This week is Diabetes Awareness Week, and in honour of that my post today is a little list of things people say, ask or seem to think about Type 1 Diabetes, that let’s just say aren’t really accurate, and the corresponding truth.
These are all things that have been said to me or to some of the fabulous and supportive parents in the Parents of Children with Type 1 Diabetes in the UK group on Facebook.
“Oh it’s just Diabetes it could be worse couldn’t it?”
I think this is the one that frustrates a lot of Type 1 parents the most, as Type 1 Diabetes really isn’t a ‘just’ kind of condition. Yes there are a lot worse things that my son could have but let’s put this into perspective:
In the almost 6 years Fin has had Type 1 he has endured;
- Over 9000 injections
- Over 18,000 finger prick blood tests
- Annual blood tests because he is more likely to develop other conditions
- Being woken in the middle of the night at least once a fortnight to eat food he really doesn’t want, but needs to stop him becoming very ill from low blood glucose through the night
- At least 6 hospital stays when a sickness bug has led to his blood glucose being too low for him to safely stay at home – every stay involves a cannula in a hand for a drip, or just in case he ends up needing one
- Having to sit and watch his friends play because his blood glucose is too low for him to join in
- Various skin and other infections that Type 1 makes him more prone to and more.
As I said Type 1 Diabetes is really not a ‘just’ by any imagination.
“That means he can’t eat sugar doesn’t it?”
If only it was that simple! There are times when Fin desperately needs something sugary for a boost to stop his blood glucose levels dropping. He also eats the same as everyone else, he just has to space out sugary treats more and can’t randomly snack whenever he wants to.
“He’ll grow out of it won’t he?”
I’m afraid he will never grow out of Type 1 Diabetes, once you have it, it’s for life. This is why I can’t walk past any Diabetes collection tin without putting something in, even if it’s change I actually need for paying for the car park!
The only way Fin will ever not have Type 1 Diabetes, is if they finally find a cure, and unfortunately that’s an expensive task and one that’s likely to take a lot of years, if it ever happens. We have hope though.
This is one of the ones that get to me the most though I have to say. When he was younger I’d worry they would give him false hope, and now he’s older he doesn’t need reminding that his condition is for life by my having to correct people.
“He doesn’t look fat though”
You’re right my son is far from fat, and in fact was so ill at diagnosis he had lost a dangerous amount of weight, although he was never ‘fat’ in the first place. Type 1 Diabetes is not caused by being overweight and it’s not caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, Fin and I did nothing to cause him to become Type 1 and it’s pretty offensive for people to suggest otherwise.
This misconception about people with Diabetes being fat comes from people’s confusion over the different types of Diabetes, but even Type 2 Diabetes isn’t always caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. I blame the press for a lot of these misconceptions I have to say.
“Is it the bad kind of Diabetes?”
This from Sarah on Facebook, although I’ve heard this one a lot of times. Funnily enough there isn’t a ‘good’ type of Diabetes! Yes type 2 can often be controlled by diet and tablets, but they are still very much at risk of complications the same as people with Type 1 Diabetes, and no one ever said ‘I wish I was Diabetic’.
“Can I catch Diabetes?”
This counts for all types of Diabetes, it is not contagious! You can not catch any form of Diabetes from another person! Someone on Facebook was even accused of giving her child Type 1 Diabetes by passing it on whilst breast-feeding her.
“Don’t injections hurt?”
Direct quote from a Type 1 group on Facebook “No, it’s like being licked by kittens”. That is actually a joke by the way, yes injections hurt, but luckily as a coping mechanism Fin’s pain threshold is a lot better than it was when he first started being injected. However piercing your skin with a small piece of metal will always hurt.
“Ooh I couldn’t do that, arghh I can’t even watch”
This is one of those comments that I really want people to realise is not okay to say in front of a Type 1 child, they don’t want to be made to look different, they don’t want a lot of attention drawn to the fact they are injecting or testing their finger. They want you to treat it like the normal part of their lives that it is!
It is not disgusting or gross or any other negative thing that pops out of people’s mouths without thinking, it’s necessary and keeping my son alive, therefore I really don’t want him embarrassed out of doing it in public.
Rebecca on Facebook said that her teenage daughter had someone tell her “can you not do that in front of me please, it makes me feel sick”, I actually dare someone to say that to my child in front of me…
“Oh I saw a cure for Type 1 the other day”
Or copying in Type 1 parents to posts on social media about a ‘cure’, apparently according to another Facebook Mum some seem to think Cucumber has magical healing powers…Honestly we don’t want our children to be coping with Type 1, so if there was a cure we’d know about it, and we’d use it.
There is NO cure currently, and when there hopefully is, I’ll wait and let the Doctors tell me about it, not some random forwarded tweet from someone’s Auntie’s cousins friend who heard about a cure from someone who is also offering to cure cancer with nothing more than a feather and a grapefruit (please note I am not advocating feathers and grapefruit for any health condition!).
“Did he get it from eating too much sugar?”
No he did not. As I said above, he did nothing to deserve Type 1 and I did nothing to give Type 1 to him. I’m not actually a bad Mum, and asking this question implies the asker thinks I am.
“Oh I couldn’t inject my child”
This is another one from Facebook that actually beggars belief. Insulin injections (or pumps) keep people with Type 1 Diabetes alive, and I am pretty sure that the majority of parents would do anything to keep their child alive. You do what you have to for your child.
“I guess she has a worse form of Diabetes that the other children at school, as she’s on a pump”
This is from Sharon in the Facebook group. Obviously if you don;t have diabetes yourself or know someone who does, then you may not know the ins and outs of the different ways of receiving insulin.
Basically a pump is just a different way of receiving insulin, I won’t go into detail on how because for a start I’m no expert as my son doesn’t use one, but it certainly has nothing to do with having a different or ‘worse’ type. All types aren’t much fun by the way.
“Do you buy Diabetic sweets?”
Or people giving them Diabetic chocolate as a gift. Laura on Facebook cracked me up with her response to the question about whether she bought Diabetic sweets, “Her pancreas is dead, not her taste buds!”
Not only that, but too many of these supposed Diabetic foods with their artificial sweeteners actually give you diarrhoea, which believe me is the last thing someone with Diabetes ever needs. The only time Fin has had diarrhoea since he was diagnosed, he ended up in hospital on a drip.
These are just a selection of misconceptions, and if any other people with Type 1 Diabetes or their parents would like to comment below with any I’ve missed, or with which ones of these you have heard then feel free.
This post is not to ‘have a go’ at those of you who have said these things in the past, but is merely to try to tell you some Type 1 Diabetes Truths so that you may avoid accidentally insulting someone, and hopefully understand a little better what people with Type 1 Diabetes go through.