1) the first Latina, 2) only the third woman, and 3) the first Type 1 diabetic (first known chronic illness survivor) ever to be considered for the high court?
A huge day for Type 1 diabetes in the news! Which immediately spurred renewed buzz among the diabetes community about how the mainstream media "just can't get diabetes right."
You can't blame some of us for being uncomfortable with the TIME Magazine headline: "Sotomayor's Diabetes: Will it Be a Handicap?" Hell, no. Being a judge is a desk job, for God's sake -- all she needs is can of regular Coke handy, just in case. And btw, Sotomayor's been performing the judge job for over 15 years already.
Some Twitterers thought the TIME article "makes us look like we're heroin addicts!" or "like we're going to drop dead tomorrow." I'm not sure I agree that it was all THAT negative, but if we're going to get media attention, I think it's really important to at least explain this illness factually.
TIME talked about an insulin pump as a "permanent" fixture, that is "inserted under the skin." Close, but still a little misleading...
The journalist who interviewed me for this article ("Diabetes Groups Hail Obama Court Pick") didn't even know Type 1 (autoimmune) diabetes existed, he told me. He'd only ever heard of Type 2, and gestational, the kind his wife had during pregnancy. Hmmm...
The best thing about this AFP story, if you ask me, is the input from William Ahearn of JDRF, noting that Sotomayor's nomination gives us "a teachable moment" — an opportunity to explain the disease to the broader US public, and also "an exemplary moment" for showing us diligent patients just how far we can go.
As if on queue, a nice post appeared at Newsweek.com pointing out that there's no need to worry about Sotomayor's diabetes: 'Hey Public, it's really treatable, and actually forces people to take meticulous care of themselves!' (my synopsis).
Newsweek's Kate Daily writes: "Just last week, a Texas detective won a discrimination suit against the FBI, who didn't hire him because he managed his diabetes with insulin injections, not a pump. President Obama deserves credit for looking at Sotomayor's real qualifications — not her medical file — when making his choice."
Wait, the FBI had a thing against injection therapy? I'm letting that one go for now... And btw, hat's off to new Special Agent Jeff Kapche (anonymity not required?)
Meanwhile, the WSJ Health Blog wrote in its Sotomayor coverage: "Some people question if the diabetes debate is really just code language to say that the judge looks overweight and therefore presumed unhealthy."
Huh? She has TYPE ONE, People. Clearly, our teachable moment is in jeopardy here. Besides, if Sotomayor is considered too fat, how do people like Dick Cheney and Helmut Kohl ever gain support as politicians? Or is it only the women who aren't allowed to look "big"?
The Wall St Journal followup piece at least asked some MDs about diabetes. To which they replied, "it's a non-issue." How true, in the sense that "there's absolutely no reason why the fact that she has diabetes should be a factor in her longevity or should affect her ability to serve."
Yet if were really a non-issue, why would they all be talking about it?
A Call-to-Action: Let's use this "teachable moment" to help the Media help the People to Understand. By which I mean, please keep your eyes peeled for ongoing coverage of Sotomayor's diabetes, and please post comments letting journalists know how they've done representing this illness. These stories will linger for a while, so let's make sure Type 1 diabetes at least gets a fair shake.