San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetesSee all posts »
Spreading the Word about Type 1 Diabetes
For several years I’ve been writing news summaries and filling in as a back-up feature writer and copy editor for a diabetes publication.
Today the editor asked me to look over an article by one of our best writers, a type 1 woman who lives in the Midwest.
Her article fascinated me. She told of sitting recently with a good friend she has known for 13 years and being stunned when her friend suggested that she have her stomach stapled to cure her diabetes.
This woman’s account of what went through her mind made compelling reading. She realized that even their long relationship had not overcome her friend’s ignorance of type 1 diabetes—what it is and how it comes to be.
What she said made me think about the differences between type 1 and type 2, and the obligation I think we type 2s have toward type 1s in terms of setting people straight about diabetes.
Type 1 is an auto-immune disease. It is visited upon people as bad luck of the genetic draw, and the people who have it haven’t “brought it on themselves.” No particular behavior brings it on.
Nor is there a cure for it. No amount of stomach stapling will ever relieve type 1s of the daily burden of constantly monitoring their blood glucose levels and injecting insulin to give themselves some control over their condition.
I suppose somebody could say in contrast that we type 2s have brought our condition on ourselves. I won’t go that far. Even though type 2s form a great majority of people with diabetes, and are the objects of endless study, we still just don’t know enough about the causes of the disease to say how much anybody can bring it on himself.
Is there a genetic predisposition toward type 2? Probably. Is there some sort of hormonal screw-up in the digestive system that causes it? Some researchers suspect so. Is there even a non-diet component, such as the disruption of body clocks created by electric lighting and a 24/7 lifestyle? Possibly.
But we do know there are behaviors that can push us to the threshold and then beyond—bad diet choices, sedentary lifestyle, too much weight. And although we can never restore ourselves to a prediabetic state, we can, with earnest effort, manage our disease pretty well.
But we’re not type 1s. We have had some hand in how we got here, whereas they have had no hand in the onset of their disease.
That’s why I think when we talk to friends and acquaintances about diabetes, we should make very clear the differences between the two types of the disease. If we mentor well, few non-diabetics will make the mistake of suggesting to type 1s, with good but devastating intent, that merely stapling a stomach will cure their all-consuming disease.