighted to hit this milestone, and just by coincidence it comes as our final column published here at our WordPress outpost before we move over to our new home at Healthline.com/DiabetesMine.

celebrating 200 columns

This special edition takes a look back at the first four years of columns, with Wil sharing his always-snarky perspective on a huge variety of topics. Be sure to read on, and as always, let us know if you have any particular questions you still need answered…

{Got questions on navigating life with diabetes? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}

A Special Ask D’Mine Reflective, by Wil Dubois

Maybe this column isn’t quite War and Peace — which tips the scales at over half a million words — but I estimate that in my almost four years with DiabetesMine, I’ve churned out 360,000 words. In fact, today is my 200th Ask D’Mine column in a row! That’s right. Two hundred Saturday columns posted! Someone should give me an honorary degree of some sort, don’t you think?

Anyway, rather than tackle one of the fascinating reader questions that I’ve got piled up (but please keep ‘em coming!), today I thought it might be fun to look back at some memorable, crazy, funny, controversial, and personal favorite moments over the last 200 columns.

Ask D’Mine debuted on March 19, 2011, kicking off the then-new “Weekend Edition" expansion of DiabetesMine from a five-day-a-week publication to a true daily. I got Saturdays, while the Sunday Funnies brought a weekly cartoon to the ‘Mine. Both have lived on, featuring my voice and the work of a wide range of talented artists who help us laugh at diabetes and ourselves.

I’m happy to say that I’ve survived the test of time but, like any living thing, the column has evolved.

I read back over a sample of columns from the first year and saw that we used to be quite delightfully spicy on the language front –meaning I used to commonly say shit, hell, and damn. Plus screw, butt, piss, son-of-a-bitch, crap, bastard, whore, ass, and overly-large-breasted party favors. OK, so I only used that last one once. But back in the early days it was a linguistic Wild West, and I could say pretty much anything except my favorite word, which we could still deploy by saying things like “that’s all eff’d up,” f**, or my favorite standby of frickin.

words

I miss that, damn it, and in theory I still have a PG-13 rating. But Amy sneaks around and deletes my [deleted] profanity when I’m not looking to avoid insulting our audience that has broadened over the years from the original hard core of battle-hardened adult type 1s. And that’s probably as it should be. I’ve gotten numerous emails from D-Moms who say they’ve printed out some of my columns for their kids to read when they are older, and others who read the column to their children in real time, censoring out any of the, em… language… that’s inappropriate for young ears.

But while we’ve cleaned up the language a bit, with me kicking and screaming all the way, we’ve actually created edgier content in a subtle way. Have you ever read the original Winnie the Pooh? It has two levels of humor: A simple level for little ears and a more sophisticated level for the adult reading the story to the child. It’s genius. I’d never hold myself up to the level of A.A. Milne at D’Mine, but I do manage to weave in some adult content that (hopefully) sails over the heads of the little readers.

What hasn’t changed, however, is that we are still no-holds barred and I’ll answer any question. And for everyone who asks a question, I’m certain that there are a hundred more who have wondered the same thing but were afraid to ask. And standing behind that hundred are a thousand more who never even thought of the question but are intrigued by the answer. And while I try to give good answers, it’s also my job to make reading the column fun so that those who asked, those who wished they asked, and those who never thought to ask will learn all the answers, without ever realizing they are learning because they are having so much fun reading it. And, boy, do I love doing it.

The original charter for the column was, in Amy’s words: To be “a place to send all your quirky or potentially embarrassing questions, behind-the-scenes curiosities, lifestyle queries, or even ethical dilemmas related to life with diabetes.”

So how’d we do?

Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane:

Quirky

I once got a letter from a man who wrote, “I have such an amazingly hairy abdomen that I could easily serve as a werewolf extra on the set of those Twilight movies (ugh…)” and wanted to know if hair follicles on a shaved stomach would be an issue for pump and CGM sites. I told him that research shows that 49% of chicks dig werewolves, so not to worry. Oh, and that the hair follicles are no issue at all. The big problem with hair is that it keeps infusion sets and sensors from sticking to the skin well. (Meanwhile, I can’t seem to find any data on what percentage of chicks dig diabetes advice columnists.) I looked into whether or not scotch whiskey is the fountain of youth; an 80-year Joslin medalist—the oldest survivor of our kind—thinks so. And one time I even got a question about the best foods that a food bank could give to homeless type 1s.

Potentially Embarrassing

Within the first few columns, erectile dysfunction came out of the closet, with me telling a reader to ask his doctor if a prescription for five prostitutes would be right for him. Of course, then I went on to give some serious advice about this common problem which men have a hard time… uh… pardon the pun… talking about. Not being sexist, I also learned everything there was to know, but that people are afraid to ask, about female birth control options. Of course, talking about both sex and birth control, it was only a matter of time before someone asked if two pumpers were doing another type of pumping, would their tubing get entangled? My wife wouldn’t let me do any field research on this one, so I had to interview some of my swing’n D-friends for the answer. Naturally that led to a discussion of sexually transmitted diseases and diabetes. Yeah, we’re more likely to get those too. (The same column also dealt with the modern myth that you can “catch” diabetes by having sex with one of us.) Then came dyspareunia, the medical term for being bad in bed. After that I got potty mouthed and I talked about pee at great length, in Professor Wil’s Urine 101 class. We also kicked off a day last year talking about when to vomit and when not to as part of sick day management. The Atlantic Ocean serves as the great divide of opinion on this front!

Behind-the-Scenes Curiosities

Sometimes I learn things from readers’ questions, like how fast glucagon works. Before a reader asked, I thought it was instant. It’s not. A year later I compared glucagon to a lifeboat on the Titanic. Readers also wanted to know if PWDs can donate blood. Yes, but only so long as they haven’t had sex with sheep, lived on the Isle of Man between 1980 and 1996, or taken bovine insulin in the past. No shit. Some other restrictions may apply. I also mixed ostriches with insulin back-flow and listed the foods that diabetics can’t eat: None. I was also once asked, “I wonder how many millions, or billions of $$ are made directly and indirectly by companies, corporations, etc., that would be traumatized by a cure for diabetes??” To the best I could calculate, the answer is $471 billion. Per year.

Lifestyle Queries

Naturally, I compared bra sizes to blood sugar testing, here, and my wife and I nearly adopted a young type 1 whose mother asked her to take her injections in the bathroom in order not to upset other people in her family. I told her that “this is one of the most degrading, detestable, despicable, contemptible, loathsome, reprehensible, vile, awful, revolting, foul, horrible, callous things I’ve ever heard of! And from your own mother, no less!” Then I went on to suggest that she take a Gandhi approach to dealing with her mother. In another case I took a page from Shakespeare when I got a question about romance, old flames, and ignored diabetes. (God, I love my job.) Fear is a common theme from many readers, too, which I once compared to being in a crowded lifeboat in shark-infested waters watching the ship sink. And of course, readers wanted to know if T1 or T2 is worse. My answer after lengthy analysis: Whatever kind you have is worse. I was also asked whether D-Moms or D-Dads work work harder.

Ethical Dilemmas

I told a mother that I thought her 14-year-old should get a tattoo. A medical alert tattoo. And we looked at the effect of marriage on diabetes control. It turns out it can be a good thing or a bad thing. We also dealt with how doctors treat junkies who have diabetes, and how they shouldn’t treat junkies with diabetes; and no ethical discussion would be complete without a question about sin. In this case, a reader asked if it would be a mortal sin to start an insulin pump without training. I went straight to the top and emailed the Vatican. And the Archbishop of Canterbury. I also helped a young Muslim woman with type 1 diabetes plan for Ramadan fasting; and found out who the Patron Saint of Diabetes is. Actually, there are two. Or maybe three. But sometimes there’s just no advice to give, like with the “desperate dad” with the addicted type 1 son days away from age 18. There was nothing I could say, but never have I wished more strongly that there had been.

Unexpected Questions

unexpected questions

We got a lot more medical and medicine questions than we expected at the outset, so lucky for all of us I work at a clinic and get exposed to these kinds of things, and that I also speak doctor fluently, which helps me research things like EJWS Cycles. Oh. Right. I made that one up. It stands for Everything-Just-Went-to-Shit Cycles. In the fall of 2013 a reader stuck a chord with his plea for me to “come up with anything good that diabetes does to our bodies, anything at all. Like, maybe PWD’s are less likely to have excess earwax buildup? I’m just looking for something to feel good about.” I let him down. In point of fact, we have worse earwax. So our bodies are eff’d. But while I said that “by every biological measure, no good comes from having diabetes,” I still found a silver lining. And I had to do some research to learn how long any of us type 1s would live without insulin. Hint: You don’t want to be Tom Hanks in Castaway.

Personal Faves

For Halloween of 2011, I “revealed” how the man who cured diabetes was killed by the pharma companies. Well, actually, I said he was the 13th such man. I’ve also gotten two letters from Santa himself, and I “outed” the Easter Bunny. I talked about why I don’t want Kiefer Sutherland trying to save me if he finds me unconscious; and why anyone who doesn’t like PWDs testing in public should go screw themselves. I also froze a bottle of insulin in my kitchen Kenmore to answer a reader question about how cold insulin can get before it freezes. And I think our readers are having as much fun as I am based on how they word their questions; I once helped a woman figure out what to do about “friggin’ almond cake.” And don’t miss the DBlog Week post where my CGM came alive and dished the dirt about what I’m really like; or the time we did a column largely with photos instead of words. But other “favorites” still break my heart when I re-read them, like the teen girl who wrote me wanting to know what to do about the other girls at school who called her a fat cow because she had diabetes.

Reader Feedback

I’m too tired, too overworked, and too lazy to check all 200 columns to see which ones got the greatest feedback, but I suspect that near the top was Overkill or Good Diabetes Parenting?, from July of 2013. This column had a complex reader inquiry that included a question about whether I thought type 1 kids nowadays are “spoiled.” Unfortunately for me, that part of the question got cut out by accident during the posting of the column. I answered it straight on, but it was out of context and sounded like I was out of the blue saying that I thought T1D kids were spoiled. I got a ton of responses, most of them death threats. Oh, and by the way, Ladies, the black Azaleas, black orchids, and black roses that all of you sent me are doing very nicely here in the warm New Mexico climate. I was also buried under a blizzard of comments for my opinion on Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution. Next up, although it garnered more email than comments, was my mad science experiment in dissecting the test strips for the iBGStar meter in an attempt to re-use them.

Biggest Impact Award

Bar none, however, the most talked about, Tweeted, Facebooked, linked to, email-generating, and even printed and laminated column I’ve ever written wasn’t technically a column at all. I broke the mold of taking a reader question and instead used my soapbox to talk about something I thought was important and that no one else had the courage to talk about in the fearless way I felt was necessary. I fully expected to get roasted alive in comments (which tends, actually, to happen when you least expect it), and in fact we got 43 replies, but most of them were supportive. Can you guess which column it was? Yep! It was my Uncle Wil column telling teen type ones how to drink alcohol in the greatest possible safety, rather than telling them not to do it.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Yep, it turns out I have the right name for the job. Wil with one “L.” Of course long before I was on the scene, Amy was using first name and first initial of last name for her staff bylines. There was AmyT, AllisonB, MikeH. And then I came along. WilD. Yes, I confess, I am a Wild Man, but that’s what this job requires, and I promise you four more years of WilDness here at Ask D’Mine.

I’ve asked my editor, AmyT, to share her favorite column moments with us, too, and here’s what she has to say…

Dear Wil(D),

mr know it all

I cannot possibly pick a favorite. You’ve done such a killer job of summarizing the column’s many and varied best moments… and man, have you fulfilled my dream of creating a D-advice column where folks can get frank answers to all their most unusual and unorthodox diabetes questions, à la Wired magazine’s Mr. Know It All.

Thank you for being the Wild Man you are, and bringing the real to information about life with diabetes. I hereby bestow upon you the honorary degree of  PhD in D-Honesty and Snark Defense. 

We love you, Man!

Yours,

AmyT & Team

So readers, what’s your favorite Ask D’Mine column of all time? Let us know in comments, below: 

Disclaimer: This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.