Friday, January 20, 2012

Sticks and Stones...

Disclaimer: If you are reading this and you see yourself in something I mention that was said or done, PLEASE know that it's okay! I love you for being my friend and I know more about diabetes that I ever knew a few weeks ago and I know nothing about diabetes compared to others out there who have lived with this disease for years. I have said and done things in ignorance many a time. I am not holding a grudge nor am I offended. You don't need to apologize. You don't need to feel like you can't say something to me about diabetes. I hope and pray you won't take offense and be angry with me. I am posting this because it's help me cope. It helps me learn. And maybe it helps you learn something too.

You see there has been a number of times something has been said or done in the past few weeks that eats at me, something said because you don't understand what type 1 diabetes is about. I too never really understood the differences between type 1 and type 2. I have several family members who have type 2 diabetes, most being diagnosed after age 40. Some of them take pills to help control diabetes. Some of them take nothing, but they do watch their weight and exercise. Some of them take insulin shots. I even have a few who have died from this disease. A few have lost a foot or leg. And, I have a few who have been really vigilant with the diet program prescribed to them and no longer have A1C numbers in the diabetic range. This is the diabetes I knew of. I always expected (and I am embarrassed to admit that) that I would be the next diabetic family member. Because I know I could eat better and exercise more.

The thing is...my daughter doesn't have type 2 diabetes. And there are some BIG differences between type 1 and type 2. And it's these differences that are not well know that tend to raise my mom defense alarms when comments are made that hurt my soul. So here you go...just so you learn...so you educate yourself...because diabetes tends to get a bad rap in the news. It seems like there are people out there that assume if you are diabetic then you must be fat, lazy, and eat copious amounts of food. And, if you just exercise a little bit more and put down the baked potatoes and bags of candy, you'll no longer have diabetes.  It makes me angry that there are some holier than thou people out there who think it's that simple. Or think that whether you're type 1 or type 2, you are at fault for this disease. And if you just take care of yourself...it will go away. Well I have news for you...that isn't the case. And it's especially NOT THE CASE for Alex. And FYI...it's not the case for many type 2 diabetics either...I know a number of them that aren't overweight and do the right things and they still have type 2 diabetes. Sometimes you just get bad luck when it comes to the diabetes gene pool out there. So though I am going to highlight why it offends me in particular for type 1...note that doesn't mean assumptions should be spoken out loud for a type 2 diabetic either.

Type 1 is an Autoimmune disease. It has NOTHING TO DO with whether Alex had a happy meal every week. It has NOTHING TO DO with the fact that Alex was 86 lbs. and in the 90th percentile at her last well check. It has NOTHING TO DO with that fact that Alex ate a bag of swedish fish or loved potato chips. Alex could have been a vegan. She STILL would have type 1 diabetes right now. And she CANNOT get rid of diabetes. She won't get better because I enroll her in a gym. She won't get better because I make her a vegan or feed her only organic locally grown foods. Certainly, it would be bad for her health if I made NO changes to her diet. Certainly, it would be bad for her health if I let her sit on the couch all day and night and fed her french fries. But that would be the case whether she had diabetes or not. The fact of the matter is, she doesn't have diabetes because of our food choices. She doesn't have diabetes because of her exercise regime or lack thereof.

Alex won't have to take less insulin shots or even not be diabetic anymore because we switch her to a sugar free diet. She won't outgrow this disease. Please stop suggesting we just need to provide her healthier food choices and then she'll be "normal" again. It hurts me and I don't need her to think something she did or we did made her get diabetes. Because that isn't the case. Type 1 diabetics have a problem with their immune system. In simple terms, their immune system thinks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin are an infection. The immune system then attacks the cells and kills them off. Alex CANNOT make insulin. A type 2 diabetic can in fact make insulin. A type 2 diabetic's cells have slowed down insulin production over time for a myriad of reasons. But they do in fact make insulin up to a certain point. Their pancreas is NOT under attack as a result of a misfiring immune system. A type 1 diabetic cannot make insulin. There is the difference. A type 2 diabetic can sometimes improve their insulin production in their pancreas with diet and exercise. A type 1 diabetic cannot. Period. End of Sentence. Alex could run 200 miles a day and eat legumes and lettuce. Her pancreas won't make insulin. Alex's blood was tested for the antibodies present that prove she has type 1 diabetes. She in fact has them. She was destined to get this disease. That's just the cards we were given.

And if you see me out in public with my daughter and she is eating an ice cream cone or even a happy meal, don't judge her or me. You see, yes, I have been really hands on in sticking to a well balanced diet that includes all the food groups. Alex herself likes to choose foods low in carbs for her snacks because she simply doesn't want extra insulin shots between meals for her snacks. But since being discharged from the hospital...we have in fact bought her a happy meal 2 times in total. The first time...was the week she came home from the hospital. The second time was last night...after a particularly horrid hour spent in a lab getting a ton of blood work done, 4 large tubes of blood drawn for testing in which she screamed and cried and was plain terrified. I offered the poor girl a happy meal because she bravely let them draw all that blood with her memories fresh from the ICU of the blood draws every 15-30 minutes. Also, the carbs in her happy meal weren't much greater than most of the well rounded meals she has had every day since leaving the hospital. I'm not even going to go into what all the blood work was for because I'm hoping that most of those tests are going to be negative because I don't even want to think that we may be dealing with more than one autoimmune disease here. But for all she's been through, I'm okay with the child having a happy meal once in a while! And no, it isn't the reason she has diabetes.

1 comment:

  1. I've had well meaning people suggest everything from increased exercise to more veggies to drinking camel milk (Yes. You read that right - camel milk) as a way to manage my daughter's diabetes.

    But, you're right, it's not going to change the fact that my child's body does not make insulin. Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but camel milk probably contains carbs, and she'd still need insulin to convert those carbs into energy.

    Let her eat happy meals. And cake. And whatever else....in moderation. But not in moderation because she has type 1 diabetes. Rather, because moderation in everything is an important factor in overall health and well-being for EVERYONE.

    You're doing a great job, Mama. I wish I could say these comments stop, but they don't. When it's not someone in your day-to-day life, it's the media, the magazines at the checkout, and the snake oil salesman.

    Camel milk. Seriously.

    Stay strong!

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